SENIOR LINEBACKER Billy Strother
Senior linebacker Billy Strother is a talented, active athlete who became a defensive force and big-time playmaker after stepping into the starting lineup following an injury to Shannon Kincaid in the 2002 season opener. A 2003 Butkus Award (outstanding linebacker) watch list selection has taken his game to another level in the past month. Strother gained a tremendous amount of experience and has gotten stronger in the weight room and has solidified himself as one of the MWC's premier linebackers and special teams players this fall. He was given the nickname "Billy Saturday" last year by the UNM training staff, because he shrugs off injuries and always comes ready to play on gameday. This season he leads the team and is 9th in the MWC averaging 7.9 tackles (63 total - 38 solo) in eight games, including six starts. Strother has eight tackles for a loss of 30 yards, including 2.5 sacks, along with a forced fumble and fumble recovery. He has also become a feared blocker on the UNM punt return team and has scored a pair of TDs off of blocked punts. Against Utah finished with seven tackles (1 TFL) and a QB hurry in 64 snaps. Strother also gave UNM a big momentum lift for the second straight week, gathering Jonathan Harrell's blocked punt and trotting into the endzone from three yards out. Made three solo tackles, including a 3-yard sack and forced fumble, in just 37 defensive snaps against San Diego State. He played only special teams in the first half and returned Hank Baskett's momentum-shifting blocked punt 14 yards for the Lobos' second TD of the night. Strother drew a double team on the play, allowing Baskett a free run to the punter and later in the game, had one of the most devastating hits of the year when he destroyed a SDSU gunner with a crack-back punt return block. Against Utah State, he had seven stops (5 solo) and a QB hurry in 47 defensive snaps and 15 specialty plays. In the New Mexico State game he was all over the field to spark the Lobos to victory with 11 tackles, one TFL, a pass deflection and a critical fumble recovery late in the game to help secure the win. Against Washington State he put together a tremendous game to lead a stalwart defensive effort against the speedy and potent Cougar offense. Strother finished with a career-high 15 tackles (9 solo), including three tackles for loss and also had a crunching 10-yard sack and a QB hurry. He helped the Lobo defense limit the Cougars to 87 rushing yards, 95.3 under their season average. He had six tackles (5 solo) and 1 TFL in 60 snaps against BYU and eight tackles, including a half sack (with Zach Rupp) in 49 snaps off the bench against Texas Tech. Against Texas State, he registered six stops, including one TFL, in 49 snaps. In 2002 teammates selected him as the Colonel H.J. Golightly Defensive MVP at the UNM football banquet and was also voted MWC Defensive Newcomer of the Year by the Las Vegas Review Journal and a Junior College Transfer All-American by JCFootball.com. An honorable mention all-MWC selection and two-time MWC Defensive Player of the Week. Strother tied for second on the team with 89 tackles (42 solo) and also had 14 tackles for loss (2nd on team), including five sacks, a blocked punt, three passes defended, three fumble recoveries and two fumbles forced.
Question: What are your personal goals on the field for the rest of the 2003 season?
Billy Strother: "To "playball" meaning to be physical, to run around, to make plays, to be assignment sound, to have no fear and have faith. I also want to lead my team to a championship and leave everything I have on the field."
Q: What is the toughest challenge playing linebacker?
BS: "Taking on offensive linemen while trying to see if the play is run or pass."
Q: Which part of your game do you feel you need to continue to work on to become a more complete player?
BS: "Becoming a leader and working on my zone drops. I am okay at dropping in my zone, but I don't have any picks so it's not complete yet. Being a leader on this team so my teammates have confidence and respect for me and can rely on me to make plays."
Q: What non-football talents or hobbies do you have? Which hobbies would you like to pick-up or improve off the field?
BS: "Hobbies are video games, collecting DVDs, listening to all types of music, reading and writing poetry, playing basketball, golfing and shopping. Hobbies I would like to pick up on is producing music. I love music and I would like to produce music and maybe become a DJ."
Q: Who is the best player you have played with or against?
BS: "The best player I have played with is my best friend Quentin "Action" Jackson. My man is a real baller and I owe a lot to him. The best player I have played against is Phillip Rivers from North Carolina State. I have never seen a quarterback do the things he does."
Q: Where's the toughest place you've had to play on the road and why?
BS: "New Mexico State. The crowd down there really hates us and they were throwing things at us and spitting on us."
Q: What was your reaction and feelings as being selected the Colonel H.J. Golightly Defensive MVP by your teammates last season?
BS: "I was surprised because I didn't expect the award. It was something that was unexpected and I was really excited to receive it, but it's all good I'm the man."
Q: What is the best part of Rocky Long's defense?
BS: "All the blitzes that we do and the faces of the other team when they don't know where we are coming from."
Q: What made you choose UNM? What impressed you?
BS: "New Mexico was the only school that was recruiting me out of junior college and I was really impressed with all the blitzing. I never blitzed at junior college so I just ate this defense up."
Q: What has it been like to score a couple of touchdowns after punt blocks and why are you always around the football?
BS: "It's been really good. Every defensive player wants to score a touchdown and when you get the chance you are crunk. The ball has just been bouncing in my hands so I guess that's why I am in the right place, but it's just making the plays that are coming to me."