When a young Drew Scolari roamed Cashell Fieldhouse, the Wolf Pack's football facility, a decade ago, his grandfather, the legendary Chris Ault, had to be on the lookout.
"I remember being a little kid running around those football offices stealing my grandpa’s M&Ms from his jar," Scolari told Nevada Sports Net on Monday. "It’s going to be pretty crazy to actually play there in a place I’m so familiar with and grew up being a part of. It’s pretty special to me.”
Scolari, a junior quarterback at Bishop Manogue High, verbally committed to the Wolf Pack last Friday. He'll become the first local player to sign with fourth-year coach Jay Norvell when he's eligible to ink his official letter of intent in December. But, as the grandson of Ault, the forefather of Wolf Pack football, Scolari will bring some extra strong ties to the silver and blue.
After all, the field at Mackay Stadium is named after his grandfather, who led Nevada to 234 wins and nine conference championships over three highly successful tenures.
“It will mean a lot," Scolari said of playing for Nevada. "To be playing on the field with his name on it will be something special and something that my family will take a lot of pride in."
Scolari said his commitment to Nevada wasn't purely motivated by family ties. The Wolf Pack staff, led by Norvell and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Matt Mumme, have been recruiting Scolari the last several months before officially offering him a scholarship in April. Their dogged pursuit gave Scolari the feeling of being wanted for his game, not his name.
“I really loved what Coach Norvell and Coach Mumme and the staff have been doing," Scolari said. "Obviously there’s a great legacy of my family there, but that wasn’t the only factor in my decision. I think it is a great place for me to grow as a football player, and I’m super excited to be joining the Pack family.
“The Air Raid is going to be super fun to join and start slinging it around. Coach Mumme is a great offensive mind, and I just can’t wait to get into the system. Just watching the Pack, watching Carson Strong do his thing was super fun last year, and it’s super exciting to be a part of the Air Raid offense.”
Scolari, whose only FBS offer to this point is from Nevada, called the Wolf Pack staff last Friday to tell them of his decision. Their excitement during the calls furthered his believe Nevada was the place for him.
“They were really excited, and I was excited to see their reaction and how happy they were," Scolari said. "It was Coach Mumme’s birthday, and he told me it made his birthday even better, so that felt good to hear. It was super exciting to see their faces and just to know I’m welcomed somewhere and wanted somewhere. It’s super gratifying and humbling to know I’m going to be part of their family.”
Scolari, who is 6-foot-2 and 165 pounds, has started at Manogue since his sophomore season. He led the Miners to the large-class state championship game in 2018 and followed that with a second straight 4A regional title in 2019. Scolari has completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 4,311 yards with 52 touchdowns and 15 interceptions while rushing for 843 yards and 10 more scores. Scolari credited his coach, Ernie Howren, with helping him developed to a college-level quarterback.
“When Coach Howren came in, it was my freshman year and I was on the freshman team," Scolari said. "Even on the freshmen team, we formed such a strong brotherhood that we still have, and Coach Howren instills in us hard work and all of those attitudes you need to have a good team. We’re super lucky to have him as our coach because he knows what he’s doing and he knows how to get the best out of us.
"I’ve been so blessed to have him throughout my high school career, and we want to go get another regional championship this year. We don’t want to settle for two. We want to keep going and set the foundation. Coach Howren always talks about building the foundation of a program, and right now we’re doing that so the years after us they can continue having a winning tradition at Manogue.”
With a year of high school ball left to play, Scolari wants to continue to work on being able to read defenses so he's as comfortable as possible post-snap. He has a pretty good instructor in Ault, an offensive genius who is in the College Football Hall of Fame and was an NFL consultant after resigning from Nevada following the 2012 season. Scolari consulted his grandfather before making his final decision.
“We had been talking about it throughout the week with him and my parents and weighing all of the stuff that factored into the decision," Scolari said. "When we made that decision, he was super excited when I told him that’s what I wanted to do. Obviously, he’s looking forward to it and excited, but he would never put any pressure on me to go anywhere. Always having him there as a guiding factor is super nice to have because he knows so much about the game and his knowledge is unending, so just having him there is super nice for me and super beneficial.”
Thanks to his family ties, Scolari recalled celebrating in the Wolf Pack's locker room after the greatest win in program history, a 34-31 overtime decision over No. 3-ranked Boise State in 2010.
"To be able to go in the locker room after the game and interact with the players is pretty awesome," Scolari said. "I grew up watching Vai Taua and he was always so good to me as a kid and now he’s going to be one of my coaches. It’s kind of surreal to think about that."
Scolari also is a standout baseball player for the Miners who could have been recruited in that sport, although his junior season was cut short due to the coronavirus outbreak. Scolari, who wants to study engineering at Nevada, is unsure on whether he will try and play both sports with the Wolf Pack.
“I’m not sure about that," Scolari said. "I’m just going to take it one step at a time and try and prepare for this next football season. I’m still going to play baseball next spring, so I want to hopefully get back out in baseball this summer with some summer ball stuff. I haven’t really thought about it that much, but I want to take it one step at a time and we’ll see from there.”
Scolari is hopeful his senior season at Manogue won't be interrupted by COVID-19. Until then, Scolari, the oldest of four children in his family, has been working out with his siblings to stay sharp for football season.
“I have two brothers and they’re both pretty good athletes, so I’ve been taking them down to the park and we’re throwing the ball almost every day and they’ll run some routes for me," Scolari said. "We’ve been keeping each other busy. We play basketball out in our yard and do all of the things young kids do. We obviously want to get back with our teammates, but right now we’re just taking it one step at a time and trying to get better with each other. It’s really nice to have them because they can catch the ball for me and I don’t have to worry about throwing to my little sister who doesn’t know how to catch.”
Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.