New Mexico high school athletes face uphill battle to find a spot in college football

High School Sports

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexico is not a prime recruiting ground for high school football players, but the state does produce a handful of Division 1 recruits and even more in the lower ranks of college football. But this year, those athletes are at a major disadvantage because they’re be playing so late in the game.

“They took it from us, and we were hurt. I was hurt, like I was considering moving to Texas because they got to play and stuff,” said Devon Bailey, a Melrose football senior. Missing out on football this fall had a lot of athletes worried about missing their opportunity to play at the next level.

However, the problems for these players began before that. “Back it up a few months, they missed their opportunity to go to summer camps, all summer due to this stuff,” said Cleveland Storm football coach Heath Ridenour. “So they missed getting out on the recruiting trail and going to these universities, and letting these coaches see them.”

The state of New Mexico usually produces three to four Division 1 football players per year and according to 24/7 Sports, since 2005, New Mexico has only had four players that earned a four-star rating. So it’s easy to say getting recruited is tough.

For seniors who are still in search of a scholarship, not playing this fall didn’t help. “I feel like it was kind of a driving factor, honestly,” said Clovis football senior Jeston Webkowski. “Like getting slept on and COVID cancelling our senior season.

“Yeah it was kind of hard because I couldn’t show my potential to other coaches,” said Ernesto Acuna, Clovis football senior. Fortunately for Acuna and Webkowski though, they received scholarship offers from the University of New Mexico this past week.

As a whole, Lobo football signed four local players this year as it tried to do more recruiting in its own backyard these days. Still, some seniors in New Mexico are on the outside looking in.

“The majority of our class though that we signed played this fall. The California schools did not and the New Mexico schools did not,” said UNM Head Football Coach Danny Gonzales.

Not playing in the fall prevents players from showing their progression but most of all, it prevents college coaches like Matt Wells at Texas Tech from seeing their highlight tape. “The reality is this, it’s strictly a tape evaluation right now,” said Wells. “Yeah, I feel really bad for them and especially the ones that are late bloomers because your film is your resume and you need to be on film.”

This global pandemic has presented a lot of obstacles but athletes are resilient and with that in mind, Danny Gonzales has a proposition for those seniors who have aspirations of playing at the next level. “They still have an opportunity to walk on at the University of New Mexico, just like Isaiah Chavez did and prove they can play and help us. I invite those kids that believe that they can and if we have room we will give them an opportunity to play,” said Gonzales.

The NMAA has given the go-ahead for high school football teams to start practicing in two weeks. Games would even start 10 days after that. Most football recruits around the country hav already received their scholarship offers.

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