Q & A With The 2004 Seniors - Part I
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  09/21/2004

Sept. 10, 2004

Kicker Wes Zunker

5-9 • 175 • New Braunfels, Texas (Canyon HS)

Former walk-on who was the top kicker in the Mountain West Conference in 2003, earning first team all-conference honors...a Lou Groza Award candidate this year, he has solidified what was a problematic position for UNM in 2002...(as of Sept. 2) 18-24 (75%) on field goals in his career, including 12-13 (92.3%) from 20-39 yards...career percentage is currently tied for 2nd all-time at UNM...4 multiple FG games...notched his first game-winning field goal last year vs. Colorado State...53-56 (94.6%) on extra points...began his career as the Lobos' long field goal kicker - 42 yards or longer - but has become virtually automatic from mid-range (20-40 yards out)...turned in a stellar spring campaign...made tremedous strides in the weight room which resulted in immediate improvement on his kickoffs and long range field goal attempts...upped his bench, incline, clean and squat...now boasts a max of 390 in the squat, up 50 pounds from 2003...capped the spring by booting a 55-yard field goal in a driving rain storm during the Lobos' Cherry-Silver game...earned a spot on the team in 2001 during the first days of fall camp when a dozen kickers went through tryouts...reclaimed his starting kicking position, following an injury-plagued 2002, last spring...was the Lobos' first team kicker in 5 of the first 6 games in `02 before being sidelined...devoted himself to a thorough stretching regiment during the spring of 2003, and has not missed a game or practice since.

Wes Zunker

Talk about the season you had in 2003 - were you just in the zone throughout the year?

"I knew I had to have a good year because my freshman year I didn't get to kick a whole lot and my sophomore year, I got hurt. Once I came out and made a few kicks, I tried to keep a rhythm and a routine in every game, and stick with what was working. I wanted to get in a groove and keep my mind right to where every kick was the same, whether it was a 50-yarder or an extra point - it wanted to do the same thing every time."

Did you expect that kind of year? Was that a realistic goal you had for yourself entering 2003?

"There's not a worse feeling for me than missing a field goal. I knew I was capable of doing that. I expect to make every kick, so actually I let myself down with my first attempt and my last attempt. I wanted to make every one. There was no doubt in my mind that I could have that kind of year, I just had to get my focus right, get in the groove and do my thing."

Was there ever a time after your injury-plagued 2002 season where you got down and maybe thought your kicking career wasn't ever going to go the way you wanted it?

"There was a few times when it was really frustrating, knowing that you're letting your teammates and coaches down, and can't do what you came here to do. It was frustrating knowing that there was nothing I could do about it. I kept going out there and trying to kick through it, and there were a couple times when I didn't know if it was going to work out. That didn't happen often though and I always thought that as soon as I got healthy I could get out on the field and do it when I got my chance back."

Do you still remember your first field goal attempt as a true freshman - a 51-yarder versus UTEP in front of a sold-out University Stadium crowd?

"I'll tell you, when I heard `field goal - Zunker,' my mind went blank and I didn't really know what to think. I just went out there and didn't really know what I was doing - my body was doing for me. It was an adrenaline rush when I saw it going in. Since then though, I've become a little more used to kicking in front of big crowds."

Your game-winner versus Colorado State last year was probably the biggest moment of your collegiate career so far - take us through that - what did you think when you saw Kyle Coulter recover Bradlee Van Pelt's fumble?

"I was just trying to get off by myself. Everybody was coming up to me telling me `you can do it', `you got this' as soon as we got the ball back. I wanted to get on my own and keep my focus. That was the first kick anybody had come up and told me that, so I didn't want it to feel like it was anything different. [Former UNM special teams coordinator Jeff Conway] gave me a few words of encouragement and I just went out there, took a deep breath, and thought `extra point, nothing new, just go out there and do it.' I got my focus and if you kick 500 balls per week your body kind of knows what to do."

Now what happened immediately after you made the kick?

"I didn't even know I did it until I saw the replay again. As soon as I made it, I just remembered back in high school that I made a couple big kicks like that and got trampled, so I knew it was coming."

What was the locker room like after that game?

"It was great. Last year's seniors, a lot of them were my close friends, and it was awesome for them to go out with a win against Colorado State since they had not done that in their careers. For me, I just tried to look at it as another kick. Without Kyle Coulter, I wouldn't have even gotten that opportunity, so as much of the praise should go out to him as it does to me."

What made you want to work so hard in the weight room this offseason and how has that helped you on the field?

"A big thing around here that was bothering me was our kickoffs. A lot of people were saying that we weren't strong enough to get it in the endzone and that's one thing that really bothered me. I didn't want to leave one doubt in our coaches' minds that we could get it done. Another thing that went along with that is that I'm a senior this year, so I had to be a leader and step up in the weight room to set an example for the younger guys. Kickers need to work hard too, not just get in there and slack off. Lifting weights actually will make you a better kicker."

What are your personal goals and expectations for this year? How do you feel physically and mentally?

"My body feels great and I'm mentally ready to go. I just need to get out there again, get in a groove and ride that wave on through the season. My expectations are definitely for our team to win the Mountain West Conference, get into a bowl game and win it. Personally, I'm just trying to make every kick I can to help the team win. Of course I'm striving to make all-Mountain West and make a run at the Lou Groza Award, but I figure my personal goals will take care of themselves if we get to the Liberty Bowl and win it."

Kicker Katie Hnida

Sr-2L • 138 • Littleton, Colo. (Santa Barbara City College)

Pioneering walk-on place kicker who returns for her third and final season at New Mexico after the NCAA granted her a waiver and an extension of her five-year clock due to medical reasons early in her career...is one of the hardest-working kickers in the country...rarely rests during practice, participating in scout team drills, running hills and doing other conditioning exercises when not working on her kicking technique...became the first woman to appear in an NCAA Div. I-A game on Dec. 25, 2002 against UCLA at the Las Vegas Bowl...came on at the 8:20 mark of the first quarter to try the Lobos' first PAT after Desmar Black's interception return for a TD...her attempt was blocked by Bruin LB Brandon Chillar, however, leaving UNM with a 6-3 lead...two days after the game, Hnida was on ESPN, CNN, ABC's Good Morning America, CBS' The Morning Show and Fox News This Morning...opened the 2003 season with a bang when she made history once again by becoming the first woman to score in a D-I game against Texas State on Aug. 30, 2003...entered the game with 5:05 left in the fourth quarter following a Tali Ena to Hank Baskett TD pass and split the uprights with room to spare to give UNM a 65-8 advantage...connected on another extra point after a Daniel Ramirez TD run with 1:21 to cap the Lobo scoring...Hnida began sending out personal football highlight tapes to universities in 2002...after reviewing the tapes, former UNM special teams coordinator Jeff Conway contacted Hnida and an arrangement was made for her to visit UNM in May of 2002...it was at that time that head coach Rocky Long extended an invitation for her to walk-on and participate in tryouts during the first two weeks of August...later was on the team travel squad to New Mexico State prior to her Las Vegas Bowl appearance...expected graduate in December.

Katie Hnida

What were your expectations when you came to New Mexico and how has the actual experience compared?

"I still have a lot left to achieve as a kicker. There's a lot of potential that I have not reached yet, but the program has been better I expected it to be. The way the coaches, team and everybody around here has accepted me has been much better than I every thought it could possibly be."

Describe your feelings when you learned that the NCAA had granted your extension and you would be kicking for the Lobos for another year?

"I started crying in (former UNM compliance coordinator) Kaari Zamora's office. I was so glad to be able to spend one more year out here with the guys and our coaches. Just to be a part of the program - it was just great."

You're a sixth-year senior - do you try to add some leadership to this team and if so, how do you do that?

"Oh certainly. It's funny because I was running up and down the sideline during our last game (against Washington State), telling the guys that we needed to pick it up, and I think some of the freshmen guys were looking at me like `what is going on? Is this girl out of her mind?' As a kicker and the only female on the team, I get a different perspective, but the guys are very respectful of my opinions and I feel like I have been able to take on a little bit of a leadership role in certain ways."

Does practice ever get tedious or boring for you kickers? What do you guys do stay focused out there?

"I guess it could sometimes, but for me - never. When I'm out there kicking, there is nothing better in the world, especially when we're kicking well. When we're having a bad day kicking, yeah, sometimes it can be tough. Really though, you want to be out there, you want to be kicking. I feel that if the rest of the team is working, then I'm working too. Last year we didn't always have a coach with us, but I tried to maintain that work ethic. If I wasn't kicking, then I tried to do something to keep myself working. If the guys are going all out, then I'm going just as hard."

What's the most important bit of advice you would give a young kicker that wants to make their mark as a collegiate kicker?

"Not to give up. There's so many ups and downs, especially as a kicker, and a lot of that is mental. Don't get discouraged and just keep going."

Do you still think about your first career extra point attempt in the Las Vegas Bowl? What would you do differently if you had a chance to do it over?

"Every once in awhile. I think that will probably haunt me the rest of my life. That was the first kick I ever had blocked that way. I still watch it sometimes, just to see what I could do differently and watch that guy's (former Bruin linebacker Brandon Chillar, now with the St. Louis Rams) freaking vertical. (laughing) He blocked three extra points in his career, I'll be happily noting."

Talk a little bit about the UNM Women's Football Clinic - what has that experience been like for you the past two years?

"That is one of the most special things we do at this university because it gives women a chance to get out here and understand the game better, which I think brings in a lot more women fans. Being able to show them the ins and outs, the fundamentals of the game, it's so excellent. I like to be able to share my love of the game."

How have the people of Albuquerque and Lobo fans treated you over your career?

"Unbelievable. The way this community has supported me for the past three years has been unbelievable. It's an outstanding community with outstanding fans."

You've overcome a lot of adversity to play this game of football - can you describe what the sport means to you? What is it about football that has driven you to keep kicking no matter what?

"I just love it. There's no way to describe it, as I think any football player will tell you - you just love it. There is nothing like football. I think it's the best sport ever. It's in my blood. Now I bleed the Lobo cherry and silver - it's everything to me."

Wide Receiver Curtis Flakes

5-10 • 161 • Lufkin, Texas (Lufkin HS)

Three-year special teams letterwinner who will vie for time at wide receiver...has been hampered with a chronic knee injury during preseason camp, but could make an impact on gameday...played cornerback his first four years at UNM before moving to scout team receiver midway through the 2003 season...opened some eyes with his play this spring, displaying many of the same skills as former standout Adrian Boyd, who moved from tailback to WR late in a similar late-career move...undersized, but proved to be a real threat with the ball in his hands on screens and fly-motion end-around plays...also made some fine catches down the field and was an aggressive, capable blocker...needs to continue to learn and refine his technical skills...coaches love the effort he puts forth on the field...gives everything he has...great speed, clocking a 4.47 in the 40 on the track...24 career games.

Curtis Flakes

Are you excited about your new role at wide receiver?

"Yes, I am very excited about my new role. I feel that my speed will help me contribute to my new position, and to my team."

Will you and the other wide receivers be able to step in and fill the shoes of past Lobos at this position?

"I know that we'll be able to step up. We're a little inexperienced, but we have Hank Baskett coming back and he will play a major role for our team. As far as the rest of us filling the shoes of the other guys, I think we will do a good job because we bring athletic ability and good overall talent."

How will your experience at cornerback help you in your new position?

"It gives me a better idea of what I'm going up against because I know what the cornerback is thinking. I know what kind of technique he is going to use to stop me."

What advice would you give to the new freshmen on the team this year?

"Practice hard, be strong and make plays."

What is Curtis Flakes like off the field?

"He is a clown - funny and a jokester."

What is the greatest thing about being a college football player?

"Meeting new people and you get to travel, but most important is the friends you gain. The time you spend with other football players is one of the greatest things ever, but its hard to leave when you have been around these people for so long. It's hard because they're like your brothers - they're family."

Is it hard to be a student and an athlete in college?

"It can be very time consuming. You have classes all morning, practice all afternoon and then go back to studying in the evening, and then wake up and do it all over again."

What come to mind when I say Kole McKamey?

"Young (Michael) Vick. He's flashy. I like his style of play and he's different. He's a really athletic guy."

What's the best moment in your UNM career?

"I don't have one in particular, but just being in the locker room before practice or after practice, we joke around and play around with each other. That's some of the best times for me."

Your nickname was "playmaker" in high school, will we see that side of you for your senior year?

"Hopefully, the fans will be able to see the playmaker. Hopefully I can get healthy, come out and play well."

How did being the coach of a youth church league help you to become a better player?

"It helped me to understand coaching and know that coaches are not perfect. It also helped me to see the game out of a coach's perspective and what they expect out of their players."

Wide Receiver Martín Romero

5-11 • 194 • Fort Collins, Colo. (Northern Colorado)

Veteran, former walk-on wide receiver who will have a good chance to be a regular contributor on gamedays this fall...still developing his technique and consistency as a wideout, but brings a tremendous work ethic to the group...was rewarded with a scholarship in August...is the lone senior in the WR unit...played tailback his first two years at UNM before moving to receiver during the spring of 2003...displayed good quickness and athleticism, and was a surprising playmaker at both positions...came to UNM in January of 2001 from Northern Colorado...first name is pronounced mar-TEEN...is married to the former Elaine Salas, a former five-year member of the UNM spirit squad.

Martín Romero

What were your thoughts after finding out you would be receiving a scholarship, after three years of being a walk on?

"I can't explain it. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. Knowing that all the work, time and sweat paid off."

What comes to mind when I say Rocky Long?

"Tough, determined, and he expects the best at of everyone he comes in contact with."

What improvements do you need to make this season?

"I think that there is always need for improvement in the mental aspect of the game. Just being able to know what is going to happen by studying a lot of film and by always focusing."

Growing up in Fort Collins, were you a Colorado State fan?

"Shamefully I have to say yes, but I can't wait to brag to my family when we beat them up there."

Do you think coming to a Division 1 program from a smaller school was easier than if you would have came out of high school?

"I went to the Division II school and I realized that I needed to challenge myself and reach as high as I possibly could. New Mexico seemed like the best place to do that."

What do you believe that you can bring to the offense?

"I'll bring a lot of character, integrity and work ethic."

Do you have any individual goals for yourself?

"To do something special on the field that helps my team have success and win a big game."

Who was your favorite NFL player as a kid?

"Terrell Davis, because he was just a complete player. He could catch the ball and he could run the ball."

What is your best memory so far in your UNM career?

"My favorite moment was just getting my name on my jersey and getting a chance to play. Getting a chance to really be a part of this team after all the work."

Do you have anything else you'd like to say?

"I want to say thank you to all my friends and family in Albuquerque and Colorado. Thank you for all your support over the years. You've been incredible."

Tight End Mike Augustyniak

6-5 • 255 • Edgewood, N.M. (Moriarty HS)

Returning starter who has all the tools to be a standout tight end - size, height, strength and speed...is a tremendous run blocker who has shown the ability to be a threat in the passing game as well...coaches say he really came into his own this past spring and his current level of performance is meeting his outstanding potential...struggled with nagging injuries and inconsistency early in his career, but has worked to become a steady force in the offense...graded out at 90% during the spring practice season and made very few mistakes...was already a strong player, but was even more impressive in the weight room during the offseason, earning the team Beefmaster award for players weighing between 251-275 pounds...set a new tight ends record with a power clean of 352 pounds...also upped his squat 30 pounds to 535 and went up 20 pounds with a 380 bench...is the Lobos' lone returning tight end with significant D-I experience...29 career games with 11 starts...two-time academic all-conference honoree...he and his wife Nicole were married in 2003.

Mike Augustyniak

How did playing with veterans like Bryan Penley and Zach Cresap help you become a better player?

"I'd been playing with Penley basically since I got here, so we basically learned the system together. It helped having someone to learn with. With Zach, we played the same position (No. 2 tight end) so we helped each other learn routes. It was nice to be able to talk to him about a play."

How have you been able to be a student-athlete and be married?

"I thought it might be tough at first, but it hasn't been too bad. I get time to get my studies done after practice and my class schedule is not real heavy. Sometimes it's hard, but my wife and I try and spend as much time as we can together."

Do you expect to get a lot of catches this year?

"It's basically up to me. If I can get myself open, the coaches will put in plays to get ball thrown to me, and if I keep making plays, they'll keep throwing it to me."

How did it feel to win the Beefmaster award, and how will that help you on the field?

"That has been a goal of mine since I got here. Everyone makes a real big deal out of it because you're considered one of the toughest guys on the team. It was pretty awesome to achieve that."

What has been your favorite moment in your UNM career so far?

"When we made our first bowl game and I saw our program turning around - that was a great moment. I hope that we will keep that winning tradition going here."

Who was your favorite football player as a kid?

"My favorite team was the 49ers and I always liked to watch Jerry Rice play."

Would you rather have 20 knock downs or ten catches in a game?

"It depends if those catches were touchdowns, but I would rather have whatever was going to help us win the game. If our running game is working, then I'd take the knockdowns, if not, then I'd rather have the catches."