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Leading Las Vegas

Wolfe named first team all-Mountain West Conference for second time

Posted: December 7, 2008 9:38 p.m.
Updated: December 8, 2008 4:55 a.m.

For the second time in his college career, UNLV junior wide receiver Ryan Wolfe has been named first-team all-Mountain West Conference, helping to establish the Runnin' Rebels football program.

 

Above all else, Ryan Wolfe wants respect.

Respect for himself as a great receiver. Respect for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as a solid football program. Respect for the Runnin’ Rebels as a perennial bowl threat.

If the 2005 Hart graduate keeps playing like this, the rest of the Mountain West Conference will have no choice but to give it to him.

Wolfe was named a first-team all-conference selection for the second time in his career last week, and such an achievement isn’t lost on UNLV’s all-time leading receiver.

“I think you have a little bit more respect among the league, especially when it’s mainly the coaches and the media following it,” Wolfe said. “It’s nice to know the level of respect that the people you play against have for you.”

Wolfe was also a first-team selection his freshman season, and this fall, he tied a school record with 88 receptions and gained 1,040 yards, becoming UNLV’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Randy Gatewood in 1994. In his career, Wolfe has 209 catches for 2,735 yards and 10 total 100-yard receiving games, all of which are school records.

But there’s something else Gatewood has that Wolfe wants: a bowl victory.

“Our entire goal was to get to that bowl game,” he said. “We came up one game short.”

The Rebels finished 5-7 this season, one win shy of bowl eligibility at six wins. The season did, however, including an overtime victory against 15th-ranked Arizona State in Tempe last September.

UNLV went 2-10 in both 2006 and 2007, and while the strides made this fall are nice, Wolfe knows he only has one more chance to reach the postseason. That kind of opportunity is what brought the three-star Rivals.com recruit to UNLV, which had gained an unfavorable reputation by letting talented local prep players slip away.

“You could tell the coaches and the players had a sense of urgency to themselves,” Wolfe said. “They had a chip on their shoulder trying to get the program turned around.”

Under fourth-year coach Mike Sanford, Wolfe says the change is noticeable.

“This past year was the best year we had all-around, getting people to work out during the summer, just the way people’s demeanors are around the campus,” he said.

It’s a campus that has seen the basketball team win a 1990 national championship and reach the NCAA Tournament 16 times since 1975, including the last two years.

While UNLV’s bowl history record is less stellar, Wolfe insists that success on the hardwood isn’t a hindrance to the football program.

“I think that’s just kind of something that we look at as a positive,” he said. “This town hasn’t really seen a very successful football team when it comes to putting together successful seasons in a row. We could tell that the city and the fans are just waiting for a team they can follow like they do during basketball season.”

UNLV has also won the Mountain West Conference basketball tournament 14 times, and its power in football is increasing by the year. This season, Utah finished 12-0 and is headed to the Sugar Bowl, and four other Mountain West teams are postseason-bound as well.

To sum it up, UNLV is close, but the last hurdle toward the postseason may be the tallest.

“As you can see any week, any team can come up and upset the supposed favorite,” Wolfe said. “This is the hardest schedule that we’ve played in the school’s history. It’s good to get more respect nationwide when you have that many good teams in one conference.”

That kind of respect, at least for UNLV, will have to wait another season, but Wolfe’s accomplishments have further enhanced the reputation of Hart graduates in the college ranks.

“We had some great team success (at Hart),” he said. “It’s an awesome fraternity, you can call it. It’s recognized at the collegiate level. Some players say, ‘Oh, you’re from Hart. You’re pretty good.’”
The rest of the Mountain West Conference would be wise to agree.

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