When our children discover a passion for anything in life and pursue a mastery of what motivates them, we absolutely have a profound sense of pride when they have found that path for themselves. Whatever that pursuit may be, their goals and ambitions might not quite align with what we had in mind for them, but when they show a dedication and drive and begin to excel, we let them know we recognize their accomplishments and acknowledge their sacrifices. For those of us who have seen our loved ones through those essential times of struggle and strife on the road to achievement, we perhaps feel a sense of accomplishment ourselves having supported them in every way we possibly could on their journey. As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, friends, coaches or mentors, we feel defeat and triumph along with them.
It is one of the core values for us at AllSportsTucson.com. Not only chronicling Southern Arizona’s sporting news, events and history but shining as much light as possible on the accomplishments of our community’s kids, natives, alumni and anyone who has gone above and beyond for the benefit of the Old Pueblo.
The Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl on Friday featured three New Mexico State Aggies with Tucson ties who were able to play key roles in their program’s history as they made their way to bowl eligibility. Austin Perkins, a Tucson Badger alum who’s father is the DB’s coach at Tucson High, was responsible for the last second knockdown of a Southern Alabama pass that sealed NMSU’s first bowl birth in 57 years and became the biggest “feel-good” story of the 2017 bowl season.
Speaking to Perkin’s high school coach Justin Argraves at the game on Friday, it was evident that the sophomore Aggies’ DB took a very long, winding road from being a walk on, to starting the final five games of NMSU’s historic season and becoming the toast of the Las Cruces sports talk.
“Austin’s grown tremendously. But going from a walk-on, to a scholarship, to contributing like he did this year, Austin has handled his journey well and never really complained. It’s a testament to his upbringing from his parents. His father, Roy Perkins, is my DB coach at Tucson High. Austin understands that he has to work for everything that he wants. Austin’s hard work allowed him to play a in New Mexico States first bowl game in 57 years, on his birthday, in his home town, within walking distance from where he went to high school.”
When we spoke to Perkins himself, the upbringing and humble personality Argraves spoke of was completely evident. We asked him to describe the feeling of having most of the 39,000 plus behind him as he made his homecoming.
“I can’t take any credit for that knockdown that got us here. I love being home and playing in front of such huge support. But it was the D-Line and other DB’s that did their job so well all game long against South Alabama and particularly on that play. I was just able to knock that pass down as a result of all the hard work all my teammates put in.”
Roy Lopez Jr, a NMSU defensive lineman who’s father Roy Lopez Sr is the head coach at Sunnyside, spent his high school days at Mesquite in Tempe, made crucial stops late in NMSU’s overtime win over a Utah Sate program that had also recruited him. We had a chance to spend time with both senior and junior on the field after the game and Roy Lopez Jr shared some pretty heartfelt statements.
“I was recruited by both schools (Utah State and New Mexico State) and I visited both campuses with my parents. All three of us fell in love with New Mexico State. The way they treated us and spoke to us, it felt like home and there was no way I was going to turn that down. Coming to Tucson, I’ve never seen this much maroon for New Mexico State since I’ve been with the program. Being able to play in my home state is unbelievable. I was a part of a 3-9 team. It was the longest year of my life. Look at us now. Growing.”
Ali Farhang, Nova Home Loans and their committee have managed to raise eye brows in the college football world with the amount of noise they have made in just a short amount of time. In its third year, games like the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl, to most college football fans and in the grand scheme of things, is not a bowl game that garners much weight during bowl season.
I would personally argue that it is the most important bowl game of the year in college football because of all it manages to do for the community. No other bowl game in college football history has ever shared 100% of it’s proceeds to their local charities. No other bowl has ever had a bigger impact on its community.
While they were at it, Farhang, John Volpe and their teams (more than any other entity in college sports) managed to have the largest ever impact on Las Cruces, New Mexico.
When Levi Wallace suits up for Alabama and takes part in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day, 19 of Southern Arizona’s young men will have played at the highest level of college football in 2017. Having overcome obstacles that most young people would have been compelled to chose another path, these young men kept their grades up, paid tremendous dues and made Southern Arizona extremely proud.
Drew Dixon (1) – Wide Receiver – Freshman – Tucson, Ariz. – Sabino HS
Rhett Rodriguez (4) – Quarterback – Freshman – Tucson, Ariz. – Catalina Foothills HS
Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles (6) – Safety – Junior – Tucson, Ariz. – Tucson High/Mountain View HS
D.J. Hinton (20) – Wide Receiver – Freshman, Tucson, Ariz. – Tucson High
Matt Aragon (26) – Punter/Receiver – RS Sophomore – Tucson, Ariz. – Ciengea HS
Ken Samson (50) – Linebacker – Freshman – Oro Valley, Ariz. – Ironwood Ridge HS
James Offerman (61) – Long Snapper – Freshman, Tucson, Ariz. – Sabino HS
Christian Poe (83) – Wide Receiver – RS Sophomore – Tucson, Ariz. – Cienega HS
Isaiah Lovett (84) – Wide Receiver – Freshman, Tucson, Ariz. – Mountain View HS
Matt Thomas (90) – Defensive Lineman – Redshirt Sophomore, Tucson, Ariz. – Mountain View HS
San Diego State
Antonio Rosales (67) – Offensive Line – Senior – Tucson, Ariz. – Tucson High
Marcus Edwards (69) – Defensive End – Sophomore – Tucson, Ariz. – Sabino
Markell Simmons (3) – Safety – Junior – Pima Community College/Tucson High
Kyle Breed (60) DL – FR – Tucson, AZ – Safford High School
Dylan Greenberg (62) G – SR – Tucson, AZ – Salpointe Catholic
New Mexico State
Austin Perkins (19) – DB – SO – Tucson, AZ – Tucson High
Gabriel Flynn(28) – Linebacker – Sophomore – Tucson, AZ – Cienega HS
*Roy Lopez (51) – Defensive Line – Sophomore – Tempe, AZ – Mesquite HS *Father Roy Lopez Sr HC at Sunnyside
Levi Wallace (39) Defensive Back – Senior – Tucson, AZ – Tucson High