Nevada football’s 17 seniors hail from seven states, ranging as far west as Hawaii and as far east as Alabama, their connection point coming in Reno where they’ve tried to rebuild a once-proud program.
Those 17 players, who have the Wolf Pack on the brink of their first bowl berth since 2015, will be honored Saturday before their final home game at Mackay Stadium, a 7:30 p.m. kickoff against Colorado State.
Six of those seniors are in their fifth year in Reno and were recruited by Nevada’s previous head coach Brian Polian. The majority of the rest were brought in by current head coach Jay Norvell. But, together, they’ve helped push Nevada to its most successful season in years, with an eight-win season still in reach.
“It’s a class that’s had a lot of ups and downs, but I really appreciate their commitment and their focus this year to trying to be different,” Norvell said. “They want to be different than the other classes that were here, so they’ve done things differently. They’ve been more committed, they’ve stuck with the plan, they bought into what we’re trying to do and it started in the offseason with the way we worked.”
The fifth-year seniors have been through many ups and downs, experiencing some success early (back-to-back bowl games in 2014 and 2015), some tragedy (the drowning of their teammate Marc Ma) and a major change (Polian’s firing) in the middle and are ending their careers on a high note at the end.
“I would say this group had a tremendous amount of character,” senior linebacker Malik Reed said. “There are a lot of things we went through such as losing a teammate, losing Marc, going through coaching changes, scheme changes, it’s been a big change for each and every one of us but to see the way each and every guy has handled it and been better for it, it just shows how much character everybody has.”
Here is a look at the story behind each of Nevada’s 17 seniors who will be honored before Saturday's game.
* K Ramiz Ahmed: A Las Vegas native, Ahmed made the team via a student tryout just days before last season began. He had previously attended Arizona State and UNLV, never playing football, but found him home at Nevada, where he was a kickoff specialist last year before earning the starting kicker job this year. The strong-legged Ahmed is 11-of-15 on field goals in 2018, including 10-of-11 inside the 50.
* DB Dameon Baber: One of the most productive defensive backs in Nevada’s FBS era, Baber is a two-time All-MW honor who could earn those honors again this season. He had an NCAA-record three-touchdown game last season and has 11 interceptions (tied for fifth among active FBS players) and 283 tackles in his career. The four-year starter – he played as a true freshman – has started 41 games.
* LB Alec Bonsall: Technically a junior, Bonsall is using this as his senior season as he’ll graduate and move on to the next phase of life. A walk-on, Bonsall joined the Wolf Pack last season and redshirted. He made his FBS debut this season and appeared in Nevada’s games against Portland State and Boise State.
* DB Justin Brent: A transfer from Notre Dame in 2017, Brent has had an experience to remember at Nevada, where he not only played football but was a member of the Wolf Pack’s Sweet 16 basketball team (he joined the squad late last year to add depth). A move from receiver to safety in 2018 unlocked more playing time for Brent, who has 17 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
* TE Trae Carter-Wells: A standout football and basketball player at Reed High, Carter-Wells walked on to Nevada in 2014 and eventually earned a scholarship last season. Carter-Wells has been a standout special teams player during his Wolf Pack tenure (he was Nevada's special teams MVP last year) while serving as a blocking tight end. He has seven catches for 44 yards and 10 tackles in his career.
* DB Jomon Dotson: A graduate transfer from Washington who joined the team this season, Dotson earned a starting job at cornerback (he has started the last seven games) and has become a valuable member of the secondary. Dotson’s 52 tackles are the second most for Nevada this season. He’s also first on the team in forced fumbles (two) and second in fumble recoveries (two) and interceptions (one).
* LS Wes Farnsworth: A Bishop Manogue graduate, Farnsworth was a highly recruited long snapper coming out of high school (Nevada offered him a scholarship shortly after Ohio State did so) and he opted to stay local. Farnsworth has been a four-year starter for the Wolf Pack is the school’s special teams captain this year.
* QB Ty Gangi: After stints at Colorado and Ventura College, Gangi joined Nevada in 2016 and was Tyler Stewart’s backup until injury made him a starter. He then was locked in a battle with Alabama transfer David Cornwell, eventually winning the gig despite a brief two-game benching in favor of Kaymen Cureton last season. He persevered and has thrown for 6,165 yards and 48 touchdowns, which both rank 10th in school history.
* DB Anthony Hankins: After his career ended at North Valleys, Hankins starred at Butte College before walking on to Nevada last season. He was put on scholarship prior to the start of this year and has served on special teams, where he has nine tackles over the last two seasons, including three in 2018.
* OL Sean Krepsz: The big offensive lineman started his career at Washington State and then moved on to Riverside Community College before joining Nevada in 2016 and becoming a three-year starter, the first year at guard and the last two at center. Krepsz’s senior season got off to a rough start as a dislocated elbow kept him out of the first three games but he’s returned to stable the Wolf Pack’s Union.
* DT Jarius McDade: Another senior with a well-traveled past, McDade had stints at Northern Arizona and City College of San Francisco before transferring to Nevada in 2016, where he was a reserve. His 2017 was cut short by a torn ACL but he petitioned for an extra year of eligibility and has played a key role in Nevada’s improved run defense in 2018. McDade has 27 career tackles, including 3.5 for loss.
* OL Kalei Meyer: One of the original six who joined Nevada in 2014 (Polian’s first full recruiting class), Meyer began his career as a defensive lineman before moving to offensive line this season. He’s been a pleasant surprise and one of the leaders of the team, first starting at center and then moving to guard. Meyer has started eight games in his career (six coming this season) and has 28 career tackles.
* OL Anthony Palomares: One of three starting seniors on Nevada’s offensive line, Palomares was a junior-college transfer who joined the Wolf Pack last season. He battled injuries in 2017 but still made six starts and has is one of seven Wolf Pack players (just three on offense) to start all nine games this year.
* LB Malik Reed: A two-time All-MW pick with a potential NFL future, Reed has been one of the nation’s most productive defensive players since coming to Reno. He ranks in the top 10 among active FBS players in sacks (20) and forced fumbles (10). Reed, whose 33 consecutive starts pace the Wolf Pack, ranks fifth in school history in sacks and eighth in tackles for loss (34.5) and is a future Nevada Hall of Famer.
* DB Asauni Rufus: A stalwart on Nevada’s defense for four years – his 42 career starts are the most on the team – Rufus has been a tackle machine since he got to Reno. His 317 career tackles are fourth in school history and he’ll end up third on that list behind DeShone Myles (528) and Matt Clafton (388). Rufus had a season-ending broken leg last year but has returned to play his best ball at Nevada as a senior.
* DE Korey Rush: A one-time Arizona State commitment, Rush landed at Nevada and was having an outstanding senior season before suffering a broken foot in the Wolf Pack’s last game, a win over San Diego State (he’s out for the rest of the regular season but could play in a bowl game). A constant contributor, Rush has compiled 105 tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks in his solid career.
* LB Lucas Weber: The fourth true local on the team, Weber is a McQueen High alum who walked on five years ago. He did so as a running back before moving to linebacker, where he tore his ACL and missed all but one game in 2016. He returned, as a scholarship player, to post strong seasons the last two years and has 35 tackles, including four for loss, this season and 62 tackles, including six for loss, in his career.
These 17 players will be presented on their field with their parents before Nevada’s game Saturday and the Wolf Pack is aiming to send them off with a win, which also would mean the team would hit the six victories required to become bowl eligible.
“These kids have been through a lot in their careers,” Norvell said, “and they want to finish strong and it’s important they have a great winning memory for their last game at Mackay.”
Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.