Defending the line, saving lives

From taking play calls in Aggie Memorial Stadium to, now, answering calls for emergencies, two New Mexico State University alumni agree that time on the football field as an Aggie prepared them for a line of duty.

Jeremiah Lay ’02, a former NMSU defensive end and current Las Cruces Fire Department battalion chief, finds firefighting as a way to help others and continue the teamwork atmosphere that he experienced inside Aggie Memorial Stadium. 

“I was used to working with a team playing football, and it is no different in firefighting. Everyone has their role and function,” Lay says. “Our academy style is also very militaristic with a lot of structure and physical fitness. Obviously, the physical fitness of football helped out a lot and so did the teamwork, which is a necessity in the fire service.” 

Lay also credits the education he received from NMSU as an agricultural economics and agricultural business major for aiding him in his career of service. 

“NMSU has helped me out a lot with my position as a battalion chief,” Lay says. “The modern fire service is really data-driven, and some of the skills I learned in economics, marketing, management and finance I use daily. It’s not all kicking in doors and fighting fires, it’s also figuring out what to do in regards to allocating funds and establishing ways to respond to emergencies efficiently.”

Joel Navarro ’91, also a former NMSU defensive end and now battalion chief at the Phoenix Fire Department, agrees that the similar atmospheres and the chance to make a difference played a role in him joining his fire station.     

“I am also a paramedic,” Navarro says. “When you can make a difference or impact someone else’s life, their families’ or save their lives, and then you have that person come visit you a week or two later - it’s really cool. Those are the moments you really appreciate what you do and what you’ve learned.”

Melissa Rutter ’17

Jeremiah Lay ’02

Joel Navarro ’91