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June 8, 2013

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

With a wave of his hand, Dave Binder can point out the memorabilia of a life time, the collectables of a career that maybe can be measured in athletic tape -- but only if you want to leave out the hearts that athletic trainers always seem to touch and heal the most.

Within that wave, is a picture of Binder as an 18-year-old standing next to former Texas Longhorn coach Darrell Royal. There is an autographed picture of former UTEP Miner and NBA star, Tim Hardaway, proclaiming Binder as the "world's greatest trainer."

There are tokens of his past and his career that touch Don Haskins, Norm Ellenberger, Tim Hardaway, Kenny Thomas, Dennis Franchione, Rocky Long, Dave Bliss, Nate Archibald, Danny Granger, DonTrell Moore, B.R. Holbrook and on and on and on with both Miner and Lobo greats.

His ties to a training room began at UTEP in 1969. It ends this July. Binder is in his 16th year - and last - as UNM's Head Athletics Trainer. He also was the UTEP head trainer for 13 years. "I just hope I didn't screw things up here and maybe left things better than I found them," said Binder.

The time Binder has given to his family of Lobos will be given more to the Binder family. He has a grandson to hang out with, some traveling to do, some non-medical books to read.

"I've taken care of other people for a long, long time and I've loved every minute of it," said Binder. "But now I have to give some time to myself and my family. There are a lot of things I like to do and it's time to start doing some of them."

Binder is similar to Lobo trainers of the past, including the legendary Tow Diehm, whose name has been placed on the building that houses Lobo football and the UNM training room.

Binder has long opened his training room and his skills to almost anyone in need of some healing. He did it because, well, that's what he did. That was the itch that carried him through 40-plus years in athletic training when his skills as a football player came up short.

"I had no idea what an athletic trainer was when I went to college. I wanted to be a football coach," said Binder.

Binder went to UTEP in 1969 to catch footballs for the Miners. He was wisely turned away from the football field and steered into the training room -- and thousands of athletics have benefited from that detour.

"I wasn't a very good football player, but I wanted to stay with my friends. I wanted to be part of the team," said Binder. I developed a passion for athletic training."

Binder graduated from UTEP in 1973 (Bachelors) and 1975 (Masters) and bounced around a variety of training rooms around Texas before coming back to UTEP as the head guy. He left the Miners 16 years ago to become a Lobo.

He is a member of the UTEP Sports Hall of Fame and the El Paso Sports Hall of Fame. When he returned to UTEP about 30 years ago, Don Haskins was the head basketball coach. Here is one of Binder's favorite Haskins' stories:

"We had a point guard named Ron Jones. Haskins took a lot of pride in UTEP being one of the top defensive teams in the nation. Ron liked to shoot the ball more than he liked to play defense. One day Coach Haskins had the guys bring a couch out of his office and had it placed at center court. Coach brought a chair out and told Ron to lie down on the coach. I've never seen anything like that. Don started asking Ron questions like Don was a psychologist trying to figure out why Ron liked to shoot so much. Coach asked him, "Did you hate your mom growing up?' He got it across that Ron probably shouldn't be shooting so much and might work on some other things."

Binder has lots of stories. "If you want to know something about an athletic department, go talk to the trainers," said Binder.

A Mike Locksley story? Binder declined to go in that direction. However, he has another story tied into Lobo football.

In the Rocky Long era, a young boy with Down Syndrome named Chris used to come to Lobo practice every day with his dog. Binder told Chris that if he left his dog home, he could be a volunteer student trainer.

"Chris never missed a day," said Binder. "Those football players took care of Chris. His water was special. They wouldn't take water from anyone else, if Chris was there with a bottle. Chris loved being there. Coach Long even made a playbook for him. Chris' family eventually moved to Colorado."

Binder and the Lobos made an impression on Chris. One June day several years ago, Binder got a letter from Chris. It was a Fathers' Day card. "That was a pretty neat deal. That was special," said Binder. "Those are the memories that stick."

There are scary moments that stick, too. Last August, Binder drove back from Ruidoso with B.R. Holbrook when the UNM quarterback was having chest pains. When ex-Lobo Hank Baskett went down with a spinal injury, Binder had to ride in the ambulance with a very frightened athlete, who had no movement from the neck down.

"That was awful," said Binder. "Hank finally moved his little finger and of course everything turned out OK. I've always thought that was a miracle."

Binder noted that heartfelt memories are the ones that stay close. He remembers a UTEP football player once getting $5 in a letter from mom.

"Marcus showed that $5 to everyone in the locker room," said Binder. "It took a lot for Marcus' mother to come up with $5. That money meant more to him than anything in the world.

"It's little things like that that mean as much or more than any kind of (championship) ring you might leave with. The championships and things like that are nice, but it's the people you remember. It's the people who count."

Binder leaves New Mexico with lots of honors and most of them probably will be tucked away in a box attracting dust. The memories of moments and faces will be tucked away in his heart, conveniently close. He needs no athletic tape to bound them tight.

He also leaves behind generations of athletes and trainers - Miners and Lobos - who benefited greatly because Dave Binder wasn't that good at catching passes.


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