UTEP Football — Doing Some Things Right (July 2020)

Vol. VI, No. 9                         July 18, 2020

UTEP take on the Texas Longhorns several years ago in Austin. Notable Miners in white include Aaron Jones (29) about to take a handoff, center Derron Jones (65) and guard Will Hernandez (76).  

UTEP Football – Doing Some Things Right

(No … Really)

By Mark S. McDonald Sr.

Health advisory: Reviewing the past three years of UTEP football may be may be harmful to your eyesight. Harmful side effects may include upset stomach, grinding of molars and night sweats.

Year   W-L   Notes

         2017: 0-12   Sean Kugler departs at midseason

         2018: 1-11   Lone victory over Rice

         2019: 1-11   Victory over Houston Baptist

         2020: ????    Will the schedule be played?

The past three years, but for Rice and Houston Baptist, which gives fewer scholarships, UTEP is winless, with a 0-32 record. In this era of wide-open offenses, the Miners have scored 30+ points exactly twice.

To promote proper mental health, however, the U.S. Surgeon General recommends looking beyond the season records. Focus instead on areas where UTEP football is doing a lot of things right. Specifically, the Miners are going to classes and keeping their noses clean.

In academics, UTEP athletes a couple years ago were graduating at a rate second only to Rice among universities in Texas. Ahead of A&M. Ahead of UT-Austin.

UTEP athletes stay off the police blotter. One exception was vagabond QB Kai Locksley, son of Maryland Coach Michael. In June 2019, while attending his fourth college, Locksley the younger nearly hit for the cycle: DWI, possession of weed, threatening a peace officer, unlawfully packing a pistol. Other than a weed possession rap on Aaron Jones, Miners generally have avoided the glare from the legal spotlight.

UTEP continues to crank out athletes who play out their eligibility, earn a degree and launch new careers. A prime example happens to be one of my personal favorites, former center Derron Gatewood.   

Derron is one of those rare animals granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Recruited out of Odessa Permian by the Kugler staff, Gatewood showed up in 2014, was redshirted then started at least part-time the next three years until 2018 when he suffered torn ACL and MCL last season. By the time Derron rehabbed his leg for the 2019 season, teammates were calling him “Grandpa.”

Fast forward through a brisk year of football and grad studies, and now Gatewood is back in his hometown. In this tour of El Paso duty, Derron did a lot of things right. In no particular order, he earned his Masters in liberal arts and leadership studies … married high school sweetheart, Rylee, who’s in nursing school at Midland College … got his first real job.

The son of Denisa and Kevin Gatewood recently caught on as an assistant line coach at Odessa Permian. There, Derron now works for – not Sean Kugler nor Dana Dimel – but for Panther Head Coach Jeff Collins. In high school, Collins was Gatewood’s position coach, so this comes full circle.

“My preparation was great, especially with four years under Kugler,” Gatewood said recently, while moving furniture into a new apartment. “I love Coach Dimel and his staff, but with Kugler, the staff made sure we got a degree. They showed us how to have thick skin, how to handle tough situations. It was a hard-nosed program. “Football and going to school at UTEP taught me how to balance everything. Now, anything that gets thrown at me at work, I am used to it.”

Two recent UTEP grads – Logan Tuley-Tillman (L) and Derron Gatewood – played out their eligibility while keeping their eyes on the real prize … new careers in coaching.

Gatewood (whose knee is still a little sensitive) has plenty of company from teammates beginning to make their way. While the likes of former defensive lineman Gino Bresolin is back in the Seattle area selling cars, a number of Miners are in the first 2-3 years of a coaching career:  

QB Mack Leftwich, Incarnate Word Univ.

RB Treyvon Hughes, applying at EL Paso schools

OT Logan Tuley-Tillman, Duncanville High

OL Derrick Elmendorf, El Paso Pebble Hills High

LB Eric Ramirez – El Paso Del Valle

OL Derron Gatewood – Odessa Permian

As an old Midland Lee man, I have mixed feelings. In Derron Lee Gatewood (UTEP 2019), my old high school rivals could not have hired a more earnest young coaching prospect. This is a well-trained fellow who has seen competition at the highest level. Given his background and enormous upside, the decision to hire Gatewood was no decision at all.

Here’s to Derron Gatewood and his former teammates now making a go of it … Picks Up and Viva Miners.

Ex-Marine YC McNease

Nugget from Yesteryear

‘Shakespeare’ Once Played for UTEP

Your editor here does not always care for lawyers, and you know why. But certain exceptions must be made. They would include my daughter-in-law, Jennie Kay McDonald, along with my former teammate and NFL referee Eddie Hochuli. The short list includes former national-class UTEP shot-putter John Birkelbach and his sidekick in an El Paso firm, Carl Green, who once tutored our athletes. Then there is the all-time hardhead Lance Winchester.

Lance played linebacker on some highly competitive defenses in the late-1960s. He still practices law in Austin, just hoping to get it right someday. Before seeking refuge in law school, Winchester once skipped an off-season workout a no-no — then tried to wiggle out of it with a written excuse to his cranky position coach, YC McNease (no periods). The UTEP assistant to Bobby Dobbs was so taken with the linebacker’s prose, McNease gave Winchester a new nickname … “Shakespeare,” as he came to be known, tells one on his coach, too. It goes like so:

“My first-year roommate, Nick Smerigan, told me that when Coach McNease was leaving the staff, his U-Haul was parked in front of Miners Hall. Nick goes down, and is watching YC prepare to leave. Y.C. walks over and asks Nick if he has come to say good-bye. “No, Coach,” Smerigan says, “I just want to make sure you don’t change your mind.”

Gone Too Soon

Bennie F. Lybrand (1938-May 25, 2020)

As Orange United, we mourn the recent passing of Bennie F. Lybrand, who died suddenly in New Harmony, in deep East Texas. He was 82.

Recruited out of Lamesa, Lybrand played football at Texas Western (1956-60) while earning a degree in civil engineering. He was a member of the APO social-professional fraternity for engineering students.

Later Lybrand worked for 35 years with the Brannon Corp. of Tyler. At New Harmony Baptist Church in New Harmony, Bennie served as music director for 27 years.

“I was lucky to have been a friend of Bennie since 1956,” said former teammate Aaron Cranford. “Bennie was one of the few players that I never saw to take a drink of beer. I am so blessed to have known him.”

Bennie is preceded in death by his brother, Donald Robert Lybrand. Bennis is survived by his wife of 61 years, Carole, and their sons Brian and Phillip, along with six grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. 

{Editor: With thanks to the contributions of Wm. F. Quinn (P.E. 1954)}

Next issue — A little school on the river grows up.

“Longer I’m gone, better I was.”

Two former UTEP linemen – Gatewood and editor Mark McDonald – separated by 50 years. Research shows regular dosages of MAF will cure dandruff and morning breath. <Mark@DustDevilPublishing.com>

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