On the final day of the Nevada football team's practice at Stanford last week, Wolf Pack head coach Jay Norvell saw an old friend.
Norvell, who was an assistant with the NFL's Indianapolis Colts from 1998-2001, ran into Matt Terpening, the Colts' assistant director of college scouting. The two are old friends, and Terpening expressed how much he loved Nevada's roster.
"He just laughed when he saw our team," Norvell said on this week's NSN Daily. "He said, 'Jay, this is all the things you always talked about in our meetings. You wanted tall receivers, you wanted an accurate quarterback, you wanted a tall tight end, you wanted lengthy tackles.' There's a personality of every position. Those things are not done by accident. We planned to bring those guys in. We have a profile of players we want, and we want our team to reflect that, and someday when I'm not the coach at Nevada and somebody else sits in that chair, I hope they sit at that personnel board and see good players. I just think that's a coach's job, and we've taken that very seriously."
When Norvell accepted the Wolf Pack job in December 2016, the first thing he did was look at Nevada's roster. He wasn't overly impressed. The team was small and not nearly fast enough. But after five years of recruiting, Norvell feels like he has the roster he's always dreamed about. Nevada boasts likely NFL players at quarterback (Carson Strong), wide receiver (Romeo Doubs, Elijah Cooks) and tight end (Cole Turner), with many more players on the team also having that potential.
But in addition to the roster's talent, Norvell likes the personality of the group. He knows a school like Nevada will never stock its roster with four- and five-star recruits, so he's used the formula Chris Ault followed to build a program on player development and a blue-collar attitude. That's one of the reasons he wears a classic mechanic’s shirt to almost all of the Wolf Pack's practices.
"When we came to Nevada, we really wanted to restore Nevada to get national recognition," Norvell said. "That was the No. 1 thing. It's out goal still. I know when Coach Ault was here, this program was recognized nationally. We wanted to get the program back to that. To do that, the history of this program is blue collar. It's work. We're not always going to have the highest-recruited players. Sometimes our guys have gotten overlooked. But if you just work every day and keep your nose to the grindstone and roll your sleeves up, you can really prepare yourself and get ready to play. That's been the history of this program. I've been to a lot of schools across the country, and every school kind of has its own personality. I talked to Coach Ault a lot before I took this job, and I just think it's important players remember that — why you're here, what your personality is and how we're going to get the job done. It's not fancy. It's just work."
One of the Wolf Pack's talented and hard-working players is Strong, who twice had his knee operated on this offseason, which led to him missing some early fall camp practices. Norvell said he's looked good the last couple of weeks and will be fine when Nevada plays Cal in Saturday's season opener.
"There's been a steady building process with Carson, and his surgery went really great this spring," Norvell said. "He had a little scope procedure right before camp just to kind of put his mind at ease to make sure everything was healing properly, and it irritated his knee. It irritated it, and when he went out and practiced, he had some swelling. But after that first week, things have settled down and he's steadily improved every day. He's got his momentum going and has got a ton of reps. We've been working on Cal the last two weeks. We're really zeroing in on them, and he's been great in practice."
You can watch our two segments with Coach Norvell below.