UNM Football bringing Urlacher's No. 44, Santiago's No. 42 out of retirement - Albuquerque Journal

UNM Football bringing Urlacher’s No. 44, Santiago’s No. 42 out of retirement

Brian Urlacher, regarded as the greatest Lobo of all time, played for the University of New Mexico 1996-99. (Courtesy of UNM Athletics)

University of New Mexico coach Danny Gonzales wants to honor the past and start a Lobo football tradition by having some of his football players wear the jersey numbers of great UNM players of the past.

This season, senior linebacker Reco Hannah will wear No. 44 to represent Brian Urlacher, regarded as the greatest Lobo of all time, and redshirt freshman linebacker Dion Hunter will wear No. 42 to honor fellow homegrown standout Bobby Santiago.

Bobby Santiago was a star running back for the Lobos 1960-62. (Courtesy of UNM Athletics)

Both numbers had been retired.

“This is all about protecting the past, the present and the future of Lobo football,” said Gonzales, who spoke to Urlacher and Santiago to gain their approval. “The plan is to use those numbers because they need to be celebrated.”

Hannah, an outside linebacker who is expected to have a productive season, had worn No. 23. He is originally from Rock Mills, Alabama. He is on his super senior season, having received an extra year of eligibility due to the coronavirus-delayed and shortened 2020 season.

Urlacher, who played for the Lobos 1996-99, led the nation in tackles his junior year with 178, and he was a consensus first-team All-America in 1999 as a free safety. He was a first-round pick, No. 9, by the Chicago Bears in 2000 and went on to become a Pro Football Hall of Famer.

Each year, one defensive player will be selected that best exemplifies how Urlacher played on the field for the Lobos, Gonzales said.

Reco Hannah

“Coach G came up to me and asked if I wanted to wear it,” Hannah said. “It’s an honor. Brian Urlacher, an All-American, went to the league, played for the Bears, Hall of Famer, it’s a phenomenal feeling. … I can’t thank Coach G enough for believing in me like that.”

Hunter, an inside linebacker who had worn No. 41, was a grayshirt at UNM in 2019 after he starred at Cleveland High School. He saw action in four games last year with five tackles in the loss at Hawaii.

Santiago, who played for the Lobos from1960-62, was a first-team All-Western Athletic Conference running back when he led UNM to the WAC title in the debut of the league in 1962. His 91-yard touchdown run against Colorado State in 1962 remains a program record.

Each season, one metro area player will be selected to wear Santiago’s 42.

Dion Hunter

“It feels pretty good to be representing a New Mexican, to represent the state and the city, someone who did something really big for the school,” Hunter said. “His name is still hanging up in the University Stadium. It’s really big to wear his number and honor a player like that from home.”

Gonzales, who played football at UNM and was a Lobos’ assistant coach, has made it a point to connect with UNM football alumni and honor the past since he was hired in December of 2019. Gonzales went to UNM football games as a kid. He played football at Valley High School.

“Reco is going to represent Brian, who is the best defensive player to ever play here,” Gonzales said. “Bobby Santiago was a hero to Albuquerque. He was a hero to me growing up. He’s Hispanic. He’s one of the greatest players to play here. He’s from here. He went to Albuquerque High, which I forgive him for that. Outside of that, that’s really cool. Now we have a Rio Rancho Cleveland kid that’s a New Mexico kid representing Bobby Santiago. I don’t think it gets much better than that.”

The Lobos open the season on Thursday at 6 p.m. against Houston Baptist at University Stadium.


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