EL PASO, Texas -- UTEP enters the season with the most expectation and anticipation a Miners team has had in years, but they also enter with something they haven't had in over a decade: the same quarterback starting for a third consecutive year.
Gavin Hardison has become a household name in the Sun City, playing a sport that was always second best to him growing up.
The Hobbs, New Mexico native got his first taste of football in the form of flag football at six years old, but throughout his childhood, baseball always reigned supreme. It wasn't until his freshman year of high school where football took a front seat.
“There’s just something about the game, and I just truly fell in love with the process of the game, and I kind of shifted everything in my life to football and trying to make a future out of it," Hardison said.
“I truly found out that I really loved the game because If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have made it through," Hardison said.
His path to making a future out of the game hasn't been straight by any means. Coming out of high school, he had preferred walk-on offers at Division 1 schools but nothing concrete. Hardison instead chose to bet on himself and attend the New Mexico Military Institute.
The hope, though, was always for a Division1 school to see and want his talent - enter UTEP head coach Dana Dimel.
The pair met in early August of 2019 when Hardison attended a UTEP training camp. At the time, Dimel was coming off his first season at the helm, which saw the Miners go 1-11. In the midst of a rebuild of the program, Dimel was looking for depth at QB.
“I remember the day we were really excited about what he could do," Dimel said.
Just like that, Hardison was a Miner. After coming in late in the preseason of 2019, Hardison got the opportunity to play in two games for UTEP.
Dimel told ABC-7 he remembers seeing Gavin's potential and thinking he could be the guy they rebuild the program around.
“When you recruit them, you hope they’re going to become that kind of a player, but you never know what kind of character what kind of work ethic they have," Dimel said. "We saw the talent, but I didn’t realize all the intangibles that he really has.”
So far, Dimel's intuition about Gavin has proved right.
Last season he threw for 3,217 yards with18 touchdowns and led the team to their first winning season and bowl game since 2014.
“That position is the guy that is the field general," Dimel said. "He’s the one out there running things for you, and if he does the things you ask him to do, you’re gonna have success, and if he can’t, you’re not, so it’s such a critical position.”
Hardison now prepares for his third consecutive season as the 'field general' - something the Miners haven't had since Trevor Vittatoe started back in 2007 for four straight years.
“It’s exciting for the program to have a consistent person at the helm of the offense," Vittatoe said. "Knowing someone who has been there through the grit and the grind and has the experience of being in the game it’s different than having a new person come in and having to figure out how are they going to perform when live bullets are firing.”
While a lot of the teams' success this season will ride on the arm of Hardison, for him, whatever the Miners achieve is a group effort.
“I wouldn’t say it’s my legacy I would say it’s more of the teams," Hardison said. "I wouldn’t be in the position I am without my teammates they make me who I am and my coaches as well. So I wouldn’t say it’s my legacy it’s ours.”