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Former NFL veteran Mike Pritchard, a graduate of North Las Vegas’ Rancho High School, believes Peyton Manning will have the game of his life.

By W.G. Ramirez

As I approached my 5th annual Celebrity/Athlete/Media poll, I had a chance to catch up to former Rancho High School star Mike Pritchard, who went on to star at the University of Colorado and then in the NFL for three teams: the Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.

Pritchard, who is the color commentator for UNLV football and co-host of the Mitch and Pritch radio show in Las Vegas, has plenty of ties to some key components in this year’s game, as he played with John Elway and has been coached by both Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips.

Retired for 15 years, Pritchard said he still gets excited this time of the year, watching the pre-game festivities leading up to Super Sunday.

“You try to live vicariously through everyone involved in the game,” he said. “You have a rooting interest and you kind of get excited about that.”

Pritchard said he remembers a time when he questioned his retirement, something most veterans go through a year after retiring, as the itch to return to the field remains for the first couple of seasons you become a spectator.

“After a season goes by, you start training and you start to think you can still do it,” Pritchard said. “It takes a couple of years to realize it’s over. It’s not like any other sport where you can retire, and then come back after a few years. There is only one guy who I can think of who did that and that was Randall Cunningham.”

But that was then, in the early 2000s.

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Mike Pritchard, who won a national championship with Colorado, played for the Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks during his time in the NFL.

Now, Pritchard enjoys his time behind the mic, alongside his partner and co-host Mitch Moss, during one of the busiest times of the day. The two share their thoughts with Southern Nevada, speaking on the hottest topics in sports and daily breaking news. Most recently, that included the Oakland Raiders’ pending move to a new location. When Las Vegas entered the conversation, both Pritchard and Moss were two of the first to discuss the issue.

Pritchard isn’t sold this is the opportunity Las Vegas has been looking for, and isn’t sold the Raiders are coming to Sin City. But he does believe a top-notch stadium is the first step, and there is more important priority at hand, before landing an NFL franchise.

“If they’re going to build a stadium, it should be for our city and our university,” Pritchard said. “Can we attract an NFL franchise? Absolutely. But we need to build this for ourselves. If we don’t have that infrastructure, we’ll never have that option or decision to housing an NFL franchise.”

It’s not as if there isn’t talent spewing from Southern Nevada. Bishop Gorman High School recently completed its second straight undefeated season, and has been considered a national championship team by certain pundits the last two years. UNLV coach Tony Sanchez just announced a first-rate recruiting class in his second season in charge. And in Sunday’s Super Bowl, there will be two active players who went to high school in Las Vegas, and a third who is on a practice squad.

Brandon Marshall is a linebacker for the Denver Broncos, Ben Jacobs is a linebacker for the Carolina Panthers and Cam Jefferson is an offensive lineman on the Broncos’ practice squad.

“I love it. I think it’s great,” Pritchard said. “When I was at Rancho, there were 10 schools. If you made D-I or made it to the league, every one talked about it. Because of the growth in the valley, guys are getting more opportunities. Vegas is definitely on the map. And it speaks to the talent here and the guys making the most of their opportunities once they graduate high school.”

As for today’s game, Pritchard sees a defensive tussle ensuing early on, knowing how Kubiak and Phillips coach. He said watching the Broncos this year has been like reviewing a blueprint of teams he played on, while coached by both of them. It’s also why he believes the Broncos will send The Sheriff – Peyton Manning – off into the sunset with another Super Bowl ring.

“Coach Kubak has played and coached in Super Bowl games,” Pritchard said. “He understands what it takes to get to a Super Bowl and he certainly understands what it takes to win one.”

Pritchard said this year’s team is modeled after the 1998-99 Denver Broncos, who defeated the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII.

“You have two great defenses, and any time that happens, you have an opportunity for a great game,” he said. Carolina will try to dictate this one early on, because they’re confident about their speed. They run the ball successfully. Carolina has done such a great job of getting turnovers. Their turnover margin is incredible. They are a read and react football. At some point the action will be fast and furious. I think these are the two best teams in the league.

“Denver will try to run, but Peyton will have to make throws to help the Broncos win. I expect Peyton Manning to have an excellent game. I don’t think he’s going to make a lot of mistakes out there.”

PRITCHARD’S PREDICTION: I believe Peyton Manning will have his the game of his life. Broncos, 24-20


 

Here is my 5th Annual Celebrity/Athlete/Media poll for Super Bowl 50:

Laz Alonso, actor. Going to be a defense intensive game but Carolina and Cam are on fire and too much for Denver. Panthers, 35-14

Mark Anderson, LV Review Journal. Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will help the Broncos cover, but not cover. Panthers 24-20

Paul Anka, singer/songwriter/entertainer. Panthers will win. I watched my friend Eddie DeBartolo get voted into the Hall of Fame, and now I’ll watch the MVP hoist the trophy. It’ll be close won. Panthers 24-20

R.J. Bell, Pregame.com. Carolina is the better team, but likely not as good as the Panthers have appeared so far in the playoffs. Denver likely better than they seem, and the Broncos big game experience should help them keep Super Bowl 50 close. Panthers 21-20

Kevin Bollinger, FOX-TV Las Vegas. While everybody would love the storybook ending for Peyton Manning, the diminished skills make it tough for Denver to come back after falling behind. Panthers 27-16

Bryce Brentz, MLB player. Logic says to go with Cam’s Panthers, but I would love nothing more than to see Manning go out on top (if he does call it a career) so screw logic! Broncos 35-28

Jared Brentz, long-drive golf champion. I have to believe Payton goes out on top. I mean he deserves this ending. Broncos 21-17

Cindy Brunson, Pac 12 Network. I’m going with the guy/team that has me trying Dannon Oikos yogurt and I don’t even really like yogurt. Call it the power of Cam Newton, the MVP who threw 35 TD passes and ran for 10 more this season. Carolina reminds me so much of the Super Bowl XLVIII Champion Seahawks with a stifling defense and dual threat QB. The game will be close early, but I think the Panthers will prevail. Panthers 35-21

Chet Buchanan, KLUC-98.5 FM, Las Vegas. I like The Sheriff riding off into the sunset, mostly on the shoulders of the #OrangeCrush16. Pat/Caitlyn Bowlen is able to get his face to move enough to say, “And THIS one’s for PEYTON!” Broncos 27-20

Frank Caliendo, Comedian. Panthers 30 – Broncos 17 or flip that. Broncos 30 – Panthers 17. Can I do that? (In his own voice)

Steve Carp, LV Review Journal. Cam Newton backs up all the talk and Carolina closes out a magical season in style. Panthers 38-13

Freddie Coleman, ESPN. I think the Panthers defense makes the Broncos offense play one dimensional and their defense won’t be able to hold up. Panthers 27-16

Kevin Curry, founder Fit Men cook. I’m rooting for Cam Newton! He’s a beast. Any dude that can throw the ball and run it like a linebacker has my vote. He takes me back to the early Vince Young days, and of course he’s from Texas and I’m a Texas guy. Panthers 28-24.

Tim Dahlberg, Associated Press. Peyton Manning falls one Super Bowl ring short of his brother, thanks to Josh Norman, who cements his place on Thieves Avenue with a last minute pick to seal the first SB win for the Panthers. Panthers 27-24

Dave DeNatale, ESPN 850 AM, Cleveland. Peyton Manning in his Nationwide voice: “Painful way to call it quits.” Panthers 31-20

Randy Faehnrich, UFC, I’ve been a big believer in Denver’s defense all year. If there is a way to stop Cam, it’s to put pressure on him, and you’d be hard-pressed to find two better at applying pressure than Ware and Miller. I think the game really depends on how those two perform, and I’m banking they perform well. Give me the Broncos and Peyton Manning w/ the storybook ending. Broncos 24-20

Royce Feour, Retired Las Vegas Review-Journal sports writer. Cam Newton will be better than the old veteran Peyton Manning. Panthers 27-17

Chris Fedor, Cleveland.com. The Panthers proved to be the league’s best team during the regular season and will punctuate it Sunday, led by Cam Newton, who will show he belongs on the league’s biggest stage. Panthers, 27-17.

Marcus Fizer, retired NBA player. My pick is with the Carolina Panthers and with #SuperCam. They are playing on a level unmatched. Although you can never count out “The Sheriff” Peyton Manning, I think Cam is ready to change the dynamics of the NFL QB! Hoping for a close game, I love thrillers. Panthers 48-42

C.T. Fletcher, Powerlifter/Fitness, no score, just a mother fu*kin Broncos win! Manning and the Broncos. Admittedly not a huge fan of either team. But it’s probably Manning’s last game. He’s 40 and the underdog. I gotta pull for the “old man” cause I’m one. Gotta pick the underdog cause I’m one. I think Manning and I love to prove all the fu*kin experts wrong!

Vernon Fox, Retired NFL player. While I would love to root for my Broncos and fellow Vegas Cimarron Memorial-alum Brandon Marshall, I have a hard time believing even with the stellar defense, that Denver slows down this high-powered Panther team! Panthers 28-17

Randy Gatewood, Retired AFL player. I like the Panthers because they have been very consistent all year and they have the league MVP in Cam Newton. As great as Denver’s defense is, I don’t think they completely shut down Newton. And I think Cam Newton will also be the Super Bowl MVP. Let’s get ready to rumble! Panthers, 24-20

Bud Geracie, San Jose Mercury News. Panthers too fast and too hot. Panthers 23-14

Mike Gillespie, ABC-TV Columbia, S.C. Despite it being Manning’s last game and a pro-Denver crowd, Von Miller won’t be dabbing. That Panthers secondary is far too fast and smart to allow Manning to throw like he did against the Pats. Plus Newton, unlike Brady, is a true threat with his legs. Manning’s last game is a loss to the Panthers in Santa Clara. Panthers, 27-13

Geoff Grammer, Albuquerque Journal. I cover college sports in New Mexico so what do I know about big football games? I’ll take better story (Peyton rides off a winner) over better team for this one. Broncos 20-17

Ed Graney, LV Review Journal. If Peyton Manning can’t win this on his own, I’m sure his attorneys will send a few guys in black coats to do it for him. Panthers 24-20

Paul Gutierrez, ESPN, Panthers 27, Broncos 26.

Merril Hoge, ESPN. Teams win championships and the footers to a Champion football team are the Offensive and Defensive lines!! The Panthers win both of those match ups. Panthers 28-21

Jay Kornegay, Westgate LV SuperBook. Broncos start off on a good foot and puts the Panthers in an unfamiliar position. Denver’s D forces two critical 4th quarter turnovers and holds on. Broncos 24-20

T.J. Lavin, BMX Legend, Tom Brady 35-27!

Gilbert Manzano, LV Review Journal. The ferocious Broncos defense will give the Panthers fits early, but I see Cam Newton rallying in the fourth quarter and dabbing with the Lombardi. Panthers 27-24

Brian Mahoney, Associated Press. They’re Stephen Curry’s team, and Curry’s teams don’t lose in the Bay Area. Panthers 27-17

Chris Murray, Reno Gazette Journal. Cam Newton and the Panthers dance and dab their way to a Super Bowl title as a scourge of white Baby Boomers flood their local newspapers with letters to the editors title “What about the kids?!?!?” Oh, my, gosh, the kids! Panthers 27-17

Rock Newman, Retired Boxing Manager/Promoter. Owner Gibraltar Promotions LLC. It’s the year of Cam and the Panthers. Dab baby Dab! Panthers, 31-28.

David Purdum, ESPN. The best thing Peyton Manning has done this season: throw interceptions. Carolina’s D is a turnover machine. I feel like Manning’s good for two picks, which is just too much to overcome, at least for me to bet on the Broncos. I know all the sharps are Denver, but here’s a pro tip: Sharps lose, too. Panthers 27-16

Tim Reynolds, Associated Press. Peyton Manning gets the fairytale ending. Broncos 27-23

Anthony Rodriguez, KMET Online Radio, Denver. Broncos 23-20.

Jeffrey Seals, UNLV Media Relations. Luke Kuechly and the Panther defense will turn the lights out on Peyton Manning’s storied career. Panthers 33-13

Marc Spears, Yahoo! Sports. I’m a Raiders fan. Panthers 99, Broncos 0.

Danny Webster, Bleacher Report. The Broncos did well against Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady. Denver’s defense hasn’t played a quarterback like Cam Newton. Not only will Carolina’s defense do enough to stifle Denver’s offense, but this year’s MVP will throw for 225 yards and run for another 100 as Carolina wins its first Super Bowl. Panthers 27-17

Jamieson Welsh, The Score 670-AM Las Vegas. It’s Cam’s league now. Panthers 24-20

Matt Youmans, LV Review Journal. The Panthers pack more big-play firepower, but the Broncos’ top-ranked defense can do enough to contain Cam Newton. I like Carolina to win, but on a neutral field this line looks high. Panthers 24-20

FINAL TALLY: Panthers 31, Broncos 10, Caliendo 1, Lavin 1

W.G. Ramirez

CamJefferson

Desert Oasis-graduate and former UNLV lineman Cam Jefferson is in San Francisco for Super Bowl 50 as a member of the Denver Broncos’ practice squad. PHOTO: Courtesy Cam Jefferson/Snapchat

Cam Jefferson had just finished a stint in the Canadian Football League, with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and returned to Las Vegas for the winter.

The former Desert Oasis High School and UNLV offensive lineman hadn’t given the NFL a thought, since the Chicago Bears waived him on Aug. 30 and no other team seemed interested. So he did what many former athletes do when they return to Vegas, he got a job working security at a local nightclub.

That was until his agent called and told him to get on a plane and head to Englewood, Colorado, where the 6-foot-5, 317-pounder had a tryout with the Denver Broncos.

“The following week I got the call that I was being brought in for the practice squad,” said Jefferson, via a phone interview from San Francisco, where the Broncos are preparing for Super Bowl 50. “I was so excited I began calling everyone – my girlfriend, my mom, friends, everyone.”

His dream had come true. He was an NFL player.

Jefferson, who spent the summer with the Chicago Bears after being signed as an undrafted free agent May 3, is still a member of Denver’s practice squad. And while that means he won’t be getting into the biggest game of the NFL season, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t played a pivotal role in helping the AFC champs get to this point.

“I go against players like DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller every day,” said Jefferson, who has been with the Broncos since Dec. 8. “It’s really an honor going against these guys and then seeing them ball out on game day. For that I feel like I’m a part of this team every single day.”

Jefferson was born in Cleveland, where his father, William, played for the NFL’s Browns (1989-90). After his father’s professional career ended – he also played for the Los Angeles Raiders and spent time in the CFL and WFL – the Jeffersons relocated and Cam was raised in Southwest Las Vegas, where he attended Sierra Vista High School as a freshman and sophomore before transferring to Desert Oasis.

Interestingly, Jefferson starred as a basketball player before even thinking of playing football. He didn’t set foot on a football field until his junior year, when he earned all-Southwest Region honors for the Diamondbacks. It was his father who has always been his biggest inspiration, as he was the main reason he switched to the gridiron his junior year.

“He’s been through it all, and all I can do is try to follow in his footsteps and be even greater than he was,” said Jefferson, who transferred to Arkansas from UNLV for his senior season. “My Pops always told me, football – even in most sports – is mostly mental. If your mental isn’t right in anything you do, especially sports, you can’t accomplish anything. Your mind has to be set.

“These last couple weeks, my Pops has been telling me to enjoy the moment, and everyone has been telling me to enjoy this because nobody gets this opportunity.”

Which is why the younger Jefferson always remained focused upon returning from Arkansas, in Chicago, up in Winnipeg, and back home in Las Vegas – all before landing in the Mile High City.

His mental strength and positive outlook is paying off, as he’s been enjoying the limelight with the Broncos: Snapchatting from Opening Night Media Day and throughout San Francisco, being interviewed by CBSSports.com for a piece on Super Bowl players with tattoos, and simply soaking up the experience leading up to the biggest game of the season.

And even though the “Cam” everyone else tuning into the game will be familiar with will be wearing powder blue and black, igniting Panthers fans with a dab or two, Cam Jefferson is taking pride that he’s helped guys like Ware and Miller, and been involved in meetings on what it means to protect Peyton Manning.

“It always starts in the trenches, no matter what play it is, what down it is, what quarter, what half it is, really, or what game – it all starts on the line,” Jefferson said. “Peyton makes plays because we makes plays. And it doesn’t really matter who it is, the priority of this football team is to execute at the highest level.

“The last couple of months have been crazy. As a football player, you dream of these moments. But to live in them is an entirely different thing. Things have really come full circle for me, because my ultimate goal was to sign a contract. This season has turned out to be a blessing.”

CAM’S PREDICTION: “I can’t give you a score, but we’ll have more points than the other team.”

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IFBB Men’s Physique Pro Mark Anthony, r., works with Gary Napierkowski at a recently held posing clinic at City Athletic Club, on West Sahara, attended by several competitors who will compete in Saturday’s Cutler Classic at the Palms Hotel.

By W.G. Ramirez

Said one critic last year, during the filmography for a Jay Cutler Desert Classic promotional spot, it’s like the “circus coming to town.”

Metaphorically speaking, I suppose.

But even I know the annual spectacle featuring international competitors and some of the top amateurs in the nation is far from clowns and elephants. Perhaps lions, as some might consider Cutler the King of the Jungle.

One thing is for sure, if there’s an internal buzz in the city, amongst a certain population of bodybuilding and fitness enthusiasts, it’s because the Classic, which takes place at the Palms throughout Saturday. Prejudging is at 10:30 a.m., while the Finals are at 6:30 p.m.

Two sessions, both pricey, but both worth the admission if you’re into this sort of thing. If not, you still might be surprised at what you’re seeing.

The prejudging gives judges their first look at competitors who strut and flex, showing what they’ve been sculpting the past 16 weeks. If not longer. And once you’re out there, and everyone can see each ripple and vein, most believe it comes down to posing.

“Stage presence is probably just as important as working on your physique,” IFBB Bikini Pro Jessica Chuckran said. “I see a lot of girls come into this, they’re athletic already, and their bodies look fantastic when they’re on stage. But they don’t know how to pose to the advantages of their physique. A lot of them have not walked in heels very much before because they’re always in tennis shoes working out. So when they get up on stage, that awkwardness shows. So you need to work just as much on your stage presence, walking and posing in (your) bikini.”

Chuckran joined IFBB Men’s Physique Pro Mark Anthony in a posing clinic Thursday night at the posh Southwest gym City Athletic Club, as the two covered last-minute details with some competitors entered in Saturday’s Classic, and a few who are still 6 or 12 weeks out from their next show.

Anthony, who was the first-ever Mr. Olympia Physique Champion, is four weeks out from his next competition, so he’s empathetic and supportive toward this weekend’s competitors, and tried to help some of them “keep calm and just pose,” by offering straight-forward advice during his hour session.

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IFBB Women’s Bikini Pro Jessica Chuckran, r., watches Ayla Brown perform her walkout routine, during a recently held posing clinic at City Athletic Club on West Sahara.

Be Sexy.

Don’t be in a rush to get back to your front.

Show them your back.

From Chuckran:

Exaggerate your moves.

Walk out with that side pose.

And, oh yeah, BE SEXY!!!

“I feel posing is the thing that’s going to give you your individuality, it’s going to give you that unique kind of look,” Anthony said. “It’ll separate you from the rest. A lot of guys prep for 16 weeks, 12 weeks – whatever it is – and they come in with this amazing physique, but just don’t know how to present it. It’s just a huge element – especially with men’s physique – because we don’t have the ability to raise our arms or hold poses. We’re doing quarter-turns with some swag.”

Fact is, the bikini and physique categories are just as tough as the bodybuilding categories, given the rigorous meal plan they have to follow, especially down the stretch. Whether it’s carb-cycling, peak week, depletion – whatever – the process is grueling, but one that must be trusted. Then after your preparation, you’re asked to strut on stage and show off your physique from different angles. Bodybuilders is about mass and aesthetics, while the physique competitors have to show proportion, aesthetics and make sure they’re not too big, in looking as if they should have competed in a bodybuilding category.

Anthony said confidence is one of the biggest qualities that will catch a judge’s eye, and if you’ve got it when your number is called, you can steal some votes along the way.

“I’ve beaten guys who were two, three percent sharper in the body because I was confident without being boastful or cocky,” Anthony said. “I just showed that I know who I am, I know my position on the stage, I know the strengths and weaknesses in my posing on my body, and everyone should be looking at me and I should be the champion.

“You must have confidence. Not only do judges see it, they feel it.”

Chuckran agreed, saying bikini competitors have a lot of work cut out for them, if they want to walk away with a trophy.

“From a bikini perspective, a lot of people give it slight hand and think all you have to do is ‘look sexy’ and don’t have to do any work,” Chuckran said. “As a bikini competitor, I can tell you that you have to train probably harder than some of the guys that I even know, just because you’re spending just as much time in your cardio, or more time perhaps, as you are in your actual lifting routine.”

Plus, as the competition gets closer, and your meal plan can be gut-wrenching, the lifting routines intensify while your cardio may increase.

The result is a body glamour models dream about having.

After all, muscles are the new sexy.

And they’ll be on full display at the Palms for another edition of the Cutler Classic. Cutler, a four-time Mr. Olympia, says the community support is outstanding and that he’s pleased with the turnout of competitors, because the quality is what the jam-packed crowd appreciates. This, along with other events bearing the name of certain bodybuilding icons, has grown thanks to Cutler’s ambassadorship toward the industry, traveling worldwide to promote his brand.

wade and tarkanianBy W.G. Ramirez

This April will mark the 28th anniversary of my first published article after high school.

Less than a year after graduating from Clark High School, my exclusive interview with then-UNLV point guard Mark Wade was splashed across the front page of the Las Vegas Sentinel-Voice, the state’s only African-American newspaper.

That was 1987. Little did I know the next time we’d do another exclusive 1-on-1 interview, it would be under somber circumstances.

But sure enough, less than 30 seconds after texting my ol’ buddy Mark, he replied with one simple word: “Yes.”

The question: “Mark, you available for an interview about Tark?”

Mark Wade 2Just as he was UNLV’s loyal floor general who helped lead the Runnin’ Rebels into the 1987 Final Four, and was an extension of the coaching staff on the court, he was loyal to his former coach on Wednesday, roughly three hours after we were all saddened by the news that Jerry Tarkanian had joined his friend and former North Carolina coach Dean Smith in the afterlife.

Mark, understandably shaken, spoke about a number of things with me, talking about how much Tarkanian meant to not only him, but the program, university and city of Las Vegas. Much of what he said, I knew. The broad strokes, of course I knew. I’ve been here since 1972, and used to watch the Runnin’ Rebels play inside the Las Vegas Convention Center’s famed Rotunda, which resembled a spaceship.

From Sweet Lew Brown, Eddie Owens, Sudden Sam Smith, Robert Smith, Reggie Theus and that high-flying bunch from the 70s, to Wade’s crew that included Armen Gilliam, Freddie Banks, Eldridge Hudson and Gary Graham, I had seen them all. Yep, long before the 1990 National Championship – with Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony, Anderson Hunt and George Ackles – we were all bleeding Rebel Red.

Including Mark.

Which is why his phone began blowing up shortly after the 84-year-old legend died at Valley Hospital, just minutes from his home. So many people knew what Tarkanian meant to Mark, who might have been diminutive in size, but who had as big a heart as any other Runnin’ Rebel in the history of the program.

Which is why, to this day, he defends UNLV to the core.

“There was always this misperception that we were this undisciplined, crazy, helter-skelter uncontrollable basketball program,” Wade said. “But as chaotic as it looked, it was unbelievably disciplined basketball. To us, we had a plan and it was directed toward what we were supposed to do. Even on the championship team, they all had roles on the floor en route to winning the championship. Us, that 1987 Final Four team, we had a plan and we knew what we were doing and what we had to do to get as far as we did. We had a plan that was set forth in practice.”

And boy did the Runnin’ Rebels execute it.

They finished 37-2, averaged 92.5 points per game, allowed 75.5 points per contest and lost in the National Semifinal, 97-93, to eventual champion Indiana.

But it was the game before that, against Iowa in the West Regional Final that Mark wanted to talk about. It’s the one game he remembers absolutely everything about, and the one game he believes epitomized the life and soul of Tark the Shark.

“The eternal fight of telling one another we weren’t going to lose that game, that’s what I remember,” Wade said. “We were getting out butt whipped out there, I got my fourth foul and Gary (Graham) came in the game. And no matter how far down we got, we just always had the mentality it was us against the world and we were going to fight ’til the clock said zero.”

Just like Tarkanian. In real life.

“The Iowa game epitomized what Coach Tark was all about; it epitomized what college basketball was all about,” he said.

Wade_MarkWade remembers one intangible being the culprit allowing Iowa to open a 16-point halftime lead on the Runnin’ Rebels. That culprit, in a sense, was Tarkanian, who had Gilliam throwing the ball in each time Iowa scored.

“Our best finisher was taking the ball out of bounds, and that wasn’t working,” Wade said. “So at halftime, rather than him telling us what we were doing wrong, a couple players went to coach and we told him to switch Jarvis Basnight with Gilliam, putting the team’s best scorer into frontcourt, rather than the backcourt.

“And that is what essentially changed the flow of the game.”

UNLV outscored the Hawkeyes 42-23 in the second half and advanced to its second-ever Final Four.

“Coach and I never had any serious battles, what we had was a meeting of the minds on the basketball court,” Wade said. “We found a happy medium and that’s what made me enjoy being a point guard for that team.”

It was that kind of relationship that taught Wade to trust a coach, taught Tarkanian a lot more about the point guard on his team and displayed the type of coach who wasn’t afraid to learn from his players while teaching them how to win.

“He taught his players to fight through practice ’til they had nothing left, and in games, the model was to play ’til the game was over,” Wade said. “In life, his journey was the same as what we stood for on the basketball court. You fight until you have nothing left, to the very end.”

Faith3

John Molchon, Tyler Mahan and Austin Prather signed their letters of intent on National Signing Day. Molchon will play at Boise State, Mahan will be attending Colorado School of Mines and Prather will be playing Pomona College.

By W.G. Ramirez

Faith Lutheran senior John Molchon knew all along.

Faith Lutheran coach Vernon Fox knew as well.

There was no question about where the 6-foot-6, 275-pound lineman was going.

The only team that was skeptical, call it worried, about his commitment, was Boise State.

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Faith Lutheran’s John Molchon signed his letter of intent on Feb. 4. He will play football for Boise State.

That early morning fax Wednesday morning killed all concerns, as Molchon inked his name to a letter-of-intent to play football for the Broncos.

“He took a trip there mid-season and made a decision and never changed his mind,” Fox said. “He cancelled all other visits and never ever entertained one other opportunity. I told them they had nothing to worry about and yet they still called all the time and visited like every other week during his basketball season.”

The yearn to have Molchon battling in the trenches on Boise State’s blue turf further cemented what he already knew: Boise State was the perfect spot for him.

“I just loved the way they kept the pressure on me, it was a positive pressure, it was something where it was inviting,” Molchon said, Wednesday morning at a staged press conference for he and two other teammates who also signed their letters of intent. “It was a family like environment, and I just loved it and I embraced it and that’s really why I didn’t think of another school besides Boise State.”

Also signing were offensive lineman Austin Prather, who will play for Pomona-Pitzer (Calif.), and defensive back Tyler Mahan, who will play at the Colorado School of Mines.

Molchon, who said he was recruited by most of the Mountain West Conference schools, and Utah and Cal out of the Pac 12, is a two-time Division I-A all-Nevada selection. He was named the D-IA Lineman of the Year in 2013, when the Crusaders won their first-ever state title. This past year, he was name Lineman of the Year in the Sunset Region.

After spending time as a tight end and defensive end, Fox and assistant coach Nate Knight suggested he move to offensive tackle and how he could help out on the line.

“We felt his greatest potential for success – for himself and for our program – would be as an offensive lineman,” Fox said. “We made the change and talked to him and he embraced.

“He had schools from all over coming into see him, bringing a new level of attention and exposure here to Faith. He had over 10 offers. Many of those being at the Division I level. When he made his decision, he never turned back.”

And it’s that type of character it appears the Broncos and Boise State coach Bryan Harsin have inherited from Fox and Faith Lutheran.

“We identified him early,” Harsin said. “I was watching his film way back, and we really liked him. Coach (Andy) Avalos went out and saw him in spring. We got him up for camp, we liked him at camp and offered him. He came on his official visit and committed after that. He truly went through the whole process.

“We wanted to get bigger, in length, on the offensive line, and that’s exactly what we did. If you look at these guys when they come in here…(guys like) John Molchon, they look the part. These guys are going to get bigger, they all can bend and they all can run.”

Molchon said he’s not only excited about furthering his football career with the Broncos and in the Mountain West Conference, but also excelling at the academic level, something he credits his parents with, as they’ve instilled a certain level of priority and set the standard for him when it comes to his academic achievement.

“I learned about academics through sports,” Molchon said. “My parents set that in me, from the first time I was here in 6th grade, all the way up to senior year. That’s been the biggest thing for me, and sports have just enhanced the importance of academics.”

On the field, Molchon said he’s become a student of the game in the two years since Fox has taken over, mainly because of the position change, saying both Knight and Fox taught him how to understand the game better, giving him a sense of comfort on the field.

“My senior year allowed me to hone in on my craft,” he said. “I (don’t have to) worry about what I was supposed to do on the line, and was able to just dominate and just do my job.”

And though he couldn’t close out his senior year with a second-straight state title, he’s couldn’t be any happier with how his career ended, thanks to close bonds and a scholarship to Boise State.

“We grew as a team, it was a team effort and I will know these guys forever,” Molchon said. “I feel like that’s the biggest thing I can take from it. My experiences with the team and how guys got us here is amazing and that’s what strengthened us.

“And now, this Boise State experience and being a part of the team officially, it really makes me want to have the desire to continue with success.”

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Also signing from Faith Lutheran

AUSTIN PRATHER, who chose Pomona because of its excellent medical program and because he felt at home after visiting the campus.

Said Coach Fox: One of those kids who is a stand-up young man. Excellent character, and more importantly, one of the hardest workers you would meet – he’s an outstanding student. From day one that’s kind of been the thing, his ability to get it done in the classroom translates to him being able to get it done on the field. He has a relentless attitude, that never give up attitude.

TYLER MAHAN, who chose Colorado School of Mines because he meshed well with the players when he visited the campus and felt it was best suited for his academic needs at the college level.

Said Coach Fox: Tyler is a two-time all-state defensive back who is a hard-hitting kid. Not real big, but just the heart of a lion. From the day I got here, I didn’t know much about him because he doesn’t talk much, doesn’t open up his mouth, but his play does all the talking for us. He’s been a great leader for us. A quiet guy who leads by example. He’s been productive two years in a row, and will definitely be a big loss for us, but a kid we’re definitely happy about his abilities. A smart kid, too. He wants to be an engineer and that lent precedence to his decision as well.