Jan. 30, 2012
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
You come early to join Lobo football and you work. You work hard, run hard, lift hard. You also get teased a bit. Hey, who said football can't be fun, too?
"Make sure you don't get the weights in the picture," said Ben Hilgart, the Lobo football team's strength and conditioning coach. "We don't want anyone to see how little he's lifting."
The tongue-and-cheek comment tossed at first-semester Lobo Richard Winston even got a smile from Winston. And why not? Winston, a first-semester, true freshman, loves pumping iron and loves being a Lobo.
He is where he wants to be.
"I love this coaching staff. I love this city. I love having the chance to help bring new pride to this football program," said Winston, who graduated early from Chandler High (Ariz.) in order to enroll at UNM.
"I can already feel the change coming to this program. I'm excited about that and I'm happy to be a part of it. And I'm already feeling stronger."
Winston is one of three Lobos who came to the University of New Mexico in January to get a jump on being a Lobo. Cole Gautsche, who quarterbacked Cleveland High to a New Mexico Class 5A title, and Bryan Oldenkamp, a transfer from Chaffey (Calif.) College, also enrolled at UNM for the second semester.
The logic behind this is obvious. These players get a jump-start on their indoctrination into Bob Davie football. They also take advantage of top-shelf strength and conditioning in the Lobo weight room.
Oh, yeah - they also will be here for Davie's first-ever spring football drills at UNM. That's a tremendous plus for any player looking for playing time in the fall.
"It's an advantage," said Oldenkamp. "Coming early gives me more time to learn about the program, to get the benefits of working out with the team. I think it will help (in the fall) because I've already been part of the team for a while. You know everybody's name and everybody knows you."
Said Gautsche: "You see other quarterbacks doing it, trying to get a jump on learning the system. "
Part of the jump is taking part in UNM's intense off-season strength and conditioning drills. These drills build bigger, stronger, faster Lobos. They also build camaraderie and team unity.
The movement of Lobos in the weight room is quick, efficient and purposeful. There is a plan.
"This is definitely the next level," said Gautsche. "Our strength and conditioning coaches are doing a great job and we're really feeling it. I don't know if I'm putting in any more time in the weight room because I was there a lot in high school, but the intensity and the tempo is way up there. "
Said Oldenkamp: "This is a step up. It's like anything else when you move up -- what is expected from you goes up, too."
Of course, the advantage of coming to UNM early isn't restricted to conditioning drills and pumping iron. There is the classwork, too. Davie has plans to change the culture on the football field, but he also has high demands for his Lobos in the classroom.
Gautsche said he is taking 18 hours this semester trying to get a head start on that aspect of Lobo football and life as a student/athlete.
Winston and Gautsche share the same objectives in leaving their high schools early and coming to UNM. They share something else, too. They both almost played for Lobo rivals. Winston was heading to Wyoming and Gautsche was aimed at New Mexico State before the passion of Bob Davie convinced them to take a detour to Albuquerque.
"I wanted to come here and just hear what UNM had to offer," said Winston. "I loved everything about New Mexico and loved everything Coach Davie had to say. My mom is really glad I changed my mind. This is a lot closer to home.
"I also want to be part of turning a program around. There were some people in my inner circle who asked me if I was worried about coming to a program that hadn't been winning. I told them I was coming to a program I believed was going to start winning and I wanted to be a part of changing things around."
Winston played defensive end at Chandler. If Coach Hilgart can add a few more stacks of weight to Winston's bar, he could see time on the UNM defensive line. However, his size might be more suited to a linebacker spot.
Gautsche looks like he was born to be a quarterback. The New Mexico Gatorade Player of The Year threw for 3,085 yards and 39 touchdowns for Cleveland High. He also is the dual-threat quarterback that coaches drool over. Gautsche ran for 1,218 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior. He can throw bombs. He can break tackles.
Oldenkamp is a promising 6-foot-5, 280-pound addition to the Lobos' offensive line that needs to be revamped by ex-Lobo hitman, Jason Lenzmeier. "There were a lot of reasons that I came to UNM, but Coach Davie and his coaching staff were one of the main ones," said Oldenkamp.
When you talk with these three first-year Lobos, you see what Davie and his coaching staff like about them. They all talk about "team" and doing what it takes to make the Lobos better.
"I'm here to contribute wherever I'm needed," said Winston. "If they want me on the special teams, that's what I'll do. If they think it's best for the team for me to redshirt and be a part of the scout team, then that's what I'll do. I want to make an impact on this team wherever the coaches see me helping out the most."
It's probably tougher on Winston and Gautsche to leave a high school in their senior year than it is on Oldenkamp jumping from junior college during his freshman year. It also might be tougher on Gautsche because all those senior activities at Cleveland are just a few miles away.
"There are some negatives in leaving high school early," Gautsche admitted. "But mostly it's positive and in the long run it will pay off. I'll miss not graduating (with my class), but I might go back for a few things."