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NMSU Aggie fans raise an 'L for Lori'

New Mexico State University football fans are quick to get their “Guns Up” to support the Aggies. But a different version of that salute during halftime of Saturday’s game honored a special person the football program lost earlier this year.

Portrait of Lori Paulson
Lori Paulson appears at a special dedication event at the Lori Paulson Football Team Meeting Room at the Hall of Legends building adjacent to Aggie Memorial Stadium. Aggie fans honored Paulson, who passed away in March, during Saturday's game against Georgia Southern. (Photo by Darren Phillips)

No one loved New Mexico State University’s football team more than Las Crucen Lori Paulson, who passed away March 16, 2016, at age 35 after battling pancreatic cancer. Although a passionate and avid supporter of NMSU athletics, the Aggie football team truly captured her heart.

During her fight against cancer, Paulson became a confidante and friend to football coaches and players while serving as an honorary team captain. She attended practices and was the first to give that smile of support that could light up the stadium when student-athletes came off the field. Near the end of her life, Paulson and her family started a fund to ensure Aggie football players have the financial support they need in years to come.

The Aggies and their fans returned that love during halftime of Saturday’s game against Georgia Southern. Football players past and present remembered their biggest fan with a video tribute. Instead of the “Guns Up” salute, thousands of fans at Aggie Memorial Stadium raised their hands in the shape of an “L for Lori” – a joyous celebration of Paulson’s life that reflected the buoyant personality of the two-time NMSU College of Business graduate.

Lori’s son, Jeremiah, who succeeded his mom as honorary team captain, husband Brandon Young, and parents were recognized on the field.

The tribute came on the same day NMSU celebrated the Aggies are Tough Enough to Wear Pink cancer awareness game, and nine days before the beginning of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, which is observed each November. Paulson had a rare form of pancreatic cancer that she courageously battled until the end.

“We thought this would be a fitting tribute because it recognizes so many women who are tackling cancer head-on,” said Andrea Tawney, president of the NMSU Foundation.

Saturday’s observance was the latest in a series of tributes honoring Paulson’s contributions to Aggie football. Earlier this year, the NMSU Board of Regents approved the naming of the football team’s meeting room in the Hall of Legends at Aggie Memorial Stadium in her honor, and a reception was held to thank Paulson for her support of the team.

A one-of-a-kind personality, Paulson blogged openly and honestly about her cancer battle – including her decision to forgo further treatment. She wrote her own first-person obituary, saying, “I would rather tell you what a blast my life was. … I’m so satisfied with my short life and can’t imagine how so many people are not happy with theirs. If happiness is a choice, please choose it, every time.”

Shortly before she died, Paulson and her family donated $100,000 to establish the Lori Paulson Football Excellence Fund. The fund supports NMSU’s football players, providing for needs to give them a boost in competitive play. Paulson enjoyed supporting the football team, and her family hopes the community will grow the fund so future Aggies can benefit.

To contribute to the Lori Paulson Football Excellence Fund, contact the NMSU Foundation at 575-646-1613, or P.O. Box 3590, Las Cruces, N.M. 88003-3590, or visit https://advancing.nmsu.edu/givenow.