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The Hunger

Hart grad and UNLV receiver Ryan Wolfe just wants to win

Posted: November 12, 2008 10:16 p.m.
Updated: November 13, 2008 4:55 a.m.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas and former Hart High wide receiver Ryan Wolfe has been a steady presence in his three years with the Runnin' Rebels.

 

LAS VEGAS -- The University of Nevada, Las Vegas football team rallied from a third-quarter deficit Saturday night to defeat the University of New Mexico, 27-20.

That sentence might read like a garden-variety one-liner from the college football home page of ESPN.com, but for UNLV wide receiver Ryan Wolfe, it means so much more.

That's because the victory was the first Mountain West Conference win for the Rebels this season in six tries.

And for Wolfe -- a Hart High graduate with a storied history of carrying teams on his broad shoulders all the way to the finish line -- losing is a foreign object.

Case in point: In 2003 as a junior wideout at Hart, Wolfe overcame a serious knee injury to help lead the Indians to the CIF-Southern Section Division II Championship.

Then in 2005, he lifted Hart's basketball team from a third-place Foothill League finish and wildcard playoff berth all the way to the Division I-AA finals, repeatedly driving the Indians from both ends of the floor with every frenzied playoff victory.

Wolfe was upbeat as he emerged from the Rebels locker room at Sam Boyd Stadium following Saturday's come-from-behind victory.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior played a key role as he teamed up with freshman backup quarterback Mike Clausen to haul in seven passes for 100 yards -- the ninth time in Wolfe's college career that he reached the century mark in a game, establishing a new UNLV record.

Clausen, a lefty, was filling in for injured quarterback Omar Clayton, who tore the MCL in his right leg a week earlier. Clausen said he and the veteran Wolfe developed solid chemistry during practice in the week leading up to the game.

"Wolfie is our go-to guy, 100-percent accountable, always," Clausen said. "In pressure situations when he's got one on one, we know he'll make the play, no matter what."

And while the Rebels are just 1-5 in conference play, the victory over New Mexico raised their overall record to 4-6.

If they close out the regular season by defeating Wyoming at home tonight and San Diego State on the road Nov. 22, they will become bowl eligible.

"I always say I'd give away all that yardage just to get those six wins and get to a bowl game," Wolfe said.
That would be quite a bit of yardage to leave by the side of the road. In 10 games, Wolfe has caught 70 passes for 843 yards. His average of seven receptions per game places him in a tie for 12th in the country in that category.

UNLV wide receivers coach Kris Cinkovich calls Wolfe a leader whose work ethic is unsurpassed by anyone else on the team.

"Ryan is real hungry to learn -- he studies film really hard every week, schemes and opponents, and that makes the complete package you saw (Saturday)," Cinkovich said. "He just has that extra something that makes kids gravitate towards him. He's a real humble guy, and I think that's one of the best qualities he has, but yet he always stays real hungry."

Wolfe said he recognizes how his leadership role can translate directly to the team's success.

"As the years go by, I'm getting a little bit older and I'm not that wide-eyed freshman anymore," Wolfe said. "I've got to make sure that the things I've learned in the last few years, I pass on to the new guys and just kind of get the attitude changed around here - which I think we're doing a great job of."

No one knows more about Wolfe's ability to turn around a season than 20-year Hart head football coach Mike Herrington.

Herrington and his brother, Dean, a former Hart assistant who is now the head coach at Alemany High of Mission Hills, made the trek across the desert Saturday to see Wolfe and B.R. Holbrook take the field.

Holbrook, Hart's starting quarterback in 2007, is a freshman backup signal caller at New Mexico.

After the game, Mike Herrington stood at the east end of the arena talking with Holbrook while he waited for Wolfe to emerge from the locker room.

Herrington, looking relaxed as he stood with his hands in his jacket pockets under the glow of stadium lights, flashed the smile of a man who has plenty to be proud of.

"I got a chance to see them both," he said, beaming. "It's great to see Ryan succeed on the field at the collegiate level, and he deserves every bit of it because he's such a great young man and he works so hard."

Wolfe, 21, is a Kinesiological Sciences major who is in position to graduate in May 2009. After that, the former freshman All-American and 2006 MWC Freshman of the Year may enroll in graduate school to study sports management while he prepares for his final season of football.

Herrington said he's heard through coaching channels that Wolfe has what it takes to move on to the next level. Wolfe's take on the matter reflected a mixture of maturity and a love for the game.

"I'm going to work hard and see how it goes," he said. "I'm always going to try to play as long as I can. But right now, I'm just trying to make sure I've got something to fall back on."

craig.leener@sbcglobal.net

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