Mr. Football has found a home to play in college ball for the next four years.
Aztec senior Adam Lucero signed a National Letter of Intent with Division II Eastern New Mexico on Wednesday. The star quarterback who was crowned NMPreps.com Mr. Football in 2012 aims to keep passing the ball for the Greyhounds and head coach Josh Lynn.
"It is exciting to get all the stress of deciding where to go off my shoulders," Lucero said. "I signed with Eastern because I like the fact they actually look at New Mexico kids versus other New Mexico schools who pass you up and don't expect you to be a good player. They expect you to just walk on if in you are a New Mexico kid. I liked how Eastern actually looks at kids individually and actually watches their film."
Lucero had offers from several schools but was considering Fort Lewis and CSU-Pueblo along with Eastern New Mexico.
He also hoped to receive an offer from the University of New Mexico, but nothing panned out.
"I wanted to stay in New Mexico, and that is the reason I wanted to go to UNM so bad. I told UNM I would play left tackle if I had to, I just wanted to be on the field," Lucero said. "I had a few talks with them and it was about me going there to be an athlete, more or less. I let them know I was willing, but they said some things that weren't right for me at the time, and financially it makes sense to not go there. Maybe if some things were different, I could have been a Lobo, but I think I made the best decision for myself and my family."
Aztec head coach Matt Steinfeldt agreed signing with Eastern was a smart decision for Lucero.
"It is a great opportunity for Adam. It is a level he can certainly compete at, and it is in one of the finest Division II conferences there are," Steinfeldt said. "He is going to get to play with and against kids who have grown up eating, drinking and breathing football in the great football state of Texas."
Steinfeldt coached in the Lone Star Conference for Texas A&M University Commerce, so he knows exactly what Lucero had in store for him.
"Steinfedlt is going to sit with me and go over film and the offense. His football IQ is ridiculous. He can learn any offense in three days," Lucero said. "He will help me adjust and he will get me rolling on the right track."
Lucero will have to learn how to run an option-based offense pretty quick under offensive coordinator Kelley Lee, who saw plenty of Lucero during his days coaching Valencia High.
"It is a hard thing to learn, the option. It always is," Steinfeldt said. "It is a lot different than the system Adam has run during his time under me and Brad Hirsch, but it is something he is certainly capable of because he is a cerebral quarterback who can run and is great at studying film. He works extremely hard in all facets of the game, and his skill set as an athlete will be a great benefit to him to allow him to compete early."
Lucero will renew a rivalry on the Greyhounds' practice field, going head-to-head with Goddard graduate Ryan Greene for playing time at quarterback.
"Eastern graduated its starting senior quarterback, and the way the coaches talked Greene is the projected starter," Lucero said. "There are a few other guys, but I will be competing against him. Aztec against Goddard is of course a big thing. Now putting two of us quarterbacks on the same team fighting for the same spot, it will be a state title game every day from here on out. It will only make us both better and the team better as a result."
Lucero made it clear he is willing to do all the work possible to start as many years as he can for the Greyhounds.
"I am not gonna go out and say I will earn the starting job as a freshman because this would be crazy, but that is my goal. I will work as hard as anything in my life for that," he said.
Lucero admitted his dream as an eighth grader was to run out of the tunnel for Notre Dame or Oklahoma, but he is satisfied with what he has accomplished during his time at Aztec and the opportunity it gave him to run out of the tunnel at Greyhound Stadium in front of 6,100 fans.
"I enjoyed the entire experience. Playing under the Friday night lights and winning a state title," Lucero said. "All those mornings seeing the sunrise and seeing the sunset on the field with your teammates throwing the ball around, I wouldn't trade those for the world. It was my dream to play for Notre Dame or Oklahoma, but New Mexico is a little dry when it comes to recruiting for whatever reason. I am glad to be going somewhere and keep playing. I want the dream to continue as long as I can keep it going."
Lucero aims to help ENM improve upon its 3-7 record from last season, and he envisions winning a conference title with the Greyhounds.
Lucero wouldn't be where he is without the support of his coaches, he said.
"Chris Saxon has always been there for me since 8th grade. Steinfeldt came in under tremendous pressure and did a great job and stood behind me when I was injured," he said. "Monte Maxwell has been behind me in every sport I have done, whether it was wrestling, baseball or football. (Jose Santistevan) has been protecting me since my freshman year. He was our line coach and spent four years training guys to protect me. Brett Alexander came into my life kind of randomly and we became good friends and he is a big part of my life. Then there is Mike Kovacs. I can't say enough about that man. I could honestly call him any time of day or night if I need him and he will be there. He is a great person and great coach and man to be around. He is a huge influence in my life and I want to give thanks to him."
Lucero is now focused on winning a state medal in a jumping event in track and field in an effort to become a three-sport state champion.
But he and his dad, Virgil, will be working on the option every free chance they get.
"I love running and I love throwing the ball. I know I can adjust, it is just going to take a lot of hours of studying. It isn't anything me and my dad haven't been through before. He will help me a lot," Lucero said. "He always gives me the right advice, so we will work real hard together and learn this offense."
John Livingston may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.