Jimmy Cottrell is out to make a little bit of history this year, and if the past three years are any indication, he will accomplish it.
Cottrell is attempting to be the first New Mexico State player to lead the team in tackles four straight years. A starter as a redshirt freshman, Cottrell has recorded 102, 83 and 99 stops in each of his first three seasons. His 99 stops last year was especially impressive considering he missed nearly two complete games.
He doesn't talk much about the potential record. He's more excited about the fact that New Mexico State is in the WAC and the level of excitement surrounding new head coach Hal Mumme, that the school hired former Steelers' defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer and that his parents have more of an opportunity to watch him play on the road.
"He's brought in a level of excitement that's contagious," said Cottrell about Mumme. "Everyone on the team and the athletic department in general is excited. It's a big step up for us. We're (Idaho and Utah State) all in the same boat. Hopefully we'll finish higher than where we were ranked.
"You see four Super Bowl rings that he (Widenhofer ) won. His experience coaching linebackers like Jack Lambert and Jack Ham. Anything he says is solid gold."
Cottrell spent the spring soaking up whatever knowledge Widenhofer imparted. The main message he got from Widenhofer was simple.
"He said I was a fourth-year starter and I needed to take on more of a leadership role and calling signals," Cottrell said. "He wants me to lead by example; be more vocal."
Cottrell doesn't have the prototypical height big colleges and the pros look for. At 6-feet, he's built more in the Matt Millen mold, and that's not a bad thing. Millen, if you recall, had a distinguished career with the Raiders and 49ers. Millen made up for his height and lack of blazing speed with a tremendous amount of desire which allowed him to be around the ball and play sideline to sideline.
Cottrell showed that range in many games last season. Most notably was the success he had against Utah State when he recorded a career-high 19 stops, 13 of them solo. He also had 16 stops against New Mexico.
"I just run around and try to get to the ball within the concept we're playing," Cottrell said. "I just try to play the game hard and be around the ball as much as I can."
"He's a great player," first-year head coach Mumme said. "He's a very smart player. We have very high expectations (of him)."
And, one would expect Cottrell to live up to Mumme's words. Cottrell has tremendous work ethic, a big reason for his success the past three years. He gives his father credit for that.
"My father (Jimmy) is my role model," the younger Cottrell said. "My parents divorced at an early age, and he raised me. He worked 60 or 70 hours a week and still got off to coach my Little League team."
Cottrell makes his presence felt off the field, too. He's no stranger to the Las Cruces community, often visiting elementary schools. He's even talked some of his teammates into joining him.
"I want to teach American History and be a high school football coach," Cottrell said. "I started out reading. You end up running around and playing with them. It was fun.
"I love football. Ever since I was 8, I fell in love with it. Unfortunately you can only play so long. Coaching is a great way to stay in it and give something back. I want to work with that age group, because you can really be a positive influence at that age and make a difference."
Look for Cottrell to make a difference no matter what he does for the Aggies.
THE COTTRELL FILE
Hometown - Castle Rock, Colorado
Year - Senior
Major - History
Position - Middle linebacker
Height - 6-0
Weight - 244