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 GREELEY, Colo. (AP) - A week before his trial, a former Northern Colorado backup punter accused of stabbing the starter is very concerned about what comes next.
``He's only 22. He's got his life in front of him, and they could take it away,'' said defense attorney Joseph Gavaldon said. ``This is a very serious case.''
Mitch Cozad is charged with attempted first-degree murder and second-degree assault in an attack last Sept. 11 on Rafael Mendoza. Police have said they believe Cozad stabbed Mendoza in an attempt to get the starting job.
Weld County District Attorney Kenneth Buck and Gavaldon both said there will be no plea agreement.
``We're going to trial,'' Gavaldon said. ``That's the bottom line.''
If convicted of attempted murder, Cozad, of Wheatland, Wyo., could face up to 48 years in prison. The trial is scheduled to begin July 30.
After a pretrial conference Monday, Gavaldon said Cozad is nervous and ``very concerned.
``He does a lot of praying,'' Gavaldon said. ``They're going to have to put on a case, and we're going to have to defend against them vigorously.''
Mendoza's mother, Florence Mendoza, and sister, Rosie Mendoza-Calderon, were in court for a pretrial conference Monday, when both sides discussed trial logistics.
Florence Mendoza said she was happy the case will go before a jury.
``This is what has to happen,'' she said. ``We have to trust in the legal system.''
Rafael Mendoza, who returned to the team two weeks after the stabbing, has been doing rehab and therapy this summer to prepare for the season.
``Football is going to be good for him,'' his mother said. ``I ask him how it's going, and sometimes he'll say, 'I'm struggling still.'''
One day, Florence Mendoza might be able to forgive Cozad, but not yet.
``There's always got to be forgiveness. How long it takes? I don't know,'' she said. ``I wouldn't want my son to be in his place. I'm glad my son didn't make the wrong choice.''

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