New Mexico Football: Bigger, Faster, Stronger Is The Lobo Mantra

New Mexico Football: Bigger, Faster, Stronger Is The Lobo Mantra

Mountain West Football

New Mexico Football: Bigger, Faster, Stronger Is The Lobo Mantra


New Mexico Football: Bigger, Faster, Stronger Is The Lobo Mantra

As the Lobos look to make headway in the Mountain West, much will be thrust upon the shoulders of director of athletic performance Derrick Baker.

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The Lobos look to tap into a new source of strength and knowledge.

Danny Gonzales has stated from the time of his hire in 2019 that to compete and win games in the Mountain West Conference, New Mexico Lobos football needs to get bigger, faster, and stronger. He has also stated that while it is possible to be an excellent coach at the FBS level, coaches do not win games on the field. The talent of football athletes is what does that, but that requires the development of those athletes on the gridiron.

Rocky Long once said that successful coaches could look at an athlete on film and know it was possible to develop young men despite limited offers from bigger programs. It involves a lot of hard work from coaches and athletes alike throughout that process, especially in the weight room. This is to gain the size and strength required to endure a long, physical, grueling FBS football season, and that was a staple of the Long era at UNM. One did not have to look far to see how the Lobos would take athletes and mold them in order to compete.

It’s in that spirit that one of Gonzales’s latest hires, Derrick Baker, expects to be the cornerstone of that “bigger, faster, and stronger” mantra. He joined the Lobos as director of athletic performance in 2022 after spending six years at San Diego State working alongside or for Aztec strength coach David Hall.

“Derrick will help our team get bigger and stronger, which will allow our guys to withstand the grind of a season better,” Gonzales said in a statement. “Our goal will always be to be the most physical team in our league, and Derrick will be a key factor in reaching that goal.”

Baker credits much of his success and knowledge to Hall. One can look at the Aztecs’ successes on the gridiron and hardwood and recognize it’s hard to argue what an excellent hire this was. It will help the Lobo football team get back to what used to be the bedrock of this team under Long. This is because teams knew they were in for a dogfight when playing New Mexico.

Baker was already a well-known commodity to both Gonzales and Long. The three worked together at San Diego State, where Baker was the strength and conditioning coach for the Aztec track and field/cross-country program and also worked in men’s golf and football.

It helped that Baker was also a SDSU alum, having graduated in 2014 with a degree in kinesiology while gaining experience as the head student manager for two years. From there, he spent six months as an intern at the University of California. From January to July 2015, he assisted the Cal Golden Bears’ football, men’s rowing, and men’s gymnastics teams as an equipment manager and, later, a strength and conditioning intern.

“When I got the call from Coach Gonzales,” Baker said, “I felt honored to be given this director opportunity and, personally, I have learned and under the tutelage and I may be biased from one of the best in the strength and conditioning business at SDSU, Adam Hall.”

“When called, it was a no-brainer for me, knowing the character of the current Lobo coaching staff and I like to think I am a good judge of character and knew they had a solid foundation of coaches.”

Previous successful teams under Long weren’t always as talented as the opposite, but they rarely failed to match up physically. A great example of this is former Lobo Brian Urlacher. The NFL Hall of Famer came to New Mexico with only one scholarship offer out of high school at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds and left as a senior at 6-foot-4 and 245. He ran a 4.59 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and scouts’ jaws dropped, belying the reality that former UNM strength and conditioning coach Mark Paulsen was a huge factor in building the program’s power at that point, enabling many Lobos to carry on with careers in the NFL.

Baker, when asked about his knowledge of Lobo legend “Coach P”, Baker said, “I heard he was the man, an awesome guy to work with and nothing but good about what he had done with this program over the years.”

“When I met him in person, it reaffirmed everything people had told me about him. Just a rock-solid guy and told me even though he was not with the program anymore, he offered his help and it was obvious he heavily invested in the Lobo program.”

The UNM strength and conditioning program under Paulsen produced some of the Lobos’ strongest and most physical teams, with a number of players who would continue their football careers in the NFL. Back then, Danny Gonzales was both a player and video coordinator and saw the importance of producing the strongest possible athletes.

He knew the template that it would take to make this football program successful. The bedrock would be a strength and conditioning program where the Lobos could compete and win games because, if you cannot recruit high-profile athletes out of high school, you had better be able to develop them on the football field and in the classroom.

When asked about his new Lobo strength coach, Gonzales said, “Derrick has done a great job helping build the identity and character of our football team. Being the toughest team in the Mountain West is who we want to be known as. It doesn’t happen without a great strength coach!”

For his part, Baker, like Paulsen before him, has said that they will always have the “meat and potato lifts or your standard lifts pretty much year-round.”

“Your traditional bench, the squat and power clean, trap or deadlift, the proven lifts, are pretty much the staple of what we will do. You don’t need to get gimmicky as we know those lifts work and have proven them to work. My goal is, outside of the main core lifts that we do, to constantly make them a little more uncomfortable so they grow and get stronger, get outside of your comfort level.”

“First and foremost and the reason that they are in there is physical strength and power. It doesn’t matter that you are a five-star guy, if you are not big or slight, you are not going to last in FBS football [without it]. When we put them constantly in uncomfortable situations in the weight room, other players see this and we see how they respond and bring out the competition in each other.”

After talking to Coach Baker, you know UNM made a fantastic hire to get back to the basics and, with his leadership, the Lobos will continue to get bigger, faster, and stronger.

There is no doubt that New Mexico is in good hands for the future after speaking to coach Baker, to go from an equipment manager, interning at SDSU to his position now as Director of Athletic Performance at UNM is quite the inspiration of what happens when a person gets committed to his field, willing to learn and work hard!




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