Stevens: Matt Raymer Is Another Lobo Walk-On Success Story

Sept. 13, 2012

New Mexico Lobos at Texas Tech

When/Where: 5 p.m. (MT), Saturday - Lubbock, Texas, Jones AT&T Stadium (60,454)
On The Air: 770 KKOB-AM, Lobo Radio Network; Fox College Sports
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, Game Story, Stats

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

If you know the history of walk-ons for New Mexico football, you aren't surprised at the success that Matt Raymer is having as a Lobo.

These walk-ons are often local talent with a passion for the game and a passion for cherry & silver football. They persevere through obstacles and even discouragement because of that two-fold passion.

In a way, they have no choice. Football is a drive, an itch, that can't be ignored. And they want to be Lobos.

"When I came on it was important to keep your head up and keep playing," said Raymer. "It's Lobo toughness.

"Being a local kid, you grow up rooting for the Lobos and going to the stadium. Now, actually playing in there is really an achievement. It feels good."

Raymer came to New Mexico three head coaches back when Rocky Long was calling the shots and a big part of Lobo football's brand was that never-back-down defense. It's probably even fair to say that Long's defense went to battle with a chip on their shoulder - something to prove.

Raymer came to UNM in the spring of 2009 with something to prove, too.

The Manzano High product wanted to prove that he could play football at the top level and play for the Lobos. He persevered. He put in his duty on the scout team, earned a spot on special teams in 2011. He is now New Mexico's starting strong safety.

He also is the Lobos' leading tackler going into UNM's Saturday game with Texas Tech. He had two tackles in 2011. He has 12 in 2012, after two games.

He also has a chance to get a whole lot more in Lubbock, Texas. The Texas Tech Red Raiders are pass-happy and loaded with tall and fast receivers. For sure, the football will be coming in the direction of the 5-foot-9 Raymer and at all Lobo defensive backs. It's what the Raiders do.

"I never really thought about it," said Raymer about leading UNM in tackles after two games. "You just go out there and play and make things happen."

Linebacker Dallas Bollema is No. 2 in tackles with 10 followed by Rashad Rainey, another linebacker, with nine. Destry Berry, another DB, has eight and DB Freddy Young has seven. The Lobos top ten tacklers at this point are either DBs or linebackers.

The Lobos' leading tackler for the past three seasons - Carmen Messina - led the Mountain West in tackles for three straight years. He also led the nation one year. Messina, UNM's only First Team All-Mountain pick in 2011, had 21 tackles his final game vs. Boise State.

"He was a tackling machine," Raymer said of Messina. "I just go out there and try to make plays and help our defense as much as possible."

Raymer, who came to UNM under the Rocky Long defense, had two difference defensive coordinators under former head coach Mike Locksley and is now running out of a defense coordinated by Jeff Mills.

"He (Mills) tries to narrow down the focus for us and put us in position to make plays," said Raymer. "It's been a roller coaster my five years here going through all the coaching changes. But it's always been fun.

"This year has been my most exciting year. The first two games were awesome."

Raymer said one of his key mentors at UNM was former safety Bubba Forrest of Carlsbad. Forrest taught Raymer a lot about techniques and understanding assignments. He also taught Raymer something about hanging in there.

Forrest had to battle throughout the Locksley regime to prove he belonged on the field. Forrest was one of three Lobos to make the All-MW team in 2011. Raymer also has battled to make the field. Now, he is there.

"He (Forrest) taught me a lot and helped me understand the game better; to keep my head up," said Raymer.

Raymer is a lot like Forrest; not the fastest DB on the field, but plays with a high-level of passion. He gets to the right spot and knows how to make plays - and tackles.