By Chris Boline
As the old saying goes, “the strength of the wolf is the pack” and for this year’s Nevada football team, the entire community of Reno will need to be one for it to succeed.
This year’s team mantra for the Wolf Pack is “Born to be One” which goes hand in hand with the program’s overall goal of “One Community One Pack”. While the athletic department has been using the latter saying for a handful of years, this year’s team mentality reflects a need for the goals of the squad to supersede those of the individuals.
Running back Don Jackson is a prime example of this. Last year, Jackson battled nagging injuries throughout the year and has been pegged by multiple media sources around the Nevada team to break out this season (the Reno Gazette- Journal’s Chris Murray picked him as his No. 3 breakout candidate for the year).
However, the running back has not let his goals overwhelm those of the collective team, to be competitive in the Mountain West.
“I feel like the team is more prepared this year to win [a Mountain West Championship] We have a lot of experience with the guys coming back and we want to jump on that,” Jackson said.
A stalwart along the Wolf Pack defensive line, senior Brock Hekking referred to Southern Utah as the “first victim” on the list for Nevada’s season and echoed Jackson’s thoughts on the collective team goal.
“All of our preparation from the offseason is leading up to this game,” Hekking said. “We had all those extra hours as a team which has given a step ahead where we were last year.”
Members of the team have also been trying to reach out to the campus community and beyond by engaging with the supporters of the program either through social networking or personal appearances.
“We’re trying to stand for campus unity and a clean campus because there have been problems with sexual harassment and we’re trying to change that,” Jackson said. “Athletics doesn’t have the best rep and we’re trying to change that identity and change people’s views on that.”
Hekking also pointed out how the personal connection fans have with the players can be a long-term benefit for the squad.
“I wasn’t a big football guy growing up, but if you have those face-to-face interactions with the players it will motivate you to care and watch the team more,” Hekking said. “That’s one of the biggest things we’ve tried to accomplish this offseason.”
Voted as a team captain for the second year in a row, linebacker Jordan Dobrich also reflected the team’s view of the individual’s goals not becoming the ultimate ones.
“I know I am viewed at by the coaches as someone who is a leader on defense and I never want to leave my defense hanging,” Dobrich said. “My team goal and I guess this is an individual one as well, is to win games.”
In addition to Dobrich, quarterback Cody Fajardo, center Matt Galas and line- backer Jon McNeal were all named captains for this season. It is the second time Fajardo has been named captain and the first for three-year starters Galas and McNeal, who led the team in tackles last year.
All of these players are members of the team’s leadership committee.
With the squad’s 4-8 record still staring them in the face, the team has a chip on its shoulder this year.
“That’s my biggest thing, I hate that people disrespect this program,” Jackson said. “I feel this year we’ll show we’ll show people why we should get respect in the conference.”
Chris Boline can be reached at email@example.com.