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Rocky Long returns to New Mexico to lead Lobos' defense

(AP Photo/Orlando Ramirez)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) Rocky Long is returning to New Mexico as defensive coordinator after recently retiring from San Diego State, where he coached the Aztecs to nine straight bowl games.

New Mexico head coach Danny Gonzales praised Long on Monday, expressing excitement about the program's winningest coach returning to his alma mater.

“Coach Long's teams at both UNM and San Diego State were known for their defense, and I don't think there is a better defensive coach in the country. We are lucky to have him back with our program,” Gonzales said in a statement.

Gonzales and Long also have a long history, as Gonzales played his senior season at New Mexico under Long and later served as defensive coordinator during Long's tenure at San Diego State.

Long was a quarterback at New Mexico from 1969-71, earning player of the year honors for the Western Athletic Conference in 1971. He then played professionally in both Canada and with the Detroit Wheels of the short-lived World Football League.

He worked as a graduate assistant coach at New Mexico from 1972-73 and the offensive back field coach and then defensive backs coach from 1978-80 before becoming defensive coordinator at Wyoming, Oregon State and later UCLA. He was named New Mexico's head coach in 1998 and went on to win a record 65 games over the next decade.

Under Long, the Lobos were bowl eligible for a school-record seven straight seasons. Long led New Mexico to a 23-0 win over Nevada in the 2007 New Mexico Bowl, ending a 46-year bowl victory drought for the school.

A three-time Mountain West Coach of the Year, Long is the winningest coach in the league's history with 143 of his 146 wins coming since the league's inception in 1999.

Updated January 27, 2020

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