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February 27, 2015

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Green Valley quarterback accepts walk-on role at UNLV


Richard Brian

Green Valley quarterback Nick Libonati looks for an open receiver during a home game against Centennial on Sept. 5.

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Green Valley High senior quarterback Nick Libonati has always dreamed about running onto the field at Sam Boyd Stadium and suiting up for his beloved UNLV football program.

The Southern Nevada native — he was born at St. Rose Dominican Hospital in Henderson— is a lifelong Rebel fan and was one of their ball boys the past three years.

Now, his dream of playing for UNLV is a reality.

Libonati said he called UNLV assistant coach Kris Cinkovich Tuesday afternoon to accept UNLV's offer as a preferred walk-on.

He will not receive a scholarship and will be UNLV's fourth-or-fifth string quarterback, but getting the chance to wear the prized scarlet and gray on Saturdays for the next five years was too good of an offer to pass on.

Libonati had interest but no offers from other schools — all of which wanted him to wait until after the Feb. 4 signing date.

"I've been around the program for so long," Libonati said. "I can't remember the last time I missed a home game. I wanted to stay here and be part of something special."

Libonati mulled over the decision Monday night with his parents and they came to the conclusion that joining the Rebels was a no-brainer. Libonati's father, Daren, was UNLV's place kicker in 1986 and '87.

"He believes he can make a difference in time," Daren Libonati said. "He has some passion about his decision. We are proud of him."

Nick Libonati passed for 1,674 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2008 to lead Green Valley to the Sunrise Regional semifinals. The Gators also won their first playoff game in more than 10 years.

Libonati hopes enthusiasm for the program will rub off on other locals who have the opportunity to play for UNLV.

"I want to help reverse the trend of people leaving," he said. "I see UNLV as another Utah (which finished ranked No. 2 nationally last fall) and I want to be part of that change."

Libonati said he thinks he has the potential to develop into a starter. Current starting quarterback Omar Clayton started his career as a walk-on and fourth on the depth chart two years ago.

"(Nick) knows that he's at a school that if he steps up and does a good job, they won't be afraid to play him," Green Valley coach Matt Gerber said. "They aren't afraid to let walk-ons play."

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected].

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