Justin Hix knew at an early age that he wanted to play college soccer for New Mexico, like his dad Jason did in the early ‘90s.
Now not only does he have his dad’s connections to the school, the younger Hix has joined a recruiting class featuring his friends and club teammates CJ Slough and David Gros.
The three Albuquerque natives — playing for the Jason Hix-coached Rio Vista FC team — officially signed National Letters of Intent on Wednesday to become members of the Lobo soccer team, a College Cup semifinalist last season. They are among eight recruits in a class that includes four players with ties to Major League Soccer academies.
Gros said Friday afternoon that he is excited to be coming to UNM with his teammates.
“I think that’s one of my favorite parts,” he said. “I grew up playing with Justin and CJ. We’ve always been brothers playing together.”
Justin was the first to verbally commit to UNM, Slough said, and Gros followed. That helped him in his decision to commit to the Lobos as well. Those commitments came during their junior years in high school.
Though the trio has an already established camaraderie through Rio Vista, each attended a different high school and contributed to their prep teams. All three have received all-state honors as well.
Slough, a 5-foot-9 midfielder, and the Volcano Vista Hawks reached the Class 5A state championship this season — losing to champion Las Cruces 2-1. He scored 13 goals this past season, according to statistics on MaxPreps.com, and now holds Volcano Vista’s records for most career goals (20) and career points (56).
“I feel like I’m pretty athletic — I just need to clean it up a little bit,” Slough said. “All of (the other signees) are pretty clean when it comes to their touches and their decision-making. It’s definitely a lot faster in college than what we’re doing now.”
The 5-9 defender Gros — last year’s District 5-4A player of the year — tallied 19 goals and 14 assists over two years at St. Pius X.
Justin Hix, a 5-10 midfielder, played for the 2011 Class 5A state champion and 2012 runner-up Eldorado Eagles. He posted three goals and eight assists last year as the Eagles lost to Las Cruces in the second round of the state tourney.
He now has the added distinction of being the first second-generation men’s soccer player at UNM. Jason Hix, his father, played for New Mexico from 1992-94 and still ranks among the all-time top Lobos. The elder Hix ranks fourth in UNM’s record book for career assists (20) and single-season assists (9, 1994).
“There’s definitely a pressure to that,” Justin Hix said. “He’s All-American and everything, but I’m pretty excited. It’s a great opportunity.”
Jason Hix said he is proud of his son, not so much in that he is following in his footsteps, but that Justin has taken an opportunity to play for a high-caliber program like UNM. It is also unique to have three players like Justin Hix, Slough and Gros on hand to give the Lobos some local flavor, Jason Hix said.
“That’s pretty special for those three, for the community as a whole, for the guys they’ve grown up playing with,” he said. “That’s a pat on the back for three local kids at one time at UNM; it’s a big deal.”
Does this mean the program, which just marked its 30th year, is beginning to come full circle?
“When you use the term ‘full circle,’ that basically says I’m old, and I think that may be true,” Jason Hix joked. “I think the program has matured. The program has certainly matured, the program has certainly come a long way and the coaching staff that’s there has done a remarkable job to take the program to a national level and be respected across the board.”
On UNM’s other five signees
Four of UNM’s other signees will arrive after playing for their various MLS academies, youth programs that have direct ties to the professional teams and feature professional instruction.
Five-foot-7 midfielder Gabriel Camera and 6-3 defender Matthew Dorsey played for the Houston Dynamo Academy, 5-11 midfielder Patrick Khouri from the FC Dallas Academy and 5-10 midfielder Sam Gleadle from the Real Salt Lake Academy.
UNM’s other addition is Wayde Scibilia, a 6-4 midfielder from San Pasqual High School in Escondido, Calif.