Quarterback Ty Gangi’s road to a postseason appearance had its bumps, dips and unexpected turns, but he’s living proof that some are born for the spotlight when given the chance. His golden opportunity was on full display during Nevada’s 16-13 Arizona Bowl victory over Arkansas State Dec. 29.
Trailing 13-10 in overtime, Gangi connected with Reagan Roberson for an 11-yard score to seal the come-from-behind victory, fueled by a fourth-quarter comeback on the shoulders of Nevada’s senior signal caller. The win topped off a memorable collegiate career for Gangi, one full of hardships at the expense of making it to his first-ever bowl game.
“It’s been an awesome experience for me and a great future ahead,” he said. “I can’t say enough about what my teammates and coaching staff have done for my career and I can’t thank them enough. I’ve made so many memories and I couldn’t have asked for a better three years here.”
A native of Glendale, California, Gangi’s name may not appear atop the Nevada football record books, but he was a major component of bringing the Pack out of back-to-back losing seasons in 2016 and 2017. He’s also recorded 66 career touchdowns and multiple All-Mountain West honors earned while in the silver and blue.
Despite the accolades he’s accumulated over three seasons with the Wolf Pack, it’s Gangi’s mental toughness that made him out to lead Nevada to its first eight-win season since joining the Mountain West Conference in 2012.
Gangi’s journey under center wasn’t easy, dating back to his playing days at St. Francis High School, located in La Canada, California. He lost the starting quarterback job to Jared Lebowitz — a highly touted transfer from Vermont. Gangi was regulated to backup reps during his freshman and sophomore seasons without getting his chance to see the field.
Gangi didn’t shy away from his first opportunity at the start of his senior season after Lebowitz’s departure. He recorded 3,311 total yards and 38 touchdowns and led the Golden Knights to one of its best seasons in school history — which included a 10-3 record and an appearance in the California Interscholastic Federation semifinals. The success didn’t lead to scholarship offers from prestigious universities, leaving Gangi with yet another obstacle to overcome.
“It was tough at some points, but I believed in myself and knew I can make it,” he said. “It’s those experiences that brought me here.”
Gangi walked on at the University of Colorado in 2014, gunning for the starting quarterback position. He made the team and exceeded expectations as a true freshman, but he redshirted and was forced to wait it out on the bench. Searching for just one opportunity, Gangi transferred to Ventura College in the fall of 2015 — a two-year community college with an enrollment of more than 13,000 students — in hopes of earning his spot on the field.
Once again, Gangi watched from the sidelines as starting quarterback Brandon Jones was in the midst of a slow 2-2 start. Jones suffered an injury and Gangi was given his one chance he’d been waiting two years for.
“That was the one opportunity I needed,” he said. “The rest took off from there.”
Ventura College finished the season 6-1 under Gangi as he led them to a conference championship and a Beach Bowl victory. Gangi finished with 1,994 passing yards and 19 touchdowns during the seven-game span.
Gangi’s play over the stretch earned him a scholarship offer from the Pack in 2016. He served the majority of the season under senior quarterback Tyler Stewart, but a season-ending shoulder injury thrust the redshirt sophomore back into the spotlight for the final four games. Nevada finished 2-2 over that stretch, and big changes were on the horizon for Gangi and the rest of the Wolf Pack offense.
“Playing those last games helped build my confidence,” he said. “No matter what I did out on the field, I knew that I could improve on it and come back even stronger the next play.”
Competition didn’t lighten for Gangi under head coach Jay Norvell, he and fellow quarterbacks David Cornwell and Kaymen Cureton battled for the starting gig before and during the 2017 season. All three players saw time on the field, but Gangi was re-inserted in the middle of the year and never let go.
With Norvell by his side, Gangi showcased the improved accuracy downfield and his mobility to pick up yardage outside the pocket. The Pack finished with a 3-9 record, but Norvell had an immense amount of confidence in his young signal caller.
“With Ty as our quarterback, we knew we had a bright future,” Norvell said in a press conference. “It was our job as a staff to put the pieces together in order for him to keep improving.”
For once in his college career, Gangi had the reins all to himself heading into his senior season, but that didn’t stop his tireless work ethic. He practiced extensively with the offensive unit over the summer and it paid dividends, recording career highs with 3,331 passing yards and 268 completions in 12 games.
“Offensively, we’ve really progressed as a unit and I think that helped us improve as a whole,” Gangi said. “We’ve made strides on that side of the ball and played more consistently compared to last year.”
Gangi also improved on his leadership qualities, and it made quite an impression on players and staff around the team, including former Nevada wide receiver McLane Mannix. Mannix was a primary recipient in Gangi’s arsenal, but he was more impressed of how the quarterback handled himself on the field.
“Ty is a great player but he’s an even better person,” Mannix said. “He’s someone we really look up to and rely on… he’s helped this team step up when we needed him.”
Nevada held a disappointing 3-4 record heading into the midway point of the season, but Gangi saved his best performances for last. He led the Pack to four wins in the final five games, helping Nevada clinch their first bowl appearance since 2015. The game-winning drive against Arkansas State was a perfect ending for Gangi’s collegiate career.
“I can’t say enough about what he’s done for our program,” Norvell said. “The progress he’s made over the past two years as a player and a leader in the locker room has been incredible.”
Gangi never had the cannon arm or the five-star status coming out of high school but overcame several obstacles in the way to shine when given the chance.
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.