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April 18, 2014

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

ray brewer:

UNLV’s Alex Klorman never stopped believing he could play college football

It wasn’t always easy, but the walk-on has worked himself into the Rebels’ defensive line rotation

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Sam Morris

UNLV linebacker Nate Carter, left, and lineman Alex Klorman sack Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore during their Mountain West Conference game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Fifth-ranked Boise State won the game 48-21.

UNLV football plays spring game

KSNV coverage of the Rebel's annual spring football game, April 20, 2012.

The Rebel Room

Breaking down UNLV football's spring practice

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Las Vegas Sun reporters Taylor Bern and Ray Brewer discuss the UNLV football team's efforts during spring practice heading into Friday's Spring Showcase. The Rebels, which are coming off a two-win season, have shown signs of improvement.

Alex Klorman wasn’t good enough to receive a college football scholarship. It was the same humbling blow several high school stars are forced to accept each year.

Despite a stellar career at Del Sol High in Las Vegas, the lineman was considered too slow, too small and not strong enough for a spot on a college roster. National signing day came and went, and Klorman was left without any substantial offers.

So, he walked on at UNLV, agreeing to pay his own way with aspirations of living out his college football dreams, and knowing that earning playing time would be an uphill battle.

Make no doubt about it, there were times during his first year with the Rebels where he struggled and could have very easily decided to hang up his pads. He just didn’t quit.

Fast-forward four years and the red-shirt junior is a starter on the interior defensive line, and a perfect example of what hard work will do for you. The Rebels wrapped up their spring practice Friday with their Spring Showcase game at Rebel Park, giving the 6-foot-2, 270-pound Klorman another chance to experience the thrills of college football and — yet again — prove the skeptics wrong. After all, he was rated as the nation’s No. 223 defensive lineman prospect coming out of Del Sol.

Sure, Klorman isn’t a household name and he likely will never be a star player. But his attitude and dedication make the Rebels instantly better. If he can go from an unheralded walk-on getting pushed around in practice to a regular part of the defensive line rotation, just think how other (more talented) players could progress if they applied themselves the same.

Bobby Hauck and his staff spend endless hours researching the athletes they recruit to make sure they have a certain make-up they feel is needed to excel in the program. Intangibles such as being a team player and hard worker often are more important than talent.

Klorman, who was recruited by former coach Mike Sanford’s staff, certainly met the criteria.

“He is a tough kid who works extremely hard. It’s been that way since I’m met him,” said Michael Gray, UNLV’s defensive line coach. “He’s a blue collar, tough kid. You never have to tell him to hurry and go do something or go lift weights.

“As a walk-on, you don’t have the same opportunities as scholarship guys sometimes,” Gray continued. “Yet, he didn’t flinch. He didn’t look too far ahead of himself and he stayed the course. He’s a perfect example of a success story. He’s a local kid making it good in his hometown.”

Several asked to take Klorman’s route of walking on are out of football within three months. They become disenchanted with the journey of trying to earn a spot, find other interests or can’t handle the stress — physically from being a tackling dummy at practice, and financially from having to pay for school.

The defensive tackle Klorman had a different mentality. He wasn’t out to earn a scholarship (which he has since been awarded) and didn’t worry what position or task he was asked to master. He just wanted to be part of the game.

“When you come out here, don’t get hyped that you are a walk-on and you want a scholarship to earn money for your school,” said Klorman, who had 21 tackles and one sack last year and has played in every game the past two seasons.. “You are out here because you love the game of football. Play your butt off and keep fighting. Play to get on the field and not get money for school. Trying to get that money will mess up your mind.”

The UNLV program needs more players from Southern Nevada to follow Klorman’s script of going from walk-on to contributor. There are several locals with the talent to play at the next level, but still developing and not ready to be on scholarship. UNLV is a perfect fit because the college is affordable and Hauck has made it crystal clear he wants to win with a roster of Las Vegas players.

Klorman lived at home during his first years in the program, and paid for college using grant and small scholarship money. The only thing guaranteed was getting roughed up in practice. Then, coming back later the day for more.

When it was all said and done, he’s become the poster-boy for excelling as a walk-on. It’s a success story Hauck will surely use on the local recruiting trail and one high school athletes would be foolish not to attempt to duplicate.

“It was just grinding everyday,” he said. “It was doing extra film, extra workouts. It was two workouts a day and never stopping.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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