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UTEP to honor late TE Luke Laufenberg, who died at 21 after two-year battle with cancer

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Luke Laufenberg may be gone, but his football team is ensuring he won’t be forgotten.

Following a two-year battle with leukemia, the 21-year-old UTEP tight end died earlier this month.  Monday, the Miners announced that the football team will pay tribute to Laufenberg at Saturday’s season opener against Houston Baptist in the Sun Bowl.

According to the program, the tribute will take place between the first and second quarters as a framed jersey will be presented to the player’s family.  Additionally, UTEP players will wear black “Luke” stickers on their helmets throughout the 2019 season.

“Luke Laufenberg touched our hearts and souls forever,” head coach Dana Dimel said in a statement on the day of Laufenberg’s passing. “His spirit and fight are reminders of what it means to play and coach the game of football. He was a fighter, a champion and a wonderful person. He was a very talented young man [who] lived his life and left a huge mark on everyone he came in contact with. He was a wonderful individual and will not be forgotten on our football team. Our student-athletes learned from how he prepared himself and the way he handled adversity. I know Luke loved playing football for UTEP and he will forever be a MINER!”

Laufenberg actually began his collegiate career as a walk-on at Texas A&M. On the day after Christmas 2017, Laufenberg was diagnosed with leukemia; in May of the following year, he was declared cancer-free and, after the 230-pound player had regained the 90-plus pounds he had lost during chemotherapy, began his trek back to college football, first at a junior college in 2018 before signing with UTEP earlier this year.

By the summer, sadly, the disease had returned with a fatal ferocity, with doctors telling his family in July that “his condition was terminal and that he had just a few weeks left.”

UTEP mourns death of TE Luke Laufenberg, 21, after two-year battle with leukemia

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For the second time this month, the insidiousness that is cancer has struck at the heart of college football.

Following a nearly two-year battle with leukemia, Luke Laufenberg passed away early Thursday morning, his father, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Babe Laufenberg, heartbreakingly revealed on Twitter. ” The hole in our hearts will never be filled,” Laufenberg wrote. “You are my hero. RIP my sweet Luke. See you on the other side.”

The younger Laufenberg had just signed with UTEP this past February as a tight end and was expected by many to win a starting job before his health began to fail again later on in the offseason.

Laufenberg actually began his collegiate career as a walk-on at Texas A&M. On the day after Christmas 2017, Laufenberg was diagnosed with leukemia; in May of the following year, he was declared cancer-free and, after the 230-pound player had regained the 90-plus pounds he had lost during chemotherapy, began his trek back to college football, first at a junior college in 2018 before signing with UTEP earlier this year.

By the summer, sadly, the disease had returned with a fatal ferocity, with doctors telling his family in July that “his condition was terminal and that he had just a few weeks left.”

Below is a statement from UTEP head coach Dana Dimel:

Luke Laufenberg touched our hearts and souls forever. His spirit and fight are reminders of what it means to play and coach the game of football. He was a fighter, a champion and a wonderful person. He was a very talented young man that lived his life and left a huge mark on everyone he came in contact with. He was a wonderful individual and will not be forgotten on our football team. Our student-athletes learned from how he prepared himself and the way he handled adversity. I know Luke loved playing football for UTEP and he will forever be a MINER!

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those affected by the young man’s way-too-early passing.­

Joshua Fields returns to UTEP after transferring to Georgia Southern

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Who says you can’t go home again, even in the same offseason?

Joshua Fields left UTEP earlier this offseason and, in June of this year, enrolled in classes at Georgia Southern as he was set to continue his collegiate playing career with the Eagles. It was also reported that the running back would seek a waiver from the NCAA that would grant him immediate eligibility at the Sun Belt Conference school.

Fast-forward two months, though, and it’s now being reported that Fields has decided to reverse course and return to the Miners. That development came a couple of days after the Eagles confirmed in a statement that Fields was no longer a part of the program.

Joshua left the team early in camp. We wish him the best of luck moving forward.

According to the El Paso Times, Fields initially left the Miners because of a family member’s health issue, “but those circumstances changed and now he is back with his family in El Paso.” The Times also reports that Fields should be eligible to play for UTEP this season, presumably because he never attended classes at GSU despite enrolling at the university.

Clarification on his status could come as early as Thursday.

In 2017, Fields’ 362 yards rushing (on 89 carries) were tops on the Miners. According to the school at the time, Fields was the first true freshman to lead the team in rushing since 2013.

This past season, however, Fields’ production dipped to 57 yards on 31 attempts, which works out to just 1.8 yards per carry. That yards-per-attempt figure was the lowest among all FBS running backs with at least 30 carries last year.

UTEP new home for USC transfer Ykili Ross

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Nearly a year after verbally strafing his way out of USC, Ykili Ross has found himself a new college football home.

UTEP head coach Dana Dimel confirmed Monday that Ross (pictured, No. 14) has been added as a transfer to his football program.  Eligible immediately as a graduate transfer, the defensive back is expected to take the practice field for the Miners for the first time Tuesday.

Ross, a four-star 2015 signee, played in 24 games the past two seasons after redshirting as a true freshman.  The Riverside, CA, product was in line for the starting strong safety job prior to his abrupt departure a week before the start of the 2018 regular season.

As for Ross’ scorched-earth departure from the Trojans?  From our post last September:

Ross claimed that “neither my talent nor my passion for the sport/game was being utilized to its maximum potential” at USC, adding that his “development as a ball player (sic) and my dedication to the team was not being showcased/invested in.”

The initial reports of the redshirt junior’s impending departure came a short time after he reportedly nearly came to blows with teammates during a midweek practice. “To those that have adopted the narrative that I am disruptive, start fights, have no passion for the game, etc.,” Ross wrote. “I have never started any fights nor got into any crazy incidents, no cops, no trouble.

Dismissed Arizona WR Devaughn Cooper set for move to UTEP

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After an ofttimes stormy tenure at a Pac-12 school, Devaughn Cooper is moving to Conference USA.

In early May of this year, Cooper, who had previously flirted with leaving the team before opting to stay, was one of two players dismissed from the Arizona football program for violating unspecified team rules. This week, it’s expected that the wide receiver will enroll at UTEP and play football for the Miners.

As Cooper would be coming to UTEP as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2019.

And Cooper’s reaction to the news?

Last season, Cooper’s 18 receptions for 368 yards were fourth on the Wildcats. He also led the team with a 20.4 yards per catch average.

As Arizona’s top three pass-catchers all moved on, Cooper would’ve been the Wildcats’ leading returning receiver had he remained on the roster.