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Commentary: Bobby the Bullet a back for the ages

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Editor’s note: This is the fourth of a series of articles written on old-school athletics by Luna Community College sports performance instructor Henry Sanchez.

Bobby Santiago, known as “The Bullet” during his glorious football career, must be regarded as one of the best running backs the state of New Mexico has ever produced.

He attended Lincoln Junior High and went up the road to Albuquerque High and graduated in 1959. At Albuquerque High, he had a career that legends are remembered for. He was selected in 1958 and 1959 to the all-city and all-state teams as a halfback. In his senior year, he led the state in scoring and was selected to play in the state North-South All-Star Football Game where he led the North to a 13-7 victory.

He was recruited by the University of New Mexico where he started for the freshman football team. (It must be remembered that freshmen where not allowed to play on the varsity during these years.) For the next three years, he was a starter on the football team, and during the spring he sprinted and long jumped for the track team.

In 1962 he led the Lobos to their first Western Athletic Conference championship. In 1961 he made first-team All-Skyline, and in 1962 he was first-team Western Athletic Conference. His career at UNM was so spectacular that he became only the fourth Lobo athlete to have his number (No. 42) jersey retired.

In 1962 he was selected to the All-American Team by the United Press International.

In the same year, he led the Lobos to a 28-21 victory over Western Michigan in the first Aviation Bowl. He was selected the most valuable player of the game.

His credentials as a great athlete speak for themselves, but his character, respectability and inspiration by the way he has lived his life serve as a model to the rest of us. After his athletic career was over, he was a teacher and coach in the Albuquerque Public School system, a director of migrant education, and he was elected to the board of education (he served as president). He also worked with troubled kids and was the director for American Student Travel, which set up tours for high school kids all over the country.

He retired and still found time to be president of the UNM Letterman’s Association, member of Drug Abuse Assistance Education and Del Norte Rotary Club, president of the Albuquerque High School Alumni Association, and he is one of the founders of the A-Club, to name just a few of his many endeavors.

He married the love of his life Mary Lou and has three grown children, Mark, Anna Marie and Joseph. If there is ever a Hall of Fame created for parents and grandparents, I’m sure “The Bullet” will head the list.

Among Santiago’s honors:

1988 — Inducted into the UNM Alumni Lettermen’s Association Hall of Honor.
1988 — Inducted into the Albuquerque Sports Hall of Fame.
2000 — Inducted into the Albuquerque “A” Club Hall of Fame.
 
When he graduated from UNM he had career records
in the following areas:

· 347 rushes for 1975 yards (broke Don Perkins’ record)

· 20 touchdowns

· 5.8 yards average per carry

· 25 kickoff returns

· 649 yards on kickoff returns

· 97-yard kickoff return

· 91-yard run from scrimmage

Career statistics at UNM
Year       Att.        Gain      Net       Avg.     TD      Pts.
1960       98        606       596      6.0         4       24
1961       98        543       535      5.5        5        33
1962       151      826       806      5.3        11       66
Totals      347        1,975    1,937    5.6     20      123