Aaron Blackwell has only one goal this season: To be outstanding.
The junior defensive lineman made up his mind at the end of last season that he would do whatever it takes to make 2018 better. The Lobos finished the 2017 season with seven straight losses, which, to Blackwell and his teammates, was completely unacceptable.
“I think I’ve talked to about ten guys in the past couple of days. All we want to do is get that taste out of our mouth,” he said. “A bad season is a bad season, everyone has one, but we’re all ready to get back into it. Just really beat the hell out of some stuff to get on to the next one.”
That next season is starting soon, but it is obvious that expectations for the program have been quite low, at least from those on the outside.
New Mexico was picked to finish last in the Mountain West Conference Mountain Division in the preseason conference media poll. Blackwell said he tries to not to think about it too much because at the end of the day “predictions are just predictions.”
“Someone is going to look at stats, just read a stat and say what they think,” he said. “People who really are in the program, we know what we can do. We are going to go out there and do the best we can.”
The less-than-ideal predictions weren’t the only source of negative energy the Lobos were getting. This summer, the UNM board of regents voted to discontinue three sports, which caused some discomfort throughout the athletic department and the community.
Season ticket sales are also currently not looking so hot, but this was something head coach Bob Davie said could be fixed. The coach said he understands the excitement around the program isn’t strong due to last season’s record, however, he thinks that if the Lobos can win some games, people might come around and purchase single tickets.
The team’s strategy is to focus only on what can be controlled.
“We are all setting goals for ourselves football-wise. There’s nothing we can do for the budget,” Blackwell explained. “We are pouring our hearts thinking of ways to bring fans to get tickets and sell ourselves pretty much. All we can do is set goals for the weight room, the football field.”
Blackwell emphasized the importance of teammates having each other’s backs and firing each other up. During the last couple weeks, the official UNM football Twitter account has posted videos of workout sessions in which players cheer each other on. One in particular gained a lot of attention.
The Absurd Hero, Blackwell’s nickname, is squat-lifting 675 pounds as the weight room explodes in cheers. The video went viral and was shared nationally by well-known media outlets including Fox Sports and ESPN’s SportsCenter. During a press conference, Davie was asked about the video and his response was a joke about how Blackwell’s popularity meant he is now part of the Kardashians’ crew.
BEAST. MODE. 😤
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 3, 2018
A this time however, internet fame is taking a backseat for the linebacker. Other than being “outstanding” this season, the player said he and his team already determined their No. 1 goal is to have a postseason. Whether or not outsiders believe they can, it doesn’t matter. It only matters that the team believes in itself.
“Oh we are getting to a bowl game. That’s the goal,” he said confidently. “You don’t go into a season without that prediction. We can put our name on anything. Let’s go to a bowl game.”