SAN DIEGO -- The Aztecs practiced in shoulder pads for the first time Monday and coach Rocky Long said the team has a long way to go. But one guy he can always count on is All-Conference linebacker Kyahva Tezino.
Coming off a dominant junior season that saw him start all 13 games, senior linebacker Tezino can't wait to lead the Aztecs defense back onto the field this fall.
"My last time putting on this uniform, my last time being with these set of guys, my last time being at this school so it means a lot and I want to get everything out of it that I can," said Tezino. "I'm trying to give every breath that I have into this program."
A program that hopes to find redemption following a disappointing season. The Aztecs lost five of their last six games and finished with a 7-6 record, a poor reflection that still stings.
"We gave up the same number of points that we always give up but we didn't cause any darn turnovers and we didn't score any dang points," said Long. "It's funny how to win a game you have to score more points than the other guy and if you're not scoring points, you don't win. So we've got to get a heck of a lot better at everything we do."
"It's a big motivation because we don't ever want to end up like that ever again," said Tezino. "We want to be able to be a team that's talked upon, one of the best to ever play and that's one of our goals. We want to be an undefeated team and win the conference championship."
Tezino recorded 127 tackles, 8.5 sacks and was the only player on either side of the ball to play every snap, statistics that landed him seven different pre-season honors.
"It's a great feeling but if I don't do what I have to do this season to make sure my team gets the best opportunity they get to win games, win a conference championship, all of that is a waste really."
The 22-year-old says he's approaching the season ahead with an open mind, not focusing on building his own statistics but rather the team's overall success.
"Go in there hungrier than I was last year, " said Tezino. "I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help the team win. If I don't have the same stats as last year, it is what it is. As long as we win or win a conference championship, that's a big deal for me."
The Aztecs kick off the 2019 season at home on Saturday, August 31 against Weber State at 6 p.m.