ALBUQUERQUE — It's been 22 years since Mike Price coached at Weber State, but he has fond memories of his time in Ogden.

"That was some of the most fantastic days of my life, really," Price told the Deseret News on Friday, on the eve of the New Mexico Bowl between his UTEP team and BYU. "I was young. We had a tremendous coaching staff. We were young, dumb and full of energy."

Among the many friends he made in the Beehive State was former Cougar coach LaVell Edwards.

"One of the main people that I respect so much in the profession is LaVell Edwards," said Price, who guided the Wildcats' program from 1981-88. "He helped mentor me. He helped me when I was down, he helped me when I was up. He was always there for me. In his own soft, quiet way, he helped me.

"None of the other coaches were like LaVell was. We hold a lot of good feelings there. He always used to tell me the jokes that he couldn't tell. I was always the sinner. He has a great sense of humor."

While at Weber State, Price coached Danny Rich, the father of BYU senior safety Andrew Rich.

"He was one of the best linebackers we had at Weber State," Price said. "It was a hit he had on a quarterback that was our emblem for our football program for many, many years. It probably would have been a $50,000 fine in the NFL. Later, I recruited Andrew out of high school. I brought him to UTEP and offered him a scholarship."

Price maintains strong connections with Utah.

"We have tons of friends from Utah. Both of my kids graduated from Ogden High," he said. "They're still friends with their high school friends. They're coming to the game and are excited about it. It's a great city, a great place to live, a great place to raise children."

NEW MEXICO HOSPITALITY: BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall thanked New Mexico Bowl officials for an enjoyable week in Albuquerque.

"We've had a fantastic time here," he said. "We've been treated as well as we could be treated, from a personal level and a professional level. It seems like the city and community are really excited for this game. Our players have given me feedback that they've really enjoyed the activities. We have so many players' wives who have had a great time as well."

TO THE VICTOR GO THE SPOILS: The team that wins the New Mexico Bowl receives a trophy made from a 20-inch piece of Zia Pueblo pottery. The trophy includes Pueblo depictions of the bowl's symbol, a Zia symbol also found in the New Mexico state flag, football players and other Pueblo symbols.

The Zia Pueblo Indians are a Native American tribe indigenous to New Mexico. The MVP trophies are also made of leather shields, another form of traditional Zia Pueblo art.

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TRUE FRESHMEN VS. UTEP: Back in 1997, BYU started a true freshman quarterback — Drew Miller — for the first time in its history. It was against UTEP, and the Miners won, 14-3.

Another true freshman, Jake Heaps, will start for the Cougars today against UTEP. Heaps is the first freshman QB to start a bowl game for the Cougars.

QUOTABLE: Price, on his senior quarterback Trevor Vittatoe, who has played half the season with a serious ankle injury. "He's the only one-legged quarterback in America," Price said. "We wouldn't have been here without Trevor."

e-mail: jeffc@desnews.com