UTEP football is celebrating 100 years


File photo

A sell-out crowd of 52,085 was the second-largest crowd at a UTEP football game on October 21, 2000.

Adrian Broaddus , Editor-In-Chief

The overwhelming smell of hot dogs being cooked on a charcoal grill fills the UTEP grounds with a delightful smell, the echoing sound of the drumline front bouncing through the walls of the school leading up to the stadium means exactly one thing—football season is back.

For most who make their way to the Sun Bowl for any given Saturday morning football game, UTEP football feels like a true Texas tradition, unique in its own way.

The stadium is hugged by a mountainous surrounding, with stands that allow cheers to literally recoil off its natural surroundings, making the noise almost deafening when it gets loud.

As they embark on their 100th year in program’s existence, the UTEP football (0-1) team will take on Rice on Saturday, Sept. 9.

For senior guard Derek Elmendorff, this matchup means more than just a game or a win.

This game means his return to not only the gridiron, but also the starting job as a guard.

“It’s always exciting, first home game. It’s a little more personal for me now—being benched and coming back,” he said. “I haven’t felt that jittery—that, ‘okay, I’m starting’ feeling in the Sun Bowl for about two years now. It’ll be a little fresh for me, but once the first play is over, you’re a football player and it’s time to battle.”

Battling is something he learned to do during the 2017 off-season. After his impressive freshman campaign, where he made the All-Conference list, Elmendorff did not see the playing time he hoped for during his sophomore and junior campaigns.

In fact, he often had to watch from the sideline as his good friend and partner on the line, standout guard Will Hernandez would play and improve throughout the two seasons.

“Coming in, Will Hernandez and I were starting our freshman year. I had some personal problems and my junior year I was injured, messed up my back, which led to some weight gain,” he said. “When I came back, I still had that weight gain, so I was benched. You can’t pout. Coaching up the younger guys and going into my senior season, I thought I couldn’t go out this way.”

So with the help of  Hernandez, he fought through the adversity and planned to lose the weight. Both of them picked up boxing for cardio exercises and it helped Elmendorff move around better. He claimed to have gotten back to the level he once was as a freshman.

And it was all because of his love for one thing—football.

“Derek Elmendorff is (a player who has improved the most),” said head coach Sean Kugler. “He wasn’t giving us the production that we needed and he kind of made a life’s choice that he was going to change his body, he was going to change his mentality, and instead of going the other way and blaming everybody else he blamed himself. He had a great camp so I’m looking forward to him starting. I’m proud of that kid for where he has taken his career. He took it by the horns and did it himself.”

Elmendorff grew up from humble beginnings in El Paso, where he understood how truly difficult it was to make it big in the sport of football and the work he needed to put in in order to exceed in the sport.

At Franklin High School, he was able to step foot and play on the UTEP turf annually when his team would take on Coronado and played at the Sun Bowl.

“I would always look up and say ‘wow, this is going to be my future.’ I was so excited,” he said.

Gifted with a massive size for a high school lineman and an inclination to work hard at the sport, he was recruited by the Miners to play for them at the colligate level—something he always wanted.

“You know how they say in Texas football is considered a religion? It’s that sort of  thing with me,” he said. “Growing up around here in Texas football is big, but coming to the games here and seeing the Jordan Palmer’s, the Johnny-Lee Higgins’, the Thomas Howard’s, when they were ranked and the entire stadium was rockin’—that’s what we’re trying to bring back here. That atmosphere, we experienced that—Aaron and Alvin (Jones), all the El Paso kids who are playing here know how it is and we want to get back there.”

In its 100 years of existence, one might not find the program’s history to be filled with a colorful count of prominent history. The school’s all-time record rests at 385–564–28 (.408) with a bowl record of 5-9.

In fact, the Miners have not won a bowl game in 50 years (1967).

Yet, Elmendorff commends the fans’ loyalty, despite the wins and losses. 

“The fans in general are true loyal fans and always here,” he said. “I’ve played in this stadium when there’s 40,000 and when there’s about 17,000, and every time it is so loud. We get help from the mountains and everything is booming back. This stadium gets rockin.”

However, the game itself takes a back seat for some at UTEP. Alan Perez, a sophomore marketing major, said his favorite part about football season coming back is the tailgates.

“Tailgating is easily the best part because it joins everyone together to have a great time,” he said. “Nothing beats hanging out with friends and having a great time before the game.”

This year, the UTEP Alumni Association and Miner Athletic Club is offering fan-wide tailgates before each game this season.

For $8 per game, students are offered a ticket to the tailgate, which includes a catered meal, two beverages, music and prizes. The tailgate parties start at Kidd Field three hours prior to kick off and does not include a game ticket.

To purchase tailgate party tickets, one may buy them in person at the Peter & Margaret de Wetter Center (Alumni Lodge), Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by phone at 915-747-8600.  A valid ID is required for entry.