March 7, 2013
By Greg Archuleta
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- During the offseason, most college football programs are engaged in some type of team-building exercise to fuel the bonds of brotherhood for the upcoming season.
At the University of New Mexico, the process got downright wild.
The Lobos ended a four-part series of 6 a.m. workouts Thursday called "Lobo Tough," in which the players participated in several conditioning drills in the Indoor Practice Facility. The reward for the team's dedication was a visit from a live "Lobo."
"Forest," a 7-year-old timber-arctic cross wolf trotted onto the field at the end of the session and took individual and team pictures with the other Lobos on the field.
"We were all shocked when we saw the wolf come in," senior linebacker Dallas Bollema said. "Everybody got pumped up and excited. We all wanted to get our pictures taken with him. It was a great way to wrap up the offseason workouts before spring break."
Forest is a member of Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. Executive director Leyton Jay Cougar said Forest is one of the sanctuary's ambassadors, meaning that it is socialized and is comfortable in public environments, such as attending a Lobo football workout.
"We do educational presentations with schools and libraries," Cougar said. "The UNM (men's) basketball team recently took a picture with our ambassador, and UNM recently did its 2013 institutional video with one (a photo of the men's basketball team with the Wild Spirit wolves can be seen at wildspiritwolfsanctuary.org by clicking on the Animal Talent link).
The humanized Lobos had to put in a lot of work themselves during the 6 a.m. workouts, running from station to station to work on their conditioning for the hour-long session.
You see, they want to become proper ambassadors of the UNM athletic program themselves, by putting up a few more wins during the 2013 season. They want to be "Lobo Tough."
"Getting up for that first 6 a.m. workout was tough," senior linebacker Rashad Rainey said, "but it got easier each time we went out.
"It's going to help us with our conditioning and endurance."
Junior running back Chase Clayton said the training also helped their emotional makeup.
"It's more of a mental thing and can you push through? If we can get through these workouts now, when we're in the fourth quarter of a tight game next season, we'll be better prepared. It's definitely a team-bonding experience."
The team will get a week off for Spring Break that starts on Monday.
"We've been training for 38 days," Bollema said. "The week off will be good for us to get some rest, get refreshed and get right for spring practice. The good thing about this season is that the coaches know us better and we have a better understanding of what they expect. "
The Lobos begin spring practice on March 26. For more information on the wolves, visit wildspiritwolfsanctuary.org.