A blustery wind and an ominous-looking thunderstorm weren’t enough to scare off a bevy of women, who came out in strong numbers for the 24th Annual Lobo Football Women’s Clinic on Friday.
The storm ultimately missed Dreamstyle Stadium, offering just a few sprinkles and allowing the event to go off without a hitch. The parking lot continued to fill up as women continued to check-in and fill up the tents near the south end zone.
Ashley Bowen, a former UNM student, and Michaela Holler, a current nursing major at UNM, attended the clinic for the first time.
Bowen and Holler both said it seemed like the event would be a fun experience and thought the cause was an important one to get behind. Proceeds raised during the event help fund the Send-A-Kid program, which allows underprivileged New Mexico children to attend sporting events.
When asked what she was most looking forward to, Holler said she was interested in touring the facilities. She said she had been to some football games in the past, but has never had an opportunity for a behind-the-scenes look at where all the preparation takes place.
Shortly afterward, Holler won a raffle near the conclusion of the dinner portion of the event. She walked away with an autographed Lobo jersey, signed by head coach Bob Davie to commemorate the experience.
From there, attendees were invited inside to take a look at the recently upgraded Tow Diehm Athletic Facility. New carpets and seating in meeting rooms, fresh graphic art and a faux brick wall with a lighted Lobo logo were among the improvements, helping bring the building a more modern feel.
The group was ushered into the player’s meeting room as Davie made a statement about some of the recent accomplishments UNM football has seen since he took the helm of a program that was mired in mediocrity.
Things have been much different as of late, as the team led the nation in rushing offense last season en route to a nine-win season, which was capped by winning the 2016 Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
But Davie said the thing he and his staff were most proud of is that they have been able to bring quality people into the community and Albuquerque, New Mexico is better for it.
He introduced a handful of players, who shared a little of their background and the path that led them to New Mexico, followed by a round of questions and answers.
Wide receiver Delane Hart-Johnson was the overwhelming crowd favorite, receiving a resounding ovation from the audience.
He said he gets embarrassed easily, but once he regained his composure, the Q & A panel was his favorite part of the night, adding that the team wants the community to know what it has to offer.
Hart-Johnson said he was excited about the upcoming season and the team is hungry to defy expectations, win the Mountain West and continue to propel the program in the right direction.
“We’re just trying to build a culture here at New Mexico,” he said. “We’re trying to pack the stands and get the community involved with Lobo sports.”
There was also a trivia portion in the upstairs meeting room. Women displayed their knowledge of the program and were rewarded with a t-shirt for providing correct answers.
The final stage of the clinic involved participants taking part in on-field drills with the student-athletes and coaching staff. Some looked like naturals—performing a swim move and taking a ferocious swipe at the target in one of the defensive drills.
Bowen said her favorite drill was running routes with the wide receivers. The women were tasked with catching a pass as the quarterback attempted to drop in a pass over the outstretched arms of a defender.
Most were successful more often than not, securing the pass as Lobo receivers encouraged the ladies to make their way to the end zone and finish the job.
Linebacker Alex Hart said the day was a lot of fun and felt that interacting with the women and Lobo fans was important. Hart likely enjoyed the atypical light-hearted environment exhibited during the drills, since he said the players are always grinding when they perform them in practice.
He said it was fun to teach the ladies something and give them an inside look at the process. The women probably have a clearer understanding of what the players put into practice after experiencing it first-hand.
“Just to give them a taste of what Lobo football is going to be like this year,” Hart said. “The energy that there is — the guys are ready to play and want to come out here have fun and work hard.”
The hard work is likely just getting started as the new season inches closer, with the home opener set for September 2 against Abilene Christian.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers football and men’s and women’s tennis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @robert_maler.