Juan Diego linebacker Dakota Cox had long planned on playing for the Cincinnati Bearcats.
But when former coach Butch Jones accepted the head coaching position at the University of Tennessee on Dec. 7, the Soaring Eagle senior, who committed to Jones and the Bearcats in June, was left wondering where he stood with the Cincinnati program.
The Bearcats hired former Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville on Dec. 8, so Cox figured it was only a matter of time before someone on the new coaching staff would contact him.
But the call never came. Instead, the Juan Diego linebacker and his family decided to take matters into their own hands. After taking unofficial visits to the University of Colorado and BYU, Cox took an unofficial visit to the University of New Mexico and was immediately intrigued by the Land of Enchantment.
After spending the weekend visiting the Lobos facilities and speaking with coach Bob Davie and inside linebackers coach Kevin Cosgrove, Cox committed to New Mexico Sunday evening.
"It was definitely unexpected," Cox told the Salt Lake Tribune Monday afternoon. "But it felt like a place where I could shine, play as a freshman and help put New Mexico back on the map. That program is on the rise and it's only going to get better with all the guys Coach Davie is bringing in. I'm more than excited."
Cox said waiting to hear about his future at Cincinnati took its toll and nerves started to rise as the recruiting process was starting to see a dead period approaching.
"We're going into this quiet period and, I thought, 'If I don't hear from them now, I probably won't hear from them at all until January.' My dad called the AD at Cincinnati twice and he didn't return his call. It didn't feel right anymore, so we started looking around," Cox explained.
Cox, who led the Soaring Eagle defense this season with 144 total tackles, said the moment he stepped foot on the New Mexico campus, it felt like the right fit. He raved about the facilities, a versatile coaching staff and even the dorms.
"It's like a hidden gem," he said. "The fans are dying for a new team to come out and turn things around."
While he was committed to Cincinnati, Cox said a number of colleges approached him to see where he stood, but he said it was New Mexico who was always there waiting in the wings. He said the Lobos even mailed him a full scholarship to show their level of interest during the season.
"About halfway through our football season, New Mexico called and said their interest was very high," he said. "They said, 'If anything happens, know we're going to be there.' That just made me feel good. They stuck around, they were persistent and kept calling me every now and then; then all of a sudden, with all these coaching changes, they were still there."
Cox said BYU's interest in him was legitimate and while he was flattered during his talks with coach Bronco Mendenhall and recruiting coordinator Joe DuPaix, the weekend trip to Albuquerque sealed the deal.
"BYU is a great school and a great program, but I just had to find what fit for me for the next four years of my life," he said. "And New Mexico is the best fit for me."