Roswell, NM – Starting with 2016 season, the junior college Bronco football team at New Mexico Military Institute will join the Southwest Junior College Football Conference.
The announcement came early Thursday morning from NMMI Athletic Director Jose Barron. “We are delighted to have been invited to such a prestigious conference, and look forward to the Fall of 2016,” said Barron.
The Bronco football program has been a member of the nine-team Western States Football League since the program’s re-inception in 1992, after a 10-year hiatus. The Broncos will remain in the WSFL for the upcoming 2015 season.
The SWJCFC is currently comprised of seven schools: the Blinn College Buccaneers in Brenham, TX; the Cisco College Wranglers in Cisco, TX; the Kilgore College Rangers in Kilgore, TX; the Navarro College Bulldogs in Corsicana, TX; the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Golden Norsemen in Miami, OK; the Trinity Valley CC Cardinals in Athens, TX; and the Tyler Junior College Apaches in Tyler, TX.
When asked about the reasons for the conference change, Head Bronco Football Coach Joe Forchtner replied “I think it just makes sense from a geographic and competitive standpoint. Six of the seven current members are Texas schools. Our basketball program, our volleyball program, our baseball program all play schools to the east of us; they’re all playing Texas schools. That’s a natural set of rivalries that our school has and I think it’s important for our football program to be a part of that, too.”
Coach Forchtner continued by saying that the SWJCFC is one of the top conferences in the nation for junior college football. That statement is backed up by NJCAA National Championship titles – 16 total by the current members of the SWJCFC, including three since 2006. “It’s always kind of nerve-wracking seeing what you’re getting yourself into but we’re excited. We’ve played Cisco and we’ve played Navarro, but we’ve never gone through that conference from start to finish for the length of a season. I know it it’s a good conference, top to bottom, and it’s going to be a challenge all the way through.”
Coach Forchtner also wanted to thank the members of the SWJCFC committee for the invitation to join the conference. “The support from the conference has been great. I think the coaches passed it unanimously, the presidents passed it unanimously. It’s a move that will be beneficial both for us and for the SWJCFC, and obviously it feels good to be wanted, especially by such a great league.”
One of those voting committee members is Brad Smiley, the Athletic Director and Head Football Coach at Trinity Valley Community College. Coach Smiley had this to say: “The members of the Southwest Junior College Football Conference (SWJCFC) are extremely excited about the addition of New Mexico Military Institute to our league. The opportunity to add a football program with such a great tradition and rich history only adds to what we feel is already one of the strongest junior college football conferences in the country.”
No schedules for the 2016 season are available yet; the conference redraws the schedule today.
by Geoff Gunn
NMMI Sports Information Director
More than 60 kids from the Roswell area attended this year’s Football Summer Camp, put on by the coaches and players of the New Mexico Military Institute Bronco football team. The three-day camp for six through 12 year-olds was held on campus at the Stapp Parade field on July 6-8, and was designed to teach basic football skills in a fun, character building manner.
Bronco football defensive coordinator Jamison Bisch was again this year’s camp director, his third-straight season at the helm. “The first thing we are looking for with these kids is to teach more than just football. Each day we are trying to find a theme that we want to reiterate as the day goes on,” said coach Bisch. “Every day I have a different coach who is responsible for the theme. We like to focus on building character, things like academics, respect, hard work; basically the same things we try to instill in our Bronco football players here at NMMI.”
The camp’s theme for day one was Energy. “This is what we call juice here at NMMI,” said Bisch. “It’s about coming prepared, being active, being positive; it’s about bringing and maintaining a lot of energy to whatever you’re doing, whether it’s football or anything else.”
“Second, we want to teach the basics of the game,” continued Bisch. “We’ll spend a decent part of our day focusing on basic skills: how to hold a football, how to throw a football, how to get into a good stance.”
In addition to the themes and fundamentals, the kids are also ‘tested’ in a wide variety of skill drills. “After going over the basics, we always want to give our kids something to measure themselves by. Today we did a pass, punt and kick competition. Tomorrow we’ll do a 40-yard dash and couple of other skill drills. We’ll also record their height and weight,” said Bisch.
“What’s nice about this is we’ll give them a certificate when camp is done so they can measure themselves, see how they did, and hang it up on their wall. And if it’s a kid who comes back multiple years, they are going to see the gains they’ve made over 12 months, whether they grew six inches or they threw the ball 10 more yards.”
The final part of the four-hour camp day is Bronco Ball, where the kids form up into teams and play a heavily modified version of football. The object is still the same: the offense tries to score a touchdown by advancing the ball past the goal line, while the defense tries to prevent it. The biggest differences are that no contact is allowed and the ball can only be advanced by passing the football to another teammate. Once the ball is caught, the player can only advance two steps before having to attempt a pass to another teammate. If the ball falls on the ground, or is intercepted, the opposing team takes possession right there and play continues immediately. “A lot of people call it Speed Ball,” says coach Bisch. “It’s fast, it’s competitive, it’s active, and the kids love it.”
By Jeff Jackson
Sports and Feature Writer for the Roswell Daily Record
While tennis players often say they’re on an island, several on the New Mexico Military Institute teams actually are from islands. Six of 11 players on the Broncos’ two teams last season came from an island somewhere in the Oceania region, and it’s been that way for years.
Father-and-son coaching team Dan and William O’Connell have a tennis pipeline that brings players half way around the world to Roswell and the military academy. It started 20 years ago when Dan founded an International Tennis Federation development program in Fiji that drew interest from NMMI’s coaches at the time, Gene Hardman and Dick Satterlee. “I needed some place to send my champions and I didn’t know what to do,” Dan O’Connell said. “A coach said, ‘Dan, you should try New Mexico Military Institute. That was the coach from a different junior college so I started this thing going and Gene Hardman said, ‘Hey, whoever you have, I’ll take them.’ ”
In 20 years, O’Connell estimates there have been more than 20 players from the islands who first went to the tennis center in Fiji and then to NMMI. And before O’Connell was building that program he worked in Africa, where he journeyed to with the Peace Corps.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get people to come to NMMI,” said O’Connell, who has dual citizenship with Fiji and the United States. “Beggars can’t be choosers. There’s no opportunities out there in the Pacific for these kids. They come here and they learn. My son came here and it wasn’t for the tennis. It was because what you could learn in life here. NMMI was having a hard time recruiting people. It was a good fit and we offered full scholarships. Our kids came here and the majority of them that have come here have moved on to Division I or II scholarships.”
All four players on the women’s team last season are islanders and are returning for the 2015 fall season as sophomores. As players in Oceania, they are raw but when they get to NMMI they improve with competition plus receive a military academy education. “We’ve had two or three not make it academically, but you can ask any of them, it’s changed their lives,” Dan O’Connell said. “They never would have been able to leave their little island nation. But because of the ITF, they go to Fiji and they’re not only speaking their language they’re in a house with 12 kids from six or seven different nations; incredible learning situation for them and we made sure that in the evening they studied because they’re student-athletes. The kids will be forever thankful for coming here. Here they learn life skills.”
Two of those players, Lorraine Banimataku and Thea Minor, have already committed to play at Henderson State University in Arkansas in 2016, with full scholarships.
Despite fielding just four of a normal six players on the squad last spring, the Bronco women finished 18th within their group of 56 junior colleges in the nation. Individually, Minor and Lorish Puluspene reached the quarterfinals of their brackets, while Banimataku played in the consolation finals of her flight.
On the men’s side, three of NMMI’s best players from the islands over the years have been William O’Connell – now head coach of the Bronco men’s team, Lawrence Tere, and Daneric Hazelman. William O’Connell defeated his close friend Hazelman in late June 6-0, 6-2 in the final of the Nadi Open in Nadi, Fiji. It was his second open championship of the month in Fiji. The two men also team up for in doubles events.
“Last year Daneric was the head coach here before William took over. So there’s a long relationship there,” Dan O’Connell said. “They’ve been best friends since they were 8, 9 years old. We got Daneric to come over here. He then went to Carthage College. He graduated and at that time that’s when Gene passed away and they were looking for a head coach. I suggested Daneric and he took it for one year but he couldn’t get a visa to remain in the states. So he had to leave.”
William O’Connell represented Fiji in the 2013 Davis Cup and could again for 2016 if he qualifies during his play this summer, his father said.
In addition to the islands, Africa also has been a source of players for both Broncos teams, including two coming this year for each squad. That pipeline began when O’Connell left his home in Champaign, Illinois, for a Peace Corps mission in Lesotho, Africa. After two years of service, he chose to stay abroad.
“I didn’t make a lot of money teaching tennis. I just did it because I loved it and in the long run it paid off,” he said. “Fifty miles away on a farm was Craig Tiley’s parents. Craig Tiley became the head coach of the University of Illinois in Champaign where I grew up. So here I am, from Champaign, I go all the way to Africa and then Craig Tiley was from Africa goes all the way to Illinois. He won a national championship for the University of Illinois (2003). And now Craig Tiley’s the head man at Tennis Australia. So it’s kinda of a small tennis world.”
Although college rosters do have players from New Mexico and elsewhere in the USA, O’Connell says recruiting and developing domestic players is difficult, and more so at NMMI where athletes also are cadets and attend under strict guidelines. “I thought the junior colleges had it right the last four or five years when they said you could only have two internationals,” O’Connell said. “They changed the rules this last year. First of all, two of the four girls on my team carry U.S. passports, so they’re Americans. But now you can have all internationals and that’s kind of sad for the American kids. … So we’re losing scholarships for our American kids and they’re going to internationals. I understand that point a lot and there really should be more done about it. But there’s not and I’m going to get more internationals; that’s my strength.”
NMMI Sports Press
Shaquan Rhoades is the latest Bronco basketball player to move up to a four-year college, and he sounds really stoked about his new home at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas.
“I went to visit on Wednesday, and it was a great visit,” Rhoades said. “I really had a great bond with the head coach.”
The former NMMI hoopster will be joining newly promoted head coach Cinco Boone on a team that went 47-15 over the past two years — 28-6 in 2014-2015 — setting numerous school records and advancing to the NCAA Division II Sweet 16 in post-season play for the first time ever in the school’s history.
“We just kind of connected,” Rhoades said of his new coach. “We just had a crazy bond. From the start, I had a great time.”
The 6-foot-2 point guard from Virginia is no stranger to leading teams to rarefied heights. Last season was the first time since the 1970s the Broncos advanced to the NJCAC Region V tournament, and they did that, said head coach Sean Schooley, because of Rhoades.
“He was the main focus point of our team this year,” the coach said. “He was the steady of it. And when he was active and had his head totally focused in it, I knew we had a chance to win.”
As a freshman, Rhoades was forced into a starting position he wasn’t quite ready for, but he grew into the leadership position as a sophomore, earning WJCAC All Conference honors by averaging 8.4 points per game; 45 total assists and 74 rebounds.
“I feel like I grew more as a person, and I grew more as a player also,” he said of his time with the Broncos. “It started with me having to take that different road as a player on a team. Just from that point on, I just wanted to continue to get better, day in and day out. And both my coaches, coach Schooley and coach (Ralph) Davis, they pushed me every single day. And I just think it made me who I am today, and I just want to continue keep doing the same thing.”
But while Rhoades has big stats, he doesn’t have a big head. In fact, he wants to earn his way onto the Ram team.
“(Coach Boone) said he wanted me to come in and have the starting position, but I told him,
‘Don’t give me the starting position.’ I told him, from Day 1, I want to earn everything I get. I don’t want no easy routes. No shortcuts. I want to earn everything I get.”
Schooley wasn’t surprised.
“This one is very special to me because he came in and really worked; really developed and he really cares about his teammates and his coaches and the program and stuff,” he said. “I’m extremely proud of Soldier (Rhoades’ nickname) and everything he’s done, on and off the court, and I can’t wait to see what he does at the next level. I couldn’t be more proud.”
The basketball player won’t be spending all his time on the court in San Angelo. He plans on studying criminology, business and kinesiology in his junior year.
“I kind of have an interest in all three, so I just kind of want to see how it’ll go my first year,” he said.
And he credits NMMI with making him able to accomplish everything he’s done, and look to the future.
“NMMI did a lot (for me),” he said. “The first three weeks were probably the toughest three weeks of my life. It was crazy, and to just get through two years here was phenomenal. It was a great experience. It just made me into a totally better person. I’ve grown so much in these past three years, it’s crazy. I’m more disciplined now. I manage my time well. It taught me a lot.”
NMMI President and Superintendent, Major General Jerry W. Grizzle (USA Retired), announced today, that LTC Jonathan K. Graff Jr. (USA Retired) will become NMMI’s newest Commandant of Cadets and Dean of Students. LTC Graff currently serves as the Military Services Academies Prep Director and will assume his new position effective 1 July, 2015.
Major General Grizzle said “Today we salute the outstanding results of the Search & Selection Committee. This diverse committee consisted of a former Commandant and Alumnus and current State Secretary, a former Corps of Cadets Regimental Commander and current President of the NMMI Board of Regents, a former State Senator and Alumnus, the President of the Faculty Senate, The Dean of Academics, The High School Principal, The Athletic Director, the NMMI Chief of Staff, a Deputy Commandant and Junior College Head Volleyball Coach. The extensive hours spent reviewing back ground information, interviewing candidates and ultimately recommending a final group to be interviewed by the Superintendent, was not an easy task. Once I finished my interviews, I knew without any doubt that LTC Graff needed to be the next Commandant of NMMI. LTC Graff is the right choice to ensure that NMMI will continue with our mission to educate, train, and prepare young men and women to be leaders capable of critical thinking and sound analysis, leaders who possess uncompromising character, and leaders able to meet challenging physical demands.”
LTC Jon Graff assumes the position of Commandant after serving for nearly 4 years as a principal staff member. Graff started his NMMI career as the Chief Operating Officer/Professor of Military Science and Leadership, and then served as the current NMMI Service Academy Prep Director. His background will provide the New Mexico Military Institute a diverse and decorated representation of the pillar of excellence NMMI must have in such a vital position. LTC Graff is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY and brings 23 years of Military Service in the U.S. Army to his title. Graff has served in a variety of positions over his career around the country and overseas. His assignments included duties as a rifle platoon leader, company executive officer, company commander, battalion operations officer, executive officer, and battalion commander. He was one of three captains in the Army selected for an Olmsted Scholarship for the class of 2000 and studies at the Technical University of Dresden in Dresden, Germany. He has deployed overseas in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
“I feel honored and humbled to be among the officers selected to train NMMI’s future leaders,” said LTC Jon Graff. “We have tremendously capable cadets in the Corps, and I am looking forward to leading them in their journey to become better leaders.”
Lieutenant Colonel Jon Graff is a 1991 graduate of the United States Military Academy and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army as an Infantry Officer.
LTC Graff’s assignment history is as follows. His first assignment was with 2/325 Airborne (ABN) Infantry (IN) Battalion (BN), 2nd Brigade (BDE), 82nd ABN Division (DIV) at Fort Bragg, NC where he served as a Rifle Platoon Leader, Rifle Company Executive Officer (XO) and Anti-Armor Company XO. LTC Graff’s next assignment was with 2nd Squadron (SQDN), 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Irwin, CA where he served as the SQDN Assistant Operations Officer (A-S3), SQDN Adjutant (S1), and Commander for Hotel Company and Headquarters and Headquarters Troop (HHT), 2nd SQDN. After his command, LTC Graff was one of three US Army Captains selected to receive an Olmsted Scholarship and studied at the Technical University of Dresden in Dresden, Germany for one year. His next assignment was with the 2nd Simulations Exercise Group, 75th DIV at Fort Sill, OK where he served as the Senior Maneuver Trainer and Deputy Task Force Commander training Regimental, Group and Brigade staffs within 5th US Army for deployment. Following graduation from the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS, LTC Graff deployed to Kirkuk, Iraq as the BDE Supply Officer, (S4) for the 2nd BDE, 25th Infantry Division. He then served as the BN Operations Officer (S3) and XO for the 1st BN, 27th IN BN, Wolfhounds, at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii during their transition from a Light Infantry BDE to a Stryker BDE. LTC Graff was then selected to be the Aide de Camp for the Commanding General, US Army, and Pacific. After completing duty in Hawaii, LTC Graff was selected to command the 1st BN, 310th IN at Fort Bragg where he trained Provincial Reconstruction Teams for deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. LTC Graff reported for duty as the Professor of Military Science for New Mexico Military Institute ROTC in May 2011.
LTC Graff is a graduate of Ranger School, Airborne School, Jump Master School, Pathfinder School, the Bradley Leaders Course, the Basic and Advanced Infantry Officers Courses and the US Army Command and General Staff Officer College. LTC Graff has a Bachelors Degree in Russian Language Masters Degree in General Military Studies from the Command and General Staff College. He has the standard awards and decorations expected of an officer with a 23 year career. He is married to the former Sandra (Sandi) Thrower from Rockingham, NC and they have six children: Kirk, Caleb, Jonah, Keri, Annika and Jason.