DeWayne Walker's press conference was Wednesday morning and it was our first opportunity to meet the new coach of the Aggie football team.
Walker seems more than qualified to take over a program. The NMSU job is not very appealing on the surface. I think to get a coach like Walker - a name that has been out there the last couple of years, someone with experience at big-time college programs and the NFL, a guy who believes in strong defensive football - was a good hire for the Aggies. This guy could be coaching somewhere else. It's not like he's a no-namer or an unknown. This is just his first crack as a head coach. I think people should feel fortunate that he's coming in.
The press conference was Walker's first real interaction with Las Cruces. He talked football - his defense-first approach, the hiring of Timm Rosenbach as offensive coordinator, his belief in honesty, hard work and toughness and how those would be his rooted philosophies in building the program. He flashed his sense of humor, with a few one-liners that drew laughter from those in attendance.
Walker mentioned the community at least four times during the presser. It's obvious that the administration wanted to bring in someone who would try to reach out to Las Cruces. Former coach Hal Mumme was never into it. Getting fans in the seats has always been a challenge for this program simply because it has never really been good. A coach can reach out to the community as much as he wants. What really brings people to games? Wins. I think Walker can bring some here. People will get behind him if he can.
One thing Walker will be is a rookie. It's his first time being in charge of the whole deal. I expect him to grow into the job just like anyone else. Being patient with him will be key. Next year is going to be a transition season for the program. We cannot judge his ability to coach after the first four weeks of the 2009 season. We will gradually learn what he brings to the table as things unfold over time.
The bottom line is that Walker faces a stiff test at New Mexico State. I didn't think the program was as far away as people thought it was under Mumme. There were many close games that went the other way. The team won at Nevada last year! You don't do that without talent. But they were lacking in critical areas as well and seemed to lack a mental toughness. Now, Walker gets an opportunity to turn things around. It won't be easy by any stretch. If he does though, he will be a local hero.
Some of my favorite quotes from the press conference? I left my recorder at the office but here they are paraphrased.
Walker saying he was "pissed off" after the Lobos beat the Aggies in basketball on Tuesday night.
The coach saying that the program had losses on its resume but that it isn't "a losing program."
When a question came as to how fast he expected to turn things around, he turned to AD McKinley Boston and asked "I have a five-year contract, right?" This caused a chorus of laughter.
"We're gonna win some games here. We're gonna win some games."
Again, I'm sure there are some more to remember, but this is off the top of my head. They just stood out.
As pointed out by Infamous Chuck on the last post entry, the Aggies will bring in Keith Murphy to coach wide receivers/special teams at NMSU. Murray was a quality control/special teams assistant for the St. Louis Rams last year.
At the bottom of Felix's Rosenbach story is a quick hit about NMSU scheduling.
Apparently, the team is looking to start a home-and-home series with Baylor. They also have a home-and-home with Ohio, starting in 2010.