Memorial Day — A Grateful Salute to Old Glory and to the UTEP Experience

By Mark S. McDonald, undocumented railbird

As I get older and rounder, events such as this weekend give me more pause, more pause to be thankful. Memorial Day leaves me grateful for our armed service men and women, all those nameless people who stood up for me, for America and for the freedom we hold dear today. Here’s to you, men and women in uniform. My backyard grill gets a workout this weekend, and in spirit, you will be right beside me, poking at the fire and sipping a frosty one.

Here is a bow to our neighbors at Fort Bliss. You active-duty folks on the east side of the mountain from UTEP may not be home, but you are surrounded by people who care about you. We civilians are just not very good at telling you.

Ditto for the UTEP homecoming every year. UTEP was awfully good to me, better than I ever deserved. Round peg in a round hole, I was altogether challenged every autumn Saturday, but rewarded, too.

The far West Texas school that had 8,500 students when I enrolled now has 23,000+. As you newcomers report to the football office the next few weeks, I hope this exponential growth in no way diminishes the value you draw from your own UTEP experience. It is a bottomless well.

Many of you feel the same. I know this because you write me at mark@dustdevilpublishing.com. Here’s a few recent samples:

Mark, you do a great job with this newsletter. Thanks! That pic (of a post-game tailgate in the Sun Bowl parking lot) including Maynard Haddad was actually homecoming last year when UTEP honored the 30th anniversary of our 1988 10-win season. While I wish more of my teammates could have been there (so many of them are coaches). It was a fun weekend. — Arnie Adkisson.

{Arnie was a TE from Hobbs, N.M. who played with the likes of UTEP former head coach Sean Kugler. Retired Athletic Director Bob Stull was the head coach. Haddad is legendary in UTEP circles, noted for his unvarnished language and his steadfast refusal to bow to convention. Haddad for years has run H&H on Yandell Street, the only café in the free world where you can get your car washed while you order a plate of migas.}

Thanks for the great words on Wayne Vandenburg. He really changed my life, and the lives of so many others on our track teams. You’ve told me many times you loved to go to big meets at Kidd Field, and watch world-class competition. I look back on my days with Wayne, and thank God for them.  — Bill Fischer

{A veteran of the insurance business, now living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, “Fish” was a thinking man’s middle-distance runner. As you see, he is Miner forever, loyal to Wayne Vandenburg.}

Vandy was ever the eternal promoter/ optimist, 24/7 energy in motion. I coached DeBo (Fred DiBernardi), our double gold NCAA shotput and discus champ. I went on to Nebraska, and coached there. At NU, we had Cornhusker rush ends that were named first team all-Americans. Debo had their tools plus some, but was never developed at UTEP, unfortunately for him and the team. Had he been taught the “moves” he would have had a great NFL career.

Ross “Mo” Moore was the classic trainer. No BS. Compete or get out! Few know he coached track at UTEP too. I hope the Miner teams all do well. — John Korky

{Korky is a Ph.D. professor emeritus at Montclair State University, a school of about 20,000 students in New Jersey.}

We played a different game of football than they do now. I looked back at an old football program from 1962 when we played at Arizona State. Biggest lineman at ASU was 6-5, 238 pounds. Mart Adams (from Fort Stockton, now deceased) and I were the starting guards and the backups on defense. Mart, at 182, and I, at 186, we played both ways. Can you see the linemen of today covering punts, or kickoffs?

I really liked playing for (the late) Bum Phillips. But later, Bobby Dobbs (also deceased) recruited some very big stars to make old Texas Western College a winner. Should have been 60 years of football success. – Tim Morton

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If you’re a UTEP grad and you share your tent with an orange lab, there’s only one name for him. Meet Miner, age 4, best hunting dog I ever owned, 82 pounds of love.

What’s on your mind? Your favorite UTEP memory? Your idea for the Miners returning to glory in basketball, football, track? Let me know at mark@dustdevilpublishing.com.

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