â€œI came to a practice during my official visit,â€ Messina said. â€œIt was an intimidating experience. Coach Long is one of those coaches who you donâ€™t want to mess with and who you respect right away. He had a lot of energy. He was fired up.â€
After practice, Messina met Long in his office.
â€œIt was a little intimidating sitting with him alone in his office ,â€ Messina said. â€œI kept thinking that this was the same guy who was out on the field yelling at his players, getting the most from them.â€
Lobos kicker James Aho remembers the first time he met the former UNM head football coach. The one-time high school soccer player from Roswell was beginning a try-out session.
â€œI was kicking field goals and Coach Long came up to me and started speaking garbage in my ear to intimidate me,â€ Aho said with a smile. â€œThat was the first time he talked to me. I made all five field goals that morning and afterward he came up to me, patted me on the back and said â€˜good job.â€™â€
Saturday will be the final time the two will meet their old coach as Lobos. Messina and Aho are both seniors and Long, who coached the Lobos to five bowl games from 1998-2008, is in his first year as head coach of the San Diego State Aztecs. After he left UNM, Long was SDSUâ€™s defensive coordinator for two years.
â€œIt will be great to see Coach Long again,â€ Messina said. â€œIâ€™m sure Iâ€™ll see him before game time and weâ€™ll say hi to each other.â€
Longâ€™s time with the Lobos isnâ€™t the only connection between the two programs. San Diego State cornerbacks coach Tony White, was an assistant at UNM; Safeties coach Daniel Gonzales played for Long at UNM from 1996-98 and SDSU graduate assistant Zach Arnett was a Lobo linebacker from 2005-08.
There is also SDSU defensive line coach Osia Lewis, who was UNMâ€™s defensive coordinator from 2003-07, and also Messinaâ€™s recruiting coach.
â€œItâ€™ll be nice to see them all again,â€ said Messina. â€œBut we didnâ€™t go there for a reunion.â€
At 0-8 overall, 0-3 in Mountain West Conference play, the Lobos are starving for a win. If nothing else, to give the current group of seniors something to hang their helmets on.
â€œItâ€™s been a tough year, no doubt,â€ said Aho. â€œWe had goals this season of becoming bowl eligible. Now we just want a win.â€
Itâ€™ll be tough for the Lobos to crack into the win column this week. The Lobos havenâ€™t scored a touchdown since the 6:38 mark of the fourth quarter at Nevada on Oct. 15. In