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Receiving praise

Acclaimed Hart graduate hopes to turn unsung UNLV into a contender

Posted: August 17, 2009 10:31 p.m.
Updated: August 18, 2009 4:55 a.m.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, receiver Ryan Wolfe has been named to the preseason All-Mountain West Conference team and the Fred Biletnikoff watch list. Wolfe is a Hart alumnus, and the Biletnikoff Award is given annually to the nation's top wideout.

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The first football game for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, isn’t until Sept. 5, but already 2005 Hart High graduate and senior Rebel wide receiver Ryan Wolfe is raking in honors.

Wolfe has been named to the preseason All-Mountain West Conference football team and Fred Biletnikoff watch list for the second time in his collegiate career.

“The most important thing to remember is that it’s all preseason stuff,” Wolfe said. “It’s all determined on what they think is going to happen, so I have to keep in mind that I still have work to do to get better. ... You take it with a grain of salt. It’s good to have your name out there in a positive way, but we are striving to be much better as a team.”

The Biletnikoff Award is given to the nation’s top wide receiver at the end of the season. A total of 37 receivers were named to the list this summer.

Since 1994, recipients have included Terry Glenn (Ohio State University, 1995), Randy Moss (Marshall University, 1997), Larry Fitzgerald (University of Pittsburgh, 2003), Braylon Edwards (University of Michigan, 2004), Calvin Johnson (Georgia Tech, 2006) and Michael Crabtree twice (Texas Tech University, 2007 and 2008).

Wolfe was also the Rebels’ 2008 Sportsman of the Year, billed as the school’s top athletic award on UNLV’s official Web site.

The 2006 All-MWC freshman of the year is coming off his second first-team all-conference selection, the first such achievement for a wide receiver in school history.

The 2009 All-American candidate had 88 receptions in 2008, tying the single-season school record, for 1,040 yards. The 6-foot-2-inch, 210-pound receiver added six touchdowns in the process.

This season might be even better.

“I think I’m in the best shape that I’ve been at UNLV. I’ve gotten stronger and faster over the offseason,” he said, noting that there is a general excitement spreading throughout the team during training camp.

For his career, Wolfe has hauled in 209 passes for 2,735 yards, both school records. On 10 occasions, he has topped 100 yards receiving in a game, also a record.

For his achievements, he now finds himself front and center of the school’s promotional efforts, appearing in advertisements on UNLV’s Web site, on television and across the entire back cover of the 2009 football media guide.

“It’s kind of awkward,” he said. “All that stuff is in good fun. A lot of people see the number on the jersey; they don’t get a chance to put a face with the name.”

Last year UNLV finished the season 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the MWC. The Rebels were a game away from being bowl eligible for the first time since 2003, when they were 6-6, although they were not selected.

“That is something this team is ready to make happen — be bowl eligible,” Wolfe said. “We are just working every day to get the victories on the board rather than a bunch of individual success.”

The last time the team went to a bowl game was 2000, when UNLV beat Arkansas 31-14 in the Las Vegas Bowl.

If they are able to become bowl eligible, they will have done so against many highly regarded teams.

The Rebels’ second game of the season is against Oregon State, ranked No. 25 in the USA Today preseason top 25 coaches’ poll. Later in the season, they will battle USA Today No. 24 Brigham Young University, followed by No. 18 Utah and No. 17 Texas Christian University two weeks later.

“It is important for us teams that are not as recognized to build up our level of play,” Wolfe said of playing ranked squads. “Each and every week, anything can happen in this conference.”

Entering his final year of eligibility, Wolfe has not only developed at his position since leaving the Santa Clarita Valley, but he has also developed as a leader.

“It’s crazy because you see the freshmen come in and you remember that same feeling,” he said. “They have that same wide-eyed look. It is crazy to think how far this team has come.”

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