‘Strong Men’ in Silver City

WNMU football coach has more on his mind than just wins and losses


The Western New Mexico University football team has won just five games in the past four seasons but the Mustangs’ new head coach isn’t backing away from the challenge that lies ahead – both on and off the field.

Denver native Philip Vigil, age 36, was hired as the Mustangs’ new head coach in May. He knows he has a big rebuilding job but he also knows that good college football coaches do more than just win games or even championships. They help position their players for success in life too.

“Football is an unbelievable tool,” Vigil said. “It brings out so much about life in the game. I love football. I love the X’s and O’s. I love to compete. I am passionate about using the game of football to build young men.

“I know right now our country needs strong men who will fight for their wives, strong men who will fight for their families and strong men who will fight for what is right,” Vigil added.

Vigil says the “wins and championships will come” but he envisions building something even more important than that.

“Other than my dad, most of the men who have impacted my life have been coaches,” he said. “I understand the power that comes with that title. We want to make sure we are not wasting it by just teaching a game. We will teach more than football.”

But that certainly doesn’t mean that Vigil and his staff aren’t going to be doing everything they can to improve the on-field product at Western New Mexico, which plays in the Lone Star Conference, which is arguably one of the toughest leagues in Division II football.

“Every single thing we do, we are going to focus on being the best we can possibly be at that given task, at that given moment,” Vigil said. “And the results, the wins, the championships, will all take care of themselves.”

Vigil said he will take a look at the team’s players and play to their strengths.

Vigil declined to get into specifics about what they will do on the field, but he did promise they will “attack in every facet” whether on offense, defense or special teams.

“Teams that come to Silver City to play better bring their oxygen tank,” he said. “We are going to be performing at a high level here at high altitude.”

Vigil was an all-conference quarterback at Colorado Mesa University and has been coaching at the collegiate level for the past 12 years.

Most recently, he served as the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator from 2019-21 at Division I Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas.

Prior to that, he served as the pass game and recruiting coordinator at Division II Fort Hays State in Kansas for four seasons. During his time at Fort Hays, the team went 36-12, went to the postseason all four years and won back-to-back conference titles.

Vigil has also been an assistant coach at his alma mater, at Northwest Missouri State and at the Colorado School of the Mines.

“We are not going to focus on wins or championships,” Vigil said. “We will be process driven in everything we do. We are going to focus on whatever it is at hand and work on it. If it is a drill we have run a hundred times before, we will be process driven enough to do our best on this drill, even though we have done it a hundred times before.”

Vigil said he and his staff plan to recruit locally – recruiting “from inside out,” as he puts it.

“We will recruit the best New Mexico players we can possibly find,” he said. “I said this in my press conference, jokingly, if you have a cactus in your front yard, you will see our staff.”

Vigil said that Silver City and Western New Mexico are special places to live and work.

“That is why my wife and I are buying a home here,” he said. “We are putting down roots and we are going to be here as long as God calls us here. I am really excited to raise my children here and put down roots.”

After playing just one game in the spring this past year because of the pandemic, the Mustangs are ready to get after it and play some football, Vigil said. They are also looking forward to having fans back in the stands, watching and cheering them on.

“God didn’t create humans to be alone,” Vigil said. “I think everyone is craving that companionship, being out with your friends and family and enjoying each other.

“It’s going to be a welcome sight to see our stadium packed for our home opener – our guys flying around, having some fun and making some plays,” he said.

The Mustangs will open their season with a road game at 5 p.m. Sept. 4 against Adams State in Alamosa, Colorado. Their home opener will be the following week at noon on Sept. 11 vs. Western Colorado at Ben Altamirano Field.

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