The words reverberated through the microphone and out to the 10,925 fans sitting in attendance. “I’m home,” declared the speaker, as many onlookers smiled and then clapped their hands in approval following the words. Those were the first words spoken to the Lobo faithful by Danny Gonzales as the new head football coach of the New Mexico Lobos.
Gonzales was named the coach early Tuesday afternoon by Eddie Nunez, UNM’s Athletic Director. Gonzales then attended the men’s basketball game where he spoke the above words at halftime.
Gonzales, who was the defensive coordinator at Arizona State the past two seasons, is the exact hire that Lobo fans were looking for. He played at UNM between 1994 and 1998 as a safety and a punter for Dennis Franchione. He later became a graduate assistant in 1999 under then Lobo head coach Rocky Long. He stayed with Long and the program until Long resigned in 2008.
In 2011 Gonzales joined Long at San Diego State, first as the team’s safeties coach, and then being promoted to defensive coordinator in 2017. He would then join Herman Edwards’ staff at Arizona State, where he was the defensive coordinator there as well.
Gonzales is an Albuquerque native, attending Valley High School before his days at UNM. That ability to connect with the community is something that Rocky Long had, and the program seemed to lose when he left and was replaced by Mike Locksley. The community was yearning for another coach who was a part of it before and someone fans can relate to. The hire seems like a slam dunk in all of those categories.
This past season Arizona State allowed 23.1 points per game, good enough for 41st in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Lobos, on the other hand, gave up 37.2 points per game, that was good enough for 125th in FBS. The Sun Devils defense also allowed just 116.8 rushing yards per game, which was 22nd best in the country. New Mexico averaged giving up 164.3 yards on the ground per game, 74th in FBS. It was well documented that the Lobos struggled slowing down the pass, giving up 321.4 yards per game, worst in the FBS. While Arizona State, under Gonzales, gave up 270.1 passing yards per game. So, Lobo fans will see an improvement in their defense.
Gonzales concluded with, “I love this place, I love you guys, I can’t wait to get started.” For now, Lobo fans love him too. Time will tell if they’ll love him just as much as Rocky and Franchione.