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Chris Ault: It will be 'a special thrill' to watch grandson play for Nevada

Chris Ault
Chris Ault, left, coached his grandson, Drew Scolari, during his Pop Warner days. Now he'll get to see him play on the field named after himself at Nevada. (Scolari family)

Chris Ault admits he had thought about one of his grandchildren one day playing football for the program he built.

But now that the pipe dream has inched closer to a reality – after Bishop Manogue quarterback Drew Scolari, his fifth of seven grandsons committed to the Wolf Pack last week – Ault can hardly believe it.

“It’s unreal," Ault told Nevada Sports Net. "First of all, I was really excited when he called and said, ‘I want to commit to the University of Nevada.’ We had good talks before, but I never said, ‘Hey, you have to go there.’ We’re excited for him being part of the Pack tradition, and for me personally it’s a great thrill to have a family member that’s going to have an opportunity to be a part of that thing. It’s special, and it doesn’t come along every day. We plan on enjoying it.”

Ault has enjoyed watching all of his grandsons play high school football, a sport he made his name in as Nevada's head coach for 28 years over three tenures. But Scolari will become the first to earn a college scholarship. And while Ault is proud Scolari will put on silver and blue, he didn't try and force that decision.

“There was no pressure," Ault said. "I wouldn’t do that to any of the kids in the family, but my advice to him was, ‘You have the potential to be a college quarterback, so you need to take care of business and have a good year and see what happens.’ He is so level-headed. First of all, he’s very, very competitive, but he’s so level-headed on and off the field. Very smart. It’s been a lot of fun working with him, football-wise, mechanics-wise and the mental aspect, and to see him be a part of something that was our lifeblood, really it’s a special thrill.”

After resigning from Nevada following the 2012 season, Ault helped coach Scolari's Pop Warner team before his grandson had turned 10. The head coach of that team wanted to install the Pistol offense, which Ault invented, and the Wolf Pack legend pitched in with the team. Ault realized then his grandson was a good athlete with a strong desire to stick in the game.

“It was fun seeing that at a really young age," Ault said. "You could see he was a good athlete and would hopefully stay at the quarterback position. Each year, he got better, wanted to get better and wanted to learn. He’s a guy whose upside is big. Right now, he’s 6-1 and 180. That’s what he is legit. He’s still growing, he’s still going to get bigger and stronger and the future is in front of him in is big. The academic side, he’s leaning toward engineering, and at our university we don’t take a back seat to anybody. I think it’s a wonderful, wonderful fit.”

Ault, who is recovering from hip surgery earlier this month, said Scolari's mechanics are as strong as any quarterback he recruited to Nevada, and that includes local legends like Colin Kaepernick, Chris Vargas, Cody Fajardo, Fred Gatlin and Eric Beavers. Ault first started to believe Scolari could be a college quarterback during his sophomore season at Manogue in 2018 when he led the Miners to the first of back-to-back 4A Regional championships while guiding the team to the large-class state title game.

“Toward the end of his sophomore year, I’m not saying he’s Division I but he’s got a chance to go and play at the next level if he wants to," Ault said. "From that point on in my mind, it was just a matter of how much he was going to improve and where he’d go physically. I really enjoy watching his mechanics. Does he have the strongest arm? No, not yet. But his mechanics are just really sound and solid. Each game, there’s a lot put on him. He runs the ball. They run the Pistol. (Manogue coach) Ernie (Howren) expects a lot out of him, and I really enjoy watching that. I like to see his athleticism. He can drop back with the best of them, but he’s dual threat. He’s a guy who can run the ball. I think his athleticism is what will set him apart as he moves forward.”

Ault built Nevada football – the Mackay Stadium field is named after him – and has a close relationship with the current staff, which is led by head coach Jay Norvell and Matt Mumme, the team's offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and assistant head coach. But Ault never talked to Norvell or Mumme about Scolari because he didn't want to give the impression of favoritism.

“Not one time in these last two years have I ever talked to Jay Norvell or Matt Mumme even at practice about Drew," Ault said. "They’d say, ‘How’d Drew do?’ and I’d say, ‘They won and he threw two touchdowns,’ and that would be it. I never talked once to Jay about, ‘He’s a really good prospect. He can do this or do that.’ I didn’t want to put Jay in the position where he felt they had to recruit him because he was my grandson. I was really pleased with how Jay and Matt recruited him.

"Drew felt they were very sincere about getting him in as a quarterback and they can develop him with their system and they think he fits it well and they studied his film. I was really pleased. It was all him, all his doing. Jay and Matt did their homework and they’ll have other quarterbacks coming in, and that will be great. The more competition, the better. When Drew called to say, ‘I would like to commit to them, Pa.’ I said, ‘Hold on a moment. Let’s talk about it.’

"And I told him, ‘If you feel that’s the best for you and the best for them and you feel it’s something that will be beneficial for both sides, you do it if you feel good about it.’ I’d love to see you in the silver and blue. I didn’t want him to feel because of me he had to go to Nevada, and he didn’t."

Scolari, who also is a standout baseball player, has one more season left at Bishop Manogue before joining Nevada, where he is expected to redshirt. He's still a few years away from potentially playing for the Wolf Pack. But Ault is excited for his future, and he's a happy grandfather knowing Drew will be adding to the Wolf Pack football legacy. Giving his bloodlines, Scolari could face additional pressure playing for Nevada, but that's something the family has already discussed.

“That’s a real thing," Ault said. "We’ve talked about it. It’s a given. He’s been around that locker room even before going to the university more than most of the players on the team right now have. He knows and understands the obligation he’s going to have and responsibility. I told him, ‘You go compete and you’ll have an opportunity to be the guy.’ He’s very mature. He's a terrific leader. He knows where he’s at, he knows what he’s got to do and he’s got tremendous, tremendous work ethic."

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