EL PASO, Texas - The UTEP Miners are on the ground in Albuquerque ahead of Saturday's New Mexico Bowl (12:15pm MT) and are enjoying the bowl celebration leading up to it.
As is the case with every bowl game, the festivities begin well before kickoff and the New Mexico Bowl is no exception.
"Because it's our first bowl game, these guys have to share the memories with our younger players," said UTEP Head Coach Dana Dimel of the bowl build-up at Friday's luncheon. "And then the new guys coming into our program see that this is what you want to accomplish as a football program."
"That's the bottomline. They have to enjoy the experience and they have to want to get here again."
After concluding practice Thursday morning, both the Miners and opposing Fresno State Bulldogs were treated to a team dinner celebration at the Albuquerque Convention Center downtown.
In addition to dinner, UTEP and Fresno State got the competition started in a game of "Family Feud" organized by bowl officials. Each team sent representatives to the stage to answer game-show type trivia. Fresno State won the contest.
At Friday's luncheon, keynote speaker and NFL Hall of Fame RB Eric Dickerson addressed both teams about the value of planning for life after football.
"A lot of things we have to do in spite of the situation that we're in," said Dickerson, speaking from a personal experience of nearly quitting football at the age of 16 because of a racist coach. "When I look at the opportunity these young men have to play college football, it's a blessing."
"Just know how blessed you are and take full advantage of it."
Dickerson, who is the NFL's all-time single-season rushing record holder, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame earlier this month.
On Friday afternoon, teams will gather in Old Town Albuquerque for a pep rally including bands and spirit squads from both UTEP and Fresno State.
For UTEP fans, the Miners are hosting a "Miner Happy Hour" at Santa Fe Brewing Company from 5-7:30pm MT.
Follow along with ABC-7's Nate Ryan and Adrian Ochoa who are live in Albuquerque for full coverage.