Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Belen's Nesbitt coaches in national junior college title game

Former Eagle coach now with Blinn College

Ed Johnson Assistant Sports Editor

Belen Mike Nesbitt anticipates Christmas dinner in Belen. Lloyd Spotted Wolf plans to be home for the holidays in Albuquerque.

But today the football coaches are in Brenham, Texas, studying film, preparing a game plan. There's a national title at stake, and not every coach gets a shot at one.

Nesbitt is offensive coordinator for 11-0 Blinn College, the nation's No. 1-ranked junior college. Spotted Wolf is the offensive line coach.

They both work for head coach Brad Franchione, a 1996 graduate from the University of New Mexico, and the son of Dennis Franchione, UNM's former head coach.

All three are preparing for Saturday's national junior college championship the Pilgrim's Pride Bowl Classic against Pearl River (Miss.) Community College in Mount Pleasant, Texas.

Nesbitt was an All-WAC punter for the Lobos and Dennis Franchione from 1991-93. He went on to coach high school football as an assistant at Manzano and head coach at his high school alma mater, leading the Belen Eagles to an 8-13 record during the 1997 and '98 seasons.

Nesbitt later went on to coach college ball at Howard Payne and Western New Mexico.

Spotted Wolf is a La Cueva High School graduate and a former Bears assistant as well as a UNM graduate assistant for Rocky Long.

"Brad and I had a lot in common through our New Mexico experience," Spotted Wolf says. "Right away it clicked. We shared friends, shared a philosophy of work that he got from his dad and I got from Rocky."

Franchione knew Nesbitt would understand his philosophy, too. Two days before he interviewed for the Blinn job, he called his former UNM classmate and told him if it worked out, he wanted to talk to him about a job. They both arrived in Blinn in 2005 and went to work.

"Because he played for my father," Franchione says, "he understood the majority of my philosophy. He knows how I want to practice, understands the tempo I want."

There's another UNM connection. Kevin McKinley, brother of former Lobo Brandon McKinley, is Blinn's secondary coach.

Franchione is also the defensive coordinator, so he leaves the offense in Nesbitt's hands.

Nesbitt runs a spread offense, mixing a zone running concept with a little option and some West Coast packages.

Spotted Wolf joined the staff this season after a stint at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

"Part of my thought process (in hiring Spotted Wolf)," Franchione says, "was to get someone Mike felt comfortable with."

"I think that's the great thing about coaching," Nesbitt said. "You get a chance to be with good people you know."

All three credit the men who once coached them.

"Ron Warren was more than a coach," Spotted Wolf said of his coach at La Cueva. "He was a mentor and a friend. I learned a lot from him on how to conduct myself as a coach and as a man.

"Rocky is the consummate professional. He's a good man. He influenced me tremendously."

Nesbitt mentions Dave Brummell and Kenny Griego, coaches he's known since his Belen days, as being influential.

"The big thing I learned from them," Nesbitt says, "is to get guys to play hard all the time. How you practice carries over to the games."

Of course, Franchione had his father, now head coach at Texas A&M.

"I can't put a price on how valuable he has been to me," the younger Franchione says. "To have a resource like that. I'm always picking his mind about players, teams, recruiting."

Blinn is allowed only five out-of-state players on its roster, so its recruiting in New Mexico is limited. However, there are a couple of New Mexicans they're looking at for next season.

And they still follow what's going on.

"Just the other day we were talking about how Clovis lost to Sandia in the playoffs," Nesbitt says.

But today the focus is on Pearl River.

"I've talked with a lot of veteran coaches," Spotted Wolf said, "and every one of them has told me to enjoy every minute of the experience. Some guys go their whole lives and never have a chance to play for a national championship."

Then their thoughts can return to home and holidays.

"I haven't been back (to New Mexico) in a long time," Franchione says, "but I always tell my wife how beautiful it was and how I'd like to live there again sometime."


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