Nevada linebacker Lucas Weber went all of last year trying to soak up his senior season.
The grueling practices, the bonding bus rides, the nights tucked into hotel rooms and most certainly the games, which he figured would be the last of his football career.
And then during the first practice leading into what he believed to be his final game at Mackay Stadium, Jeremy Cobb, the Pack’s trainer, and Jeff Casteel, the Pack’s defensive coordinator, told Weber he might get another crack at those “lasts.” Nevada believed it could get Weber another year of eligibility.
“They came up to me and said, ‘Hey, we just found out you might have another year. What are you thinking?’” Weber recalled.
Heck yes, is what Weber was thinking. So, while Weber went through on-field senior day ceremonies last season, he knew that probably wouldn’t be his last home game at Nevada. And it wasn’t after Weber’s waiver for a sixth year of eligibility was granted shortly after the Wolf Pack’s season ended. Weber was given an extra year because he missed all but one game in 2016 with a torn ACL.
Weber is getting a second crack at his senior season. He’s the elder statesman on the team having joined Nevada in 2014. The only other member of Nevada’s 27-player 2014 recruiting class still on the team is Cristian Solano, the front-runner to win the Wolf Pack quarterback position.
“Looking around, to have a lot of them gone this year is a little weird,” Weber said of his friends from his recruiting class.
Technically, Weber wasn’t even announced as part of Nevada’s 2014 class. A McQueen High graduate, Weber walked on with the Wolf Pack as a running back. He moved to defense in 2016, earning a scholarship that season, before becoming a rotation player in 2017 and a full-time starter in 2018.
“I love Lucas,” Wolf Pack head coach Jay Norvell said. “He’s such a great team player. He’s just improved so much, probably more than any player we’ve had on our team in the last 2 1/2 years that we’ve been here. You’re just so proud because he listens to everything that the coaches ask him to do and he tries to do it. What a great example for our other players.”
The 6-foot, 230-pound Weber had a breakout 2018, setting career highs in tackles (56), tackles for loss (10.5) and sacks (5.5). He played especially well late in the season, recording 4.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss over the team’s final four games, including a 16-13 overtime win over Arkansas State in the Arizona Bowl.
So, when Weber had the option of coming back for a sixth season, he was all in.
“I brought it to my parents and I didn’t feel like there was another decision,” Weber said. “I thought it was a pretty easy decision. Why not? If it’s there, you have to take it. I love this game, I love this team, we had a pretty good year last season and I started to figure out the position a little more. If I had another year, why not? I also get school paid for another year.”
Weber is one of just four Wolf Pack defenders with double-digits career starts returning this season. Nevada is counting on Weber and Gabe Sewell, who has a team-high 35 career starts, leading the defense in 2019. Sewell put his name in the transfer portal during the offseason before opting to return for his senior season at Nevada, a move that brought a smile to Weber’s face.
“I was so happy,” Weber said. “He’s a really good player. He’s a great leader on the field when we’re out here. I talked to him after and said, ‘Hey, man, I need you bought in. If this is where you want to be, this is where you want to be.’ He said, ‘Yes, I am.’ We’re all very confident with him here.”
Nevada made a big jump last season, going from 3-9 in Norvell’s first year to 8-5 in his second, marking the team’s most wins since 2010. The Wolf Pack also recorded its sixth bowl victory, and while that would have been a nice high note for Weber to go out on, he believes Nevada can scratch out even more success in 2019. And while Nevada won’t be as experienced on defense, it might be more athletic.
“We really do have some guys who can fly around and are very athletic,” Weber said. “I think you can be very athletic, too, when you start knowing the defense. If the guys are really studying and figuring out their roles and responsibilities, they can play a lot quicker than somebody who might be more athletic than them. I’m really excited about this defense and what we could do this season.”
Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.