ESPN’s Kenny Mayne, here for UNLV award, reminisces about his playing days as a Rebel

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Leila Navidi

Kenny Mayne accepts the Silver Rebel Award during the UNLV Athletics Hall of Fame Ceremony at the South Point Casino on Friday, October 12, 2012.

UNLV Honors Kenny Mayne

Kenny Mayne accepts the Silver Rebel Award during the UNLV Athletics Hall of Fame Ceremony at the South Point Casino on Friday, October 12, 2012. Launch slideshow »
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Las Vegas Sun reporters Ray Brewer, Case Keefer and Taylor Bern butt heads over the necessity of a UNLV victory against UNR and then breakdown the upcoming UFC event in Brazil.

ESPN talent Kenny Mayne was on assignment at the Thomas & Mack Center on a soggy Thursday afternoon, when a distressed UNLV student approached him.

“Hey do you think you guys could give me a jump real quick by any chance?,” the student said.

Mayne thought for a moment about his schedule. He still had to film a couple more scenes for his segment “The Mayne Event” on “Sunday NFL Countdown” and be at the practice football field in an hour.

But he decided — why not help the kid out? He and his producer pulled their rental car with Utah license plates in front of the student’s broken down Volkswagen and jump-started it. As the worn car screeched back to life, the student enthusiastically jumped in and said goodbye.

“Thanks, Utah!”

Like most, the student didn’t know he was talking to a former UNLV backup quarterback from 1979 to 1981, but he also wasn't aware he was talking to the famous ESPN jokester. Either way, it made no difference to Mayne. He was just happy to help out a fellow Rebel.

Today the university will honor Mayne at the UNLV Athletics Hall of Fame Ceremony for his exploits off the football field with the Silver Rebel Award. He has authored the book, “An Incomplete and Inaccurate History of Sport,” starred in several humorous feature segments for ESPN and has been a host on “SportsCenter,” among other accomplishments.

Between filming clips for “The Mayne Event” and jumping a stalled car, the Las Vegas Sun caught up with the often sarcastic UNLV alum about receiving the award, his athletic exploits and UNLV.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

How did you end up playing at UNLV?

I wasn’t a huge recruit (at Wenatchee Valley College), but I had enough decent schools looking at me. When I made my visit to UNLV, I just fell in love with the feel of it all. In the meantime, they ended up giving the scholarship to a guy named Sam King. Even after that happened I still wanted to go there. I walked on, and a short while later I got a scholarship.

What was your playing experience like?

In 1979, I redshirted. In 1980, Larry Gentry was the starter. Then I broke my leg in 1980 at Oregon (on the last play). That was the defining (moment) of my football career because I ruined my ankle. My joints are still messed up.

How did your single start at Long Beach State go?

I actually did well. I was (mad) they took me out at halftime. Sam was the starter and, really, to be honest, it was like coach (Tony) Knap was giving me a tribute for coming back from injury.

How would ESPN's NFL draft specialist Mel Kiper Jr. analyze your game?

Probably all arm, no head.

It’s funny I’ve heard (former Rebel quarterback) Randall Cunningham being interviewed many times where people will bring it up if it's an ESPN (reporter), and he’s what’s the word … generous, in his description of how I played. He’s always, ‘Yeah if he hadn’t gotten hurt man, he would’ve been in the (NFL).’ He glorifies it.

You and Randall Cunningham overlapped one year while you were at UNLV. What was it like playing with him?

I loved him. He was like a big puppy, just giant hands and feet, and skinny at 6-foot-4. He was still kind of developing; he was all arms and legs. He could throw the ball a mile. We used to do this thing after practice ... to see who could throw the farthest. Back then I was throwing the ball like 70 yards, but my ball would be going down and Randall’s would still be climbing.

How did you get into broadcasting?

It was from growing up, my parents' influence. We were made to be quiet during the national news watching Walter Cronkite. So I always had a strong interest in national affairs, current affairs, and politics, more than sports really. I wanted to be the guy who covered the Arab Spring or be the war correspondent and make documentaries. After I got my degree and started in local TV up in Seattle, I just sort of drifted toward sports.

What does it mean for you to be given the Silver Rebel Award?

First I was insulted because it’s to say I did nothing athletically, which is probably true. Honestly, it truly is an honor because hopefully people aren’t peaking at age 21. You’re supposed to do something more later, whatever that may be, and I’m proud that I’ve gone here. They’ve only done this award once before. (Maybe that’s because) they can’t find any people who were so bad at athletics that did anything later, but I think it’s cool. I’m proud to be the recipient.

What is your prediction for the UNLV-UNR game?

I believe my very presence will lift this team to a win over Nevada.

Fill in the cartoon bubble: What would you say to a UNLV fan?

Stay strong.

•••

In addition to Mayne, the Hall of Fame class includes: men’s tennis coach and two-time athletics’ director Fred Albrecht, women’s basketball player Linda Frohlich, men’s basketball player Eddie Owens, men’s swimmer Jacint Simon, softball player Amie Stewart, football player Kevin Thomas, creator of UNLV mascot Hey Reb, Mike Miller, and the 1984 UNLV football team that won the California Bowl.

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  1. Much love to Easy Eddie Owens, the first Rebel I ever watched. Automatic mid-range jumper and excellent defender ... As was the whole team!