By Ray Hamill — He’ll have to be patient, but Isaak Gutierrez may have joined the New Mexico Lobos at the perfect time.
The former Eureka Logger transferred to the Division-I program earlier this year after a stellar freshman campaign at Butte College, where he was named all-state, and he has wasted no time settling in at the new level.
The long-time center won the starting right guard spot in training camp and has seen substantial time on the field so far this season.
The Lobos have struggled in terms of wins and losses and are 0-5 heading into the final few weeks of the season, but the program is setting itself up for success down the road under first-year head coach Danny Gonzales.
According to a recent story in the Santa Fe New Mexican, 22 of the 24 new players introduced on signing day — a group that included Gutierrez — are true freshmen.
“The only way this is going to work the way the people of this state deserve,” Gonzales is quoted as saying back in February, “is if we build our roster with the kind of players who will be here four, five years and buy into what we’re trying to do here, which is bring another championship back to the University of New Mexico.”
Gutierrez played a key role in Eureka’s back-to-back undefeated regular seasons in 2017 and 2018, before quickly adapting to the college game at powerhouse Butte last fall.
Gutierrez is listed as a sophomore this year, but will get an extra year of eligibility because of the effects COVID-19 has had on the season.
And the team should only continue to grow along with Gutierrez in the coming years, with 61 freshmen and sophomores on a roster of 101, according to ESPN.com.
Gutierrez and the Lobos will be back in action on Saturday when they play Wyoming in Las Vegas.
The game will be televised live on the CBS Sports Network, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.