1962, 1982 football Lobos get rings - as gifts from UNM coach Gonzales - Albuquerque Journal

1962, 1982 football Lobos get rings — as gifts from UNM coach Gonzales

A ring for the 1982University of New Mexico football team, (Courtesy of UNM)
A ring for members of the 1962 University of New Mexico football team. (Courtesy of UNM)

University of New Mexico football coach Danny Gonzales presented the 1962 and 1982 Lobo teams with rings during a private meeting with former players and the current squad on Friday evening.

In the process, Gonzales found an appropriate motivator, a dangling carat if you will, for the Lobos (1-1) before they take on UTEP (1-2) at University Stadium on Saturday.

The Lobos will honor the 1962 Western Athletic Conference championship team, the 1982 squad that went 10-1 and UNM’s 1997 WAC division winners during the game.

“I don’t know if they ever got rings,” said Gonzales, who paid for the rings himself. He didn’t disclose how much.

“It really wasn’t a thing back then. It’s an opportunity to do something great for some of the greatest football teams in Lobo history.”

Bobby Santiago, a star halfback on that ’62 squad, said “unity” is what he remembers most about that team. That theme connects to Gonzales’ reasoning for honoring the teams.

The third-year coach wants to unify the past and present of Lobo football because he believes it will breed success in the future.

Bobby Santiago, All-American for UNM in 1962, said he appreciates the message of unity brought by current Lobos coach Danny Gonzales. (Journal file photo)

The UNM football team released a promotional video this week with the main message: We learn from our past to protect our future.

Santiago, 81, lives in Albuquerque with his wife Mary Lou. They’ve been married for 60 years. Of course he’s going to the game on Saturday. He enjoys reminiscing about that special year when the Lobos won the first of three straight WAC titles.

Santiago, who received a ring on Friday, earned third-team All-America status in 1962. Among his many highlights, he took one to the house, a school record 91-yard touchdown run against Colorado State.

“We had some unity on that team, and that was important,” Santiago said. “We did have a bunch of scramblers, people who were just hustlers and played really hard. They gave UNM all that was necessary to win a few games. I just really appreciate all those guys. … It was a very unified team.”

Santiago and his wife have three children and four grandchildren. The youngest one just entered college.

“I’m just retired,” Santiago said of what he does these days. “I just do the chores my wife wants me to do. We’ve been happily married because of that.”

1982: This team is the only 10-win squad in UNM history. These Lobos are known as “the Justice Bowl champions.” After finishing the season 10-1, UNM did not receive a bowl-game invite, as there were fewer than 20 bowl games at the time. Instead, UNM and Tulsa, which was also 10-1, recorded a mock bowl with radio announcers delivering the play-by-play. Tulsa’s account included UNM’s Mike Roberts as the sideline reporter for the Lobos and ended with a Golden Hurricane victory. UNM had its own call with Roberts saying the Lobos beat Tulsa 30-27.

On the new championship rings, Gonzales had “Justice Bowl Champions,” imprinted, as well as “10-1.”

He’s expecting nearly 50 players from the 1982 team to be in attendance.

“The 1982 team, they got screwed,” Gonzales said. “They won 10 games. They beat Air Force. Their only loss was to BYU. BYU won the conference title and went to the Holiday Bowl. Both Tulsa and UNM beat Air Force and those teams didn’t go to a bowl game.” (Air Force did.)

1997: Gonzales was a defensive back and punter on this Lobo team that started the season 6-0 and finished 9-4 with an appearance in the WAC championship game, a loss to Colorado State, and the Insight.com Bowl, a 20-14 loss to Arizona in Tucson. It was UNM’s first bowl game appearance in 36 years.

Gonzales said early during that season the crowds were similar to what UNM has drawn in its first two games this season, in the 15,000 range. But turnout increased later in the season.

“It was really cool,” Gonzales said. “One of the neat things was the crowd interaction. We got some momentum when we were 6-0 and we were playing Rice at home. At that time we had over 30,000 tickets sold, which was then the largest crowd in UNM history. We got beat by Rice, but seeing the excitement and what that stadium can be was awesome.”

Home » From the newspaper » 1962, 1982 football Lobos get rings — as gifts from UNM coach Gonzales

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