When you look at the New Mexico Lobos football team, its hard to find something positive to write about except that they finally got around to firing their head football coach. But when you look past the obvious and look at the players, you can see more than just a lot of hope and optimism, but also a huge amount of talent. And one of those talented players is the kicker, #12 James Aho, 5-9 195 lbs, a senior from Roswell, New Mexico.
Aho joined the team in 2008 as a walk-on and started his first season. He went on to turn in the most productive freshman season ever by a UNM kicker. That first year, he was 25 of 25 on extra points and 18 of 24 on FG's, putting 75% of them through the uprights. He chalked up a respectful 79 points for the Lobos in his first season. But it would be steadily downhill for the Lobos overall and for him as well.
Mike Locksley was named New Mexico's 29th head football coach on Dec. 9, 2008.
The 2009 New Mexico team went 1-11 on the season and Aho, now in his second year, suffered with the rest of the players when the team failed to give him the opportunities to apply his trade. He kicked 19 extra points on the 21 TD's the team made that season, and also went 13 of 21 on FG's, due to the fact that 10 of those kicks were from more than 40 yards. To his credit, Aho still managed to put up 58 points on the Lobos side of the scoreboard before the year was over.
The 2010 season was a repeat of the year before, with the Lobos once again going 1-11 on the year. The football program continued to struggle and so did the players on the field. Aho struggled as well when the offense failed to get him into the mix by leaving him too far away to attempt effective field goals. He made all 22 of his extra points, and was 8 of 9 FG attempts, with one being a 51-yarder. But 2010 season provided a silver lining for Aho. It was his kick that provided the Lobos' one win when he booted a 38 yard FG to lift the Lobos over Wyoming 34-31, just as time expired in the fourth quarter.
So far this year, the New Mexico team has lost every single game, and that led to the firing of Mike Locksley. But as a senior Aho doesn't have a lot of time to dwell on that. The season is half over and he still has games to play. So far he has made all of his extra points (13), and he has made 5 of 7 of his FG attempts. Three out of four of those kicks were from 40 or more yards, with the longest a 47-yarder.
Even with the poor team performance over the past few years Aho has a chance to become the most prolific FG kicker in Lobo history; the record is 53 set by David Margolis from 1989-1992. Right now Aho has 43 and needs 11 more to break that record in the five games that are left. Aho's career accuracy of 72.2% also makes him No. 6 all-time at UNM.
But for Aho and the rest of the Lobos it has gone far beyond the stats now, or bowl games, or bragging rights. It's about pride and self respect; it's about teamwork and keeping the faith in the face of adversity.
For Ano and his teammates it's all about being a New Mexico Lobo.