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El Pasoans want to make a name for themselves in UTEP football

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El Pasoans will always be the largest contingent on the UTEP football team.

Most of the 18 locals on the current roster competing this spring are Walkons, not all will see the field, but some will. In many of these cases, this will be the fulfillment of a dream you've had since watching the Miners play in the Sun Bowl years ago.

“I have to love playing here,” said tight end Julian Lopez, a Chapin graduate. “I grew up here, I grew up coming to the games. I love playing on this field.”

“It means the world,” coach Scotty Walden said Wednesday after his team completed the seventh of 15 spring practices. “It's fun to watch them every day, they live a dream every day. There is a feeling of pride. When we got here I said we want to recruit the best players in El Paso, we want to start and work in El Paso first.”

“It just means more to these guys. That's what I see, they take tremendous pride in the details and what we do and it's fun to watch these guys fight every day. They do it in their hometown, for their family and for the city in which they grew up.

Here's a look at some of the El Paso residents who could make a difference for UTEP this year.

Julian Lopez, senior tight end

Lopez was a redshirt junior last year when he played in all 12 games. He spent most of his time on special teams, but caught three passes for 16 yards, and with starter Zach Fryar graduating and no longer playing, this could be a year for Lopez to make a splash as a playmaker.

He is excited about leading the program under Walden.

“I love the change, it’s completely different, especially the energy,” he said. “I love coming to meetings early in the morning and coach Walden is already up there screaming and getting us ready for practice. It's really fun.”

Ivan Escobar, junior center

Last season, the Montwood alum was one of three El Pasoans on the second-team offensive line, and now he's moved up to that group. In his third season with the program, Escobar is ready to be an anchor for the team.

“It's my time, I have to take responsibility, especially as a center,” said Escobar. “I have to get the boys ready. I am ready and I am blessed to be where I am now.

“We’re getting better and better every day, we’re getting closer together as a team.”

As for the chance to play in the Sun Bowl: “That’s one of the reasons I came here,” he said. “It’s a blessing to be home and show myself in front of my family.”

Per Walden: “He’s on top of things at the moment, we love what he’s doing. He's doing great.

Joseph Immediato, junior offensive lineman

An Eastwood graduate, Immediato worked his way up in his first three years in the program and now appears ready to contribute.

Tyrone McDuffie, freshman offensive lineman

The Parkland graduate initially signed with Colorado for the 2023 season, but after a coaching change there, he changed his plans and moved to UTEP. He spent last year redshirting and is ready to make an impact this year. This is his first spring with the Miners.

“It’s going great,” McDuffie said. “My teammates, especially seniors Bennan Smith and Otis Pitts, led me my first spring. We all work hard together to get things done. It will be a great camaraderie. I just want to keep working, keep going.” Get better, keep improving. (Playing time) will come as the journey progresses.”

As for playing in El Paso, “I’ve been coming to games here since I was 7 years old,” McDuffie said. “I’ve seen guys before me in this Miner uniform, so it means a lot to me to wear the uniform and continue that legacy in my hometown.”

Davis Burns, junior safety

Over the last two seasons, the Coronado graduate has developed into a special teams ace who plays in every game. He arrived as a wide receiver in 2020 when his father, Keith Burns, was with the team, and has seen some changes along the way.

He's anchored on special teams and also wants to move up the depth chart for safety reasons.

Bret Bloomquist can be reached at [email protected]; @Bretbloomquist on Twitter.