Former Aggie football player reflects on 1960 bowl experience

Brittany Costello
December 03, 2017 10:46 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A whole community and alumni network has been waiting over half a century to see the New Mexico State football team back in a bowl game.


The possibility finally arrived over the weekend, when the Aggies accepted an invite to face off against Utah State in the Arizona Bowl. 

It will be a battle of Aggies versus Aggies, just like on Dec. 31, 1960. That's the same night that Don Yannessa, who lives just outside Pittsburgh, helped NMSU to its last bowl victory.

Now, he's giving a lot of credit to current Aggie head coach Doug Martin for bringing them back to the promised land.

"He did something that Jesus did. I mean, he resurrected the dead," Yannessa said in a phone interview with KOB. "Jesus brought Lazarus back to life. I think he's brought New Mexico State (back). At least they've got their head above water again."

57 years ago, Yannessa was draped in his own Aggies jersey. Proudly wearing the number 72, he would start at right tackle and help the Aggies beat Utah State at the Sun Bowl in El Paso – a part of the last team to take the program that far.

"Oh, it was exciting. I mean, the Sun Bowl at that time only seated about 17,000 people so that was the crowd," he said. "But it was also the first time at the Sun bowl in 1960 that it was going to be regionally televised."

He remembers the game like it was yesterday, reciting the scoring updates from heart.

"It was a tough game. It was 7-0, Utah State. It was 7-7, then it was 13-7 us," Yannessa said. "We didn't kick their butt. I mean, we beat them 20-13, but it was a dog fight."

Yannessa was inducted into the New Mexico State Football Hall of Fame.

Now, history will repeat itself as the same two teams will meet again, albeit in a different bowl and a little farther than 40 miles down I-10. The Arizona Bowl will be played in Tucson on Dec. 16.

And you can bet Yannessa will be watching. Like thousands of fans, he says he will be cheering on his former team, hoping for one final victory in what has been a marvelous season for New Mexico State.

"I'm so proud of what's happened with the program, even if they don't happen to pull it out against Utah State," he said. "I hope they do, but even if they don't I'm very proud of what they've accomplished in 2017."


Brittany Costello

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