Manning the middle of the Aggie defense this year will be none other than a man known as 'Blue.The full name is Boyblue Aoelua, a 5-foot-10, 235-pound junior middle linebacker from American Samoa. If things go as planned this season, he will be notorious for far more than just his name.
"He has passion," NMSU head coach DeWayne Walker said of Aoelua. "The thing is, he loves football. I think that's big. Sometimes, we get caught up on size. Tony Dungy's defenses at Indianapolis and at Tampa Bay, they had one of the smaller defenses in the NFL. But they were passionate, they played hard and they were smart. That's what we're trying to build on as well."
Last year, Aoelua was no more than a contributor on special teams. Now, he'll take over one of the key positions on the Aggie defense at middle linebacker — or the MIKE in Walker's system.
Aoelua will be asked to make pre-snap directional and stunt calls at the line of scrimmage, get his fellow linebackers and defensive lineman properly situated and then read the play upon the snap and attack the football.
It's a lot of responsibility for someone who barely saw the field in 2009.
"It's a really big step for me," Aoelua said. "I had to step my game up ... It was a big change for me, a lot of work. Obviously, you're the head of the defense, you're the quarterback of the defense.
"Main thing for me is get everybody lined up and get the calls right. The second one, is to stay healthy ... I gotta be more physical."
According the Walker, it was a slow start for Aoelua during fall camp, but the junior has picked it up lately.
"He's playing good football again," Walker said. "We're happy he's playing at a level for us to have a good linebacker group."
That group will consist of Aoelua in the middle, senior transfer Frank Padilla (6-foot-2, 248 pounds) at the strongside spot and 2009 scout-team player B.J. Adolpho (5-foot-11, 215 pounds) along the weakside.
"They didn't play a lick," linebackers coach Dale Lindsey said of the group's experience from last year.
"They're making some progress. They're not as good as we'd like them to be. We just need more consistent play from them ... There's no problem with their toughness. They'll run like hell, they'll do all they can for you. They just have to be in the right place all the time."
Last year, NMSU had four seniors rotate at the linebacker position — Jason Scott, Ross Conner, Jamar Cotton and Sam King.
"I think (this year's group) can be far superior to what we had last year," Lindsey said. "I don't mean to be derogatory to the four seniors, 'cause they gave us a good days work. (But) our upside is so much better, with the athletic ability and football intelligence."
The current threesome certainly look like they have fun together on the field.
Adolpho has been seen during Aggie practices throwing his body around with reckless abandon, while Padilla craves physical contact to go along with a rowdy persona. Couple that with Aoelua's rugged style, and the Aggies, while raw, aren't short on football fire.
"All of us like to hit," Adolpho said. "I think sometimes that can be a downfall at times. That's all we want to do — is hit. Hey, it works out good for us."
It all goes back to Boyblue, who was named after his mother's brother.
"Some people (make fun of the name)," he said. "They think its a nickname. I don't like it when people make fun of my name. Have respect for it."
The hope is that by the end of the year fans will know Aoelua for his game, not his moniker.
"The season hasn't started yet," he said. "I'll let that go. I'll let the season talk for itself. We'll find out."