UTEP alumni make noise in NFL season opener

Sports

Two big fellas hailing from the University of El Paso served crucial roles for their NFL teams on Sunday.

Will Hernandez, New York Giants

Will Hernandez was a standout performer on the offensive line during his time in orange and blue. Last season, despite a disappointing team performance, Hernandez continued to improve his draft stock. By April, he was being projected to be selected in the first round of the 2018 draft.

After falling to the second round, Hernandez did not stay seated long as the New York Giants called his name with the second pick. Throughout the offseason, the young man had his work cut out for him to transition quickly to professional football. Following a strong preseason, the expectations of Hernandez remain exceedingly high as he is now protecting names such as Eli Manning and Saquon Barkley.

In week one, Hernandez helped to burst open a hole for Barkley’s 68-yard touchdown score and was instrumental in the offensive line’s production of 114 rushing yards on the day. The Giants struggled mightily in the rushing game last season.

Hernandez will be working alongside former first-round pick and two-time super bowl champion with the New England Patriots, Nate Solder, who was recently signed. These key additions mean New York Giants fans will be expecting a noticeable turnaround.

After the game, Hernandez says that going forward, he “intends to improve his technique and leverage as he adjusts to different players to show how important everything he has been coached is to him.”

Roy Robertson-Harris, Chicago Bears

On the defensive side of the ball, Roy Robertson-Harris emerged becoming a well-known Chicago Bear in his Sunday Night Football performance. During his time at UTEP (2012-2015), Robertson-Harris was a solid starter and earned a 2014 all-C-USA honorable mention tallying 138 career tackles, 25 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks but did not show enough to NFL teams for anyone to take a chance on him in the 2016 draft.

The Chicago Bears decided to take a chance on the undrafted free agent but would shut him down for the 2016 season placing him on the illness/non-football injury list. In 2017, Robertson-Harris gathered his first two sacks in a preseason win over the Arizona Cardinals. During the regular season, Robertson-Harris did not get much time out on the field until December when he earned his first two officially recorded sacks.

If his late-season triumphs were not awakening, Bears fans had to be scratching their heads wondering why they hadn’t seen Robertson-Harris more after his 2018 preseason. In three consecutive games, Robertson-Harris garnered a sack, totaling 3.5.

If you were wondering what may have brought upon this emergence, Robertson-Harris attributed offseason boxing workouts to improving his quick hand skills.

Sunday evening, breaking through the offensive line en-route to Aaron Rodgers, Robertson-Harris met his target on the ground. The hit forced Rodgers to leave the game for the remainder of the first half. Later on, he would break through again, this time diving at the heels of Rodger’s replacement, DeShone Kizer, dragging him down as he threw into the hands of Khalil Mack.

These two plays were perhaps the deciding factors of the first half which saw the Chicago Bears heading into the locker room up 17-0.

Keep up with these borderland stars throughout the season here at KTSM.

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