By Chris Boline

The ending of one chapter will be the opening of another for the 33 student-athletes that will graduate this winter with a degree from the University of Nevada, Reno.

From cross country to softball and football to cheerleading, Nevada athletes will embark on a new path in their lives, some of which involve a transition to the professional ranks and others into the real world. Also with majors ranging from business administration to neuroscience, the members of the Wolf Pack have a diverse set of aspirations after they have left the “School on the Hill.”

Senior football players Brandon Wimberly and Joel Bitonio have been incredibly important to Nevada over the last couple of years. The former was an incredibly productive wide receiver (he has amassed 3,049 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns during his four seasons where he accumulated stats), and the latter started 38 games during his time on the offensive line. According to both players, they have expressed their desire to play in the NFL.

Head coach Brian Polian shared the kind of impact these two players in particular have had on the team this season.

“With Wim, it’s hard production to replace. He’s caught a ball in every game he has played. He practices and prepares like a professional,” Polian said. “Now Joel has been fantastic. We’ve asked him to become more of a vocal leader, and he’s done that. Another thing he has done is he’s never taken a rep off at practice. We’re going to miss them both.”

The football team has only 15 seniors, and two other big parts of the Nevada defensive unit will graduate with a degree in winter: defensive linemen Jack Reynoso and Jordan Hanson.

Even though Bitonio does have NFL aspirations, he admitted that getting an education was the number one goal; in this case, his degree in economics.

“I knew I was going to get a degree by the time I leave here no matter what,” Bitonio said. “You always have to have a back-up plan, because the NFL is “not for long,” and I’m very happy to graduate this winter.”

In addition to the players listed above, a few other notable Nevada athletes will receive their degrees at the upcoming graduation: distance runner and 4k school record-holder Sam Diaz, sprinters Tanisha Hawkins and Deborah Amoah, soccer players Dana Moreno and Chelsea Fricke and baseball players Brooks Klein, Ray McIntire and Jamison Rowe.

Cheerleader Valerie Rosenfield is another of the winter graduates, and she will be embarking on a somewhat different road than her usual routine of cheering and shaking pom-poms.

“I’m moving to Seattle to start my job at KPMG (an accounting firm) and working in financial advising,” Rosenfield said. “I’ll be mainly working with the compliance services group.”

The former cheerleader echoed Bitonio’s statements about making her business education a top priority.

“I definitely kept athletics as an extracurricular, and education was always first,” Rosenfield said. “It was a great experience, but without my education I would not be in the position I am now.”

Centerfielder for the baseball team Jamison Rowe has plans to continue his education at either the University of San Francisco or San Diego State in pursuit of an MBA. Rowe will graduate with a degree in journalism with an emphasis in strategic communications.

The native of Richland, Wash. also isn’t going to ditch the school that has given him in his four years at the university.

“I’m going to try and just assist in any way I can whether it is through just talking to players or coming back and helping out,” Rowe said. “It’s something I always want to give back to because they opened up a lot of opportunities for me during my time here.”

Between finding a place for the workload of practice, homework and studying for exams has given athletes an edge in a new work environment.

“I had to try and balance my time between athletics and school because that would help me most in the long run in whatever business I want to get into,” Rowe said.

For one of the most unconventional athletes in the program, Brandon Wimberly’s experience at the university has had a huge impact on him.

“To sum (my career) into one word I would say blessed,” Wimberly said. “It’s been a tough road, but I wouldn’t change it for the world and it’s made the man I am today.”

Chris Boline can be reached at cboline@nevadasagebrush.com.