April 27, 2013
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.--Andrew Aho missed the entire 2012 University of New Mexico football spring practice because of a knee injury he suffered just before the session began.
He made up for that lost time in 2013.
Aho, a senior tight end from Roswell, has been named the 2013 Hard Hat Program Champion, as dubbed by Lobo strength and conditioning coordinator Ben Hilgart.
"It was a shock at first," Aho said when he learned of the award that was announced as the end of UNM's 2013 spring practice Saturday on Branch Field at University Stadium. "It felt really good when I found out."
The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Aho is one of 34 Lobos football players to earn a Hard Hat Award for their efforts during UNM's winter conditioning program.
The Lobo Football Hard Hat Program rewards those student-athletes who best display a daily commitment to the program's identity of "Outwork, outhit and out-discipline during the winter offseason conditioning program. A Hard Hat Player is self-motivated, a competitor, committed to personal and team excellence, accountable and disciplined.
Most importantly, the Hard Hat Player puts the team first.
"This was a special group of guys," UNM strength and conditioning coordinator Ben Hilgart said. "Honestly, my expectation before the spring was 20 guys that would win the award. So this is just the first step of what we have to do to get ourselves ready for the season, but it was a good first step."
To become a Hard Hat recipient, the student-athlete must achieve a certain point total during the winter program. He earns points based upon a championship effort for strength training, speed development and conditioning sessions. The UNM strength and conditioning staff evaluates each student-athlete after every workout.
The student-athlete receives grades on a number of criteria, including accountability, daily focus, effort and competitiveness. A player also can earn points during team "Lobo Tough" drills, by breaking personal records or by meeting certain position-group standards in strength-, speed- and agility-testing.
Aho said missing out last spring motivated him to go all out with the offseason conditioning program this time around.
"Missing last year kind of opened my eyes to how much more I needed to do," Aho said. "That's why I did it. I started out trying to carry my position group, be a leader, and now I think it's spread throughout the whole team."
FAMILY BARBECUE: Nearly 150 family members of the Lobo student-athletes watched practice and then gathered for a team picnic on Saturday. Coach Bob Davie made the final spring practice in 2013 an event for the Lobos to remember.
HARD HAT WINNERS: