Archive for August, 2013

CONTINUED from PART 1 of this series…

By W.G. Ramirez (TWITTER: @AP_WG)

  • BACK IN BUSINESS

Once released from prison, and needing to feed his appetite for making stacks of cash, Notaro was introduced to the sports-tout business by close friends who were working at a couple of the better-known telemarketing rooms at the time.

“I knew there was another telemarketing racket to where people were making good money, so I was looking for another gig where I could use my sales talent to become successful in something because as a kid I felt like that was all I knew,” Notaro said.

After working in a couple of sales rooms in Las Vegas, he eventually opened up a one-man office in Northwest Las Vegas and started to learn the nuances of the business. Eventually, he ended up at 4004 Schiff Drive – where he currently operates out of – and says he’s been operating under the same business license for nearly 13 years. According to filings with the Secretary of State, Notaro is the President, Secretary and Treasurer of Executive VIP Services International, which operates VIP Sports Las Vegas.

“You’ve got boiler rooms, and you’ve got licensed and bonded rooms – people that do everything on the up and up; I take pride in being that person, always have,” Notaro said. “When you compare me to Vin Diesel (referring to the movie Boiler Room), it’s hurtful. This isn’t a movie, I’ve worked my ass off legitimately to build this. I’ve never been a guy to market and advertise. I’ve never advertised ’72 percent, call my phone,’ like I’m a fraud or lying to people. I’ve never advertised or ran ads in my life.”

Maybe not, but the original “sizzle reel” made by Left Turn Productions – the same production company that made Mayweather’s documentary ’30 Days in May’ – promoted an outrageously big winning percentage by “Stevens” and riled up nearly everyone that decided to voice their opinion, including Las Vegas Review Journal columnist John L. Smith, who wrote two columns – one that introduced the upcoming series, and a second in which he interviewed a longtime gambling consultant and math and probability expert. Notaro admitted the publicized percentage(s) were Hollywood stunts gone bad for promotional purposes, and acknowledged he has not hit that percentage during his time as a sports tout. But he too got riled up – more than any other time during the scrutiny he’s received – since his show, according to him, is about his life and the sports-tout business operation, and not winning percentages or handicapping.

“That was exactly a clip from my TV show,” Notaro said. “That wasn’t me making a website and then going out and spending money advertising that I’m 72 percent. Even though people do that, I’ve never advertised in my life. My show is not about percentages. … My show is basically about bringing you in (my) world.

“The only people right now that are really bashing me are guys in the industry; guys that probably want a TV show or guys that used to be able to pay for advertising and have people call them and make millions of dollars. Those days are gone, so there’s gonna be guys a little upset that I’ve landed a show on CNBC when advertising in this business is so hard to come by because the day of spending a million dollars to get three back in return are over. And it’s fine for people to bash me, but I just want a fair shake. I want people to watch the show and give me a fair shake because they’re going to love it.”

  • MONEY TALKS

And so, a sports-tout business reality series that has generated as much controversy and drama within the sports-betting world as Miley Cyrus’ twerk session on last week’s Video Music Awards is set to debut on CNBC in a little less than two weeks, on Sept. 10.

Notaro2

Darin Notaro, aka Steve Stevens, makes his debut on CNBC’s Money Talks on Sept. 10.

“I’m very proud in what I’ve done and how I’ve succeeded and NBC is all about giving me a fair shake,” Notaro said. “They’re completely aware of everything and thank God for them because they believe that somebody changes. And I’ve really changed into a different person that people should be excited to see.”

The 40-year-old Las Vegas-native said viewers will see him actually get on the phone and deal with customers personally. Notaro said when he makes his sales pitch, it’s always about a big game. He doesn’t shy away from the fact it takes a hardcore sales pitch to get someone on the other end of the telephone to agree to send him money. But he also added he has never used his friendships with Mayweather or other professional athletes he’s met or knows because they live in Las Vegas during the off-season. Two reasons, according to Notaro. One, he said, is because he wants his players knowing they’re playing with Steve Stevens – and he’s the guy making them money, not his friends. And two, he’d never cross the line and incriminate the professional-team athletes he knows by comingling their names in the sports-betting business. Perhaps, maybe, that would be proof of one lesson learned about doing business the right way.

“I don’t get information from locker rooms,” Notaro said. “I know NBA players, I know Major League players, I know all that. I don’t get any information from any of them. I don’t claim to be some guy that knows a guy – none of that. I’m Darin Notaro, I’m a family man, I’m a good guy. I’ve got a lot of friends and family, I like to eat good, I hang out. I’ve done it all. I’m born and raised in Las Vegas, and I pretty much raised hell early.

“But Steve Stevens is a guy that’s all about his business, he’s all about making money, he’s all about feeding his family and he’s all about putting all his problems at the door when he goes into work. That’s what a master closer does, they focus 110 percent on the business and give it all they’ve got during the business shift. I don’t get paid unless (my customers) do… the biggest sale is getting the guy to trust you, then showing him results; that’s the hardest part. I’ve built my foundation from the bottom up. I do outbound sales. Convince people to give me the opportunity to showcase my talent, then my games back it up.”

This, according to him, is what we’re going to see on Money Talks; and then some.

“When these guys understand that I’m bringing viewers into the world of gaming as a whole, it’s not a competition,” Notaro said. “I’m bringing people into our world, letting ’em see it, exposing the world to it on a stock market level and letting people know there’s another option besides the stock market. I’m not telling you to stop playing stocks, but there’s another option. And a damn good one, too.

“Everything I do is on the up and up and I try to give you everything I’ve got. As long as I win more than I lose, that’s all that matters.”

Whether or not the show’s transparency will reveal that much remains to be seen. For now, Notaro and CNBC are betting they have a winner before the NFL season has even started.

READ PART 1 of this series

Special thanks goes to David Payne Purdum (@DavidPurdum) for his assistance and contribution to this report

Darin Notaro, aka Steve Stevens, will appear on a CNBC reality series Money Talks on Sept. 10.

Darin Notaro, aka Steve Stevens, will appear on a CNBC reality series Money Talks on Sept. 10.

By W.G. Ramirez (TWITTER: @AP_WG)

Part 1 of 2

Darin Notaro says he was making more than a quarter-million dollars a year before he graduated high school. And that, he adds, was surprisingly his downfall.

“My senior year in high school I made $300,000. You’re a young kid, you feel like nobody can really tell you nothing. You get a sense of power around town. People like ya, the girls, you feel a little powerful; but boy there’s a big price to pay with that. I was blind; you’re absolutely right about that.”

Notaro is a two-time convicted felon whose sports-betting reality series “Money Talks” is set to debut Sept. 10 on CNBC, and he’s hoping will pique sports-gambling fans even more than it has online critics across the sports-betting industry.

Yet while everyone from journalists, to talk-show hosts, to handicappers, to industry pundits who he said have no business wagging their fingers in his face since they seemingly operate with impunity while appearing to walk on high moral ground have been boisterous, the only person who’s publicly remained silent all this time is Notaro.

Until now.

After spending a couple of hours with Notaro at a local Italian deli – yes, at times it felt like the only thing missing was the Godfather theme and a gun hidden behind the men’s room toilet – it felt more like an interview with the character from a different motion picture: “8 Mile.” You remember the rap battle near the end of the movie, when Jimmy B-Rabbit Smith, the character portrayed by Eminem, does the unthinkable by turning the spotlight on himself and freestyling negative rhymes so his nemesis couldn’t?

Knowingly being recorded, Notaro was candid about his negative past and had no qualms acknowledging and discussing what everyone in the sports betting and handicapping community has been clamoring about since news hit the Internet and spread like wildfire about the show. Quite frankly, you’d think Notaro needed a white Ford Bronco the way everyone has been calling for his head, from social media sites, to sports-betting blogs and forums, to newspaper columns, to radio talk shows.

Then again, when you know someone has been convicted for being part of a telemarketing scam that bilked thousands of dollars from elderly people, the question undoubtedly has to be asked: “Why in the hell would CNBC – a satellite and cable television business news channel – give the felon-card holder his own TV series?”

It’s a question the journalistic community had to ask the network, and why it would endorse a television show that features a guy whose original two-minute trailer revealed a better-than 70 percent winning percentage for his players while calling himself a “well-known” handicapper, when most of the talking heads had no clue about Steve Stevens – Notaro’s alter ego in his office and on his show.

Well, with the college football season underway, and the NFL set to start next Thursday, let’s meet them both: Notaro, and Stevens…

  • REALITY, WHAT A CONCEPT

When one of your best friends is Floyd Mayweather and your office is just suites away from the world champion’s boxing gym, your worlds are bound to gravitate toward one another. Notaro and Mayweather met long before the sports tout suggested the boxer move his headquarters into the same plaza in Chinatown, but the fact Notaro is as flamboyant in his world as Pretty Boy is in his, it’s easy to see why the two are good friends.

So when Mayweather’s production team that makes the documentary 24/7 before each one of his fights listened to an idea of bringing cameras into the sports-tout world for a reality series about a phone-room operation, and Pretty Boy gave his crew the stamp of approval to work with Notaro, the sports-tout business owner said the right people thought it had enough sizzle to take to networks.

“Floyd is just a good friend of mine,” Notaro said. “He introduced me to the guys who did 24/7, they put the show together. Floyd isn’t looking for anything from me or anything from my show. He’s a good friend of mine and that’s pretty much where we stand. I don’t even brag about the famous athletes or the richest athletes, or this, that or the other. I’m not that type of guy. I’ve made it this far without doing any of that. CNBC just isn’t putting crap on the air. I’ve earned their trust and confidence and gave ’em a show that they’re backing 110 percent. And I hope America does too.”

With three shows in the bank, the pilot episode is set to air Sept. 10 at 10 p.m., while production toward 13 more episodes will begin the same day as the debut. Notaro said the misconception about the show is that everyone believes it’s about him handicapping games; but in reality, it’s about the sports-tout business.

The difference, Notaro said, is he is “a tout, … need to get that clear – I’m a tout. The show isn’t just about me and picking games. The home base is pretty much our office. But then there are five characters you go off and follow … it’s a reality show.”

Notaro believes he is injecting adrenaline into the industry, while his critics believe CNBC is about to shed light on someone who practices unethical telemarketing, and not the world of sports betting.

And that is where the controversy begins…

  • A TELEMARKETING FRAUD

In 1995, Notaro was one of several arrested for wire fraud and aiding and abetting in a telemarketing scam that targeted elderly people. He paid $12,230 in restitution and served 18 months in federal prison. Four years later, while on probation for those charges, he said he was arrested and charged with violating his probation by telemarketing without a telemarketer’s license. He paid a fine with the state and went back to prison for a year and one day. He is adamant a story reported on Wagerminds.com that stated he was convicted three times is incorrect – it was only twice. And as for the use of another alias – Darin Sasser – Notaro said that’s simply his mother’s last name and there was never any attempt at being disingenuous.

Nevertheless, Notaro is a convicted felon and has plenty to answer for if he’s going to appear on a financial television network to advise people how to invest their money in sports betting. Like how and why would you get involved in such a racket, and why did you return after once convicted?

“When you’re seeing seven, eight thousand dollars a week, you’re definitely blinded by the money,” Notaro said. “But as I got older and realized what happened and what we did and how you sold elderly people, yeah, it actually hurt my heart and blew my mind.

“Did I learn from it? It made me a whole different person, it made me a better person. When I look back at it, I think there’s still guys that I’ve heard are doing it to this day, makes me want to beat their ass to be honest with you. I worked at a company I didn’t own, I was a salesman … I went to prison for it. Young kid, got caught up in something, made some bad decisions. I paid a price, yeah it was very hurtful to me. Changed who I am, made me a better person.”

Asked if he ever considered the fact one of those elderly people could have been his own grandparent, Notaro became animated and emotional in his response.

“Beyond a shadow of a doubt,” he said. “It makes me sick, don’t like it at all. I got older and realized I was in a racket, a business that targeted elderly people and at that time you don’t really look at it as targeting people like that because you’re just doing your job at what people told you to do and I was a good salesman cause I was an energetic kid.

“But I sat there as a young man doing my time and paid a price that would put me in a situation to where I wouldn’t even think of doing something that I did 15, 20 years ago.”

His detractors believe he’s simply jumped right back into a world of unethical telemarketing, this time with his targets being naïve sports bettors that buy into a sales pitch that could be littered with unsubstantiated claims. And Notaro said he fully understands there might be legitimate critics who will question CNBC giving a platform to a convicted felon with his kind of checkered past. But at the same time, he also gives a Michael Jordan-shrug to those who are questioning Money Talks, yet still operate phone rooms or sports services of some kind under the same guise they claim he’s operating under.

“People are always looking for the bad,” he said. “But at the same time I paid my price for that … and I’ve done everything that they’ve asked to do … and I’ve worked hard and gave blood, sweat and tears to build this business.”

Which leads us to Steve Stevens…

Read PART 2 of this series

Special thanks goes to David Payne Purdum (@DavidPurdum) for his assistance and contribution to this report

Hasson Tim running by IIA

UNLV senior Tim Hasson went from being a walk-on receiver to a starting linebacker for the Rebels.

By W.G. Ramirez

Tim Hasson is the perfect love-for-football story.

In high school, he played as a freshman, skipped his sophomore season and made a comeback as a junior at Cimarron-Memorial. And though he thrived for the Spartans as a wide receiver, he routinely offered to play anywhere the team needed him on defense while the first-team offense was taking a breather at practice.

“He just loved to play,” said Rod Vollan, who coached Hasson at Cimarron. “He was incredibly smart, he was dependable, he showed up to practice, he worked hard … he was just a great kid to coach.”

That’s why, Vollan says, after Hasson’s stellar senior campaign – which saw him earn first team all-Northwest honors after recording 10 or more tackles, finishing with 106 takedowns – and opening some eyes at the local all-star game, it was no surprise his former star earned a starting role with the UNLV Rebels after accepting an invite to walk-on at Rebel Park.

“He went out and earned it; he had the opportunity to walk on and then he went out and earned it,” Vollan said. “In the real world you don’t get things handed to you. He is a great ambassador for that program.”

This is why it’ll be a bit special for the 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior linebacker when he takes the field for the Rebels tonight at 4 pacific in Minneapolis against Minnesota.

“Tim is a great story, a great example for young players coming into college,” coach Bobby Hauck said. “He showed up here as a walk-on wide receiver and three weeks later he was actually playing in a game as an outside linebacker. Those sorts of things do happen. He kind of got thrown in the fire, shouldn’t have been that way, but that’s the way it was and he kind of lived through it and he’s become a really good football player.”

Hasson, the team’s leading returning tackler from last season, has played in all 38 games as a Rebel and this year Hauck says he’s counting on him to lead a defensive unit that is under pressure to produce.

“I’ve been doing stuff mentally and physically, trying to get stronger in the weight room and working on speed,” Hasson said. “I’ve been doing extra work in the film room and trying to become a smarter player because I feel like that’s something I can use to my advantage on the field, to try to help me make more plays and harder plays.”

No surprise there, as it sounds exactly like the go-getter both Vollan and Hauck described. If there is any one on this year’s roster who deserves a run to bowl eligibility – 6 regular-season wins – it’s Hasson, who said he’s worked extensively during the off-season for his senior campaign.

Anything would help, as the Rebels had one of the most porous defensive units in the Mountain West last year, and need improvement with this season if they’re going to make a run to the postseason.

“Defense and UNLV haven’t been synonymous necessarily in a long time and we want to play good team defense and Tim’s a big part of that,” Hauck said. “He’s one of the leaders on our team, one of the leaders on our defense, and I expect a big year out of him.”

First and foremost, for both Hasson and his Rebel teammates, are to try to shake a 22-game road losing streak that stretches back to the previous coaching staff, under former coach Mike Sanford. Under Hauck, the Rebels have lost 20 straight with a suitcase in hand. But after challenging Minnesota to triple-overtime in last year’s season opener at Sam Boyd Stadium, there’s a sense of pride and confidence that streak-buster could come as soon as tonight.

“It would be a big sigh of relief,” Hasson said “There has been a lot of talk as far as why we can’t get a road win. That’s something we focus on as a team – coaches and players – this offseason, we talked about it. The only difference is the other team has people in the stands cheering for them, that’s the only difference, which shouldn’t even affect us. So that’s something we really (have) been stressing a lot here. I know we can win on the road.

“I’m ready, I feel like our coaches have done a great job in preparing us. We have a lot of guys eager to play and eager to get better. I feel like we’ve got a good group of guys out there and I’m ready to get out there on the field with them and go to work. I want to do the best for my team, but it does feel good … this is my state, so (I want) to try to go out there and represent and do the best I can to help my team win so people can feel proud.”

Sounds like the perfect love-for-football tale.

IMG_5636

Running back Tim Cornett, coach Bobby Hauck and linebacker Tim Hasson share a laugh with the media at the coach’s weekly press conference. The Rebels hope to end a 22-game road losing streak Thursday at Minnesota.

By W.G. Ramirez

October 24, 2009 is turning out to be quite a day in UNLV history.

That was the last time the football Rebels won a game while toting a travel bag.

Heading into Thursday night’s game in Minneapolis, where coach Bobby Hauck will attempt to win his first road game since arriving on campus, it’ll be 3 years, 10 months and 5 days. That’s 1,405 days to be exact.

More pertinent: it’s a 22-game road losing streak – 20 of which have come under Hauck’s watch.

“For a team like us that hasn’t won a bunch of games the last couple years, we feel like we’re (going) uphill a little bit these first two weeks playing a Big 10 team and a Pac 12 team,” said Hauck, at his first press conference of the season. “We’re gonna go out and give a great effort and we’ll try to steal a win in Minneapolis on Thursday night.”

It may not sound like a ringing endorsement for the season-opener at the University of Minnesota – not to mention the home opener in Week 2 against Arizona – but I’ll hand it to the fourth-year coach, he’s a likable guy who certainly believes in the product he’s putting on the football field.

“We’re certainly ready to get the season started,” said Hauck, who is 6-32 as coach of the Rebels. “I really like our football team, I like the work we’ve done and now we get to go put it on the field Thursday night at a Big Ten team.”

It’s a Big Ten team that visited Sam Boyd Stadium last season, and almost got sent back to the Twin Cities with an L, rather than a triple-overtime W. The Golden Gophers escaped with a 30-27 win in triple overtime, and now the Rebels are hoping to return the favor at Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium.

“It did leave a nasty taste in everybody’s mouth, but then again, the older guys always trying to stress last year is irrelevant now,” senior linebacker Tim Hasson said. “This year it’s a whole different team, and we can’t keep basing this game on how we played them last year. We’ve gotta come ready to play this year and look to get a win this time.”

Said Hauck: “Certainly when you lose a game in the last seconds or in overtime or in triple overtime in this case, you feel like there are maybe there are some plays that could happen that could get you over the hump. We have not played well on the road, we have not won on the road and we need to flip that switch at some point in time. Whether it’s this Thursday night or not, we’re gonna go see.”

Hauck has continued to praise the progress of his Rebels, who return 19 starters from last season’s 2-11 squad, and said Monday he’s pleased with the preparation his troops have put in for this game.

“I want us to go out and look like a united, well-drilled football team that’s out there to try to win a football game and not guys that are feeling their way,” Hauck said. “We just want to be a competitive, detailed football team that goes out and plays a good game. And if we do that we can look ourselves in the mirror, whether we win or lose, we can feel good about where we’re heading.

“I think our guys are well aware of the fact that we had three or four games where we were ahead in the fourth quarter last year and we didn’t finish the job and if we can get ourselves into that situation at different times during the season then we’ve gotta come out with the win.”

Hasson echoed his coach’s thoughts, saying he and his teammates are anxious to get the season underway so they can wash that taste out of their mouths.

“(We were) real disappointed with the results we had last season,” said Hasson, who ranked second on the team with 76 tackles last season. “We expected us to do a lot better than that, so we just try to talk as a team ‘let’s start from the first game, let’s not get behind like we did last year and try to fight out of it, let’s get things going from the first game’ and we all feel very confident and we’re all ready to go.”

CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH – Hauck was pleased to announce his Rebels will head to Minneapolis injury-free.

“It’s kind of exciting,” he said. “You’d like to say that’s by design, how we practice, how we’ve prepared and how we were able to do it. Some of it’s probably just plain luck. I’d like to give credit to our smarts, but it’s probably luck in some regards. But we’re a healthy football team.”

Hauck said because of the fact he and his coaches put the Rebels through an intense camp in the Spring, he’s been able to limit his players to bumps and bruises during fall training camp

“Part of that is our first two groups are guys that have actually played college football games before, so we were able to back it off in terms of live work.”

One person he should be happy will be back at 100 percent is senior running back Tim Cornett, who is on pace to become the school’s all-time leading rusher. Cornett injured his shoulder in last year’s season-opener against the Golden Gophers, and continued playing hurt throughout the season.

“I’ve been 100 percent for a while now,” Cornett said. “I’ve been falling on it, I’ve been tackled on it, I’ve been pushed on it, I’ve pass protected on it, I’ve done everything I would do in a game so…”

The 6-foot, 210-pound back enters his final campaign as the leading-active FBS rusher with 11 career 100-yard rushing games. Last season he topped the century mark eight times. He’s exactly 700 yards away from becoming the all-time career rushing leader in UNLV history.

Cornett was one of 35 players named to the inaugural official watch list for the new Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award. The award was launched this season to honor the nation’s top college football offensive player who was either born in Texas, graduated from a Texas high school or plays at a college located in the Lone Star State.

“Tim’s kind of worked his way into that conversation, it doesn’t just happen,” Hauck said. “Our expectation is that sometime, I would hope before November, Tim is the career leading rusher in UNLV history. It’s a physical position, things happen, but that’s our hope for him. … He’s a guy who has worked hard. And I think watching practice as recently as (Sunday) night’s practice, I think his vision has improved. He sees things better than he did as a freshman and a sophomore and if he stays healthy it should be a productive year for him.”

Last year Cornett rushed for 127 yards on 25 carries and had two touchdowns against Minnesota.

OFFENSE WITH A SHERRY ON TOP – Sophomore quarterback Nick Sherry is expected to start at Minnesota, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, will become the second Rebel signal caller to start back-to-back season openers in the past decade. Omar Clayton was the only other UNLV player to do it, when he opened the 2008 and 2009 campaigns in charge of the Rebels’ offense.

Last year against Minnesota, Sherry became just the third freshman quarterback in school history to start a season-opening game under center. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound gunslinger completed 16 of 35 pass attempts for 116 yards and a touchdown. He also threw three interceptions in his debut with the Rebels.

Nonetheless, Sherry’s 2,544 passing yards last season ranked as the fourth most in Mountain West Conference history by a freshman, and seventh overall in a UNLV single season.

THE GOLDEN GOPHERS – Minnesota comes into the season after a 6-7 campaign last year, which culminated with a loss to Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Minnesota, which is 10-3-1 in season-opening games when it played in a bowl game the previous year, hasn’t played a home opener since 2008, when it beat its current coach Jerry Kill and Northern Illinois, 31-27. That was Kill’s first season with the Huskies.

The Gophers are led by sophomore running back Rodrick Williams on offense, and senior tackle Ra’Shede Hageman on defense. Both are on preseason watch lists for national awards.

“I think Minnesota is a good football team, I think it will be a major accomplishment if we’re able to go in there and beat them,” Hauck said. “I think they’ve improved. They went to a bowl game last year, we didn’t. They are moving forward, and I think they’re a well-coached outfit.”

Now in his third year at the helm with Minnesota, Kill is looking to continue his success in his third year as head coach of a program. At Southern Illinois, Kill was 1-10 and 4-8 before producing a 10-2 record in 2003. At Northern Illinois, Kill went 6-7 and 7-6 before leading the Huskies to a 10-3 mark in 2010. In his first two season at Minnesota, Kill has led the Gophers to records of 3-9 and 6-6.

GAME NOTES – Minnesota is 1-0 all-time against UNLV … The Rebels are opening their season against a Big Ten team for the fourth straight season … UNLV has lost three straight season openers, all under Hauck, losing to Wisconsin (41-21 in 2010), at Wisconsin (51-17 in 2011) and last year to Minnesota (30-27, 3 OT) … Prior to 2010, the Rebels had won four consecutive season-openers, but against far inferior opponents (Idaho State, Utah State twice and Sacramento State) … The Rebels are 2-12 all-time vs. current Big Ten teams … UNLV is 14-9-1 when playing non-Saturday games … The last time the Rebels won a non-Saturday game was Nov. 13, 2008, when they knocked off Wyoming, 22-14 in Las Vegas … For entertainment purposes only, the Gophers have been installed as 14-point favorites over UNLV, while the total is 51.5. Last season the Rebels covered as 8.5 home underdogs, while the total went over 52.5 thanks to the game going into triple-overtime … Also for entertainment purposes only, the Rebels are an impressive 6-0 against the spread on Thursdays, but the Gophers have covered four straight non-conference games.

CunninghamYYYYY

Bishop Gorman QB Randall Cunningham Jr.
Photo Credit: Barry Wong

By W.G. Ramirez

When you grow up in Las Vegas, you’re bred under one rule when it comes to high school loyalty: if you don’t attend Bishop Gorman High School, you despise the Gaels.

I didn’t attend Bishop Gorman High School.

That being said, I like Randall Cunningham Jr.

If the name sounds familiar, he is indeed the son of the former UNLV great and NFL all-pro with the same name and is indeed someone who is emerging on his own accord. Junior, a senior this season, is the starting quarterback for the Gaels and opened the 2013 campaign taking his lumps in a 28-21 loss to Phoenix’s Mountain Pointe High School.

The game was televised in front of a national audience on Fox Sports 1, introducing America to one of the finest athletes in the nation – both on the gridiron and in track and field. And though the nationally ranked Gaels lost, Cunningham Jr. didn’t disappoint the home crowd and kept his team in the game by settling in and taking control of the offense midway through the second quarter.

The 6-foot-5, 180-pounder rushed for 103 yards and completed 5 of 12 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown.

“Once the first quarter and the second quarter started moving along, I felt like I definitely picked it up and was able to do my best to lead the team,” he said. “The first start is definitely going to be a little bit nervous. I went in there and my first two passes could have been much better. I feel like I was still getting a little bit of the nerves out.”

And while he bears an uncanny, on-field resemblance to his father on the gridiron, he was also named last year’s Gatorade Nevada Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year after culminating his junior season by clearing a state-record 7 feet, 3 1/4 inches to win the Division I state high jump title. It was his best jump of the season, and ranked No. 1 in the nation according to athletic.net.

“He’s way better than I was when I was a kid,” Cunningham Sr. said during a private interview before his son’s season-opening game. “He’s faster than I was, he’s bigger than I was, he’s smarter, he has more knowledge of the game than most people could even realize because I taught him so much and he’s been around the NFL.

“He’s well advanced, and a lot of people would not know that about him.”

Listening to the elder Cunningham speak, it’s evident the pride he’s had in watching his son mature. And while it’d be easy to ride the coattails of being the son of one of the most successful quarterbacks to play the game professionally, the former Philadelphia Eagle and Minnesota Viking said his son takes it in stride, receives advice graciously and shines in his own light.

“He’s compared to me, but he takes the pressure and is like ‘that’s my dad and I’m honored to have a dad who was successful that people can compare to me.'” Cunningham Sr. said. “He looks at me and he respects what I say to him. Even in the times when he might not want to hear what I have to say, when it’s kind of going against the grain, he still receives.”

Cunningham Jr. has numerous college offers, and he’s not shy about the fact he’s looking for a four-year deal that will allow him to play football in the fall, high jump in the spring and eventually get him to where his father was a human highlight reel – the NFL.

Included in the dozen or so colleges who are coveting Cunningham are Baylor, LSU, Arizona State, UCLA and Kansas State.

“I think about the Draft, I think about the 2016 Olympics – both are something I’ve dreamed about,” Cunningham Jr. said. “I would like to do both as long as I can and whichever one can take me farther, I’ll make the decision.”

Ultimately, both Cunningham men say Faith will steer junior in the right direction.

“He’s just really trying to enjoy himself, putting God number one,” said Cunningham Sr., an ordained minister the past 9 1/2 years and pastor at his church, Remnant Ministries. “God has blessed him from above.”

Said Junior: “I like to start my day out and end my day out with being able to talk to God and pray. Faith is definitely the number one thing in my life.”

Yeah, by Vegas rules, I’m not supposed to like Bishop Gorman.

But as a sports journalist, a father and a man of Faith, I like, respect and appreciate Randall Cunningham Jr.