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Don’t tread on us
‘Bring it on,’ senior leader Cordova says of experienced Pack defense

Senior defensive end Jorge Cordova would like to think the Charles Atlas days have begun for the Nevada Wolf Pack football team.

No more kicking sand in the faces of the defensive linemen. It’s the end of the line for power-packed rushes past the linebacker corps. The time has come for a quicker and more experienced secondary to gear up for Hawaii and Boise State’s potent and explosive offenses.

“This team is ready to play anybody,” says Cordova, defensive co-captain the past two seasons. “I don’t think anybody is going to intimidate us.”

Atlas, the famous subject of “The Insult that Turned a Chump into a Champ” advertisements in comic books worldwide, could not have said it better.

Cordova is glad that this “little unit of ours, “ as the Murrieta, Calif. native understates when describing his teammates, with its five defenders playing in their fourth year with the Pack, could stick together since the 2000 season. The players’ initial campaign at Nevada, under new head coach Chris Tormey, was marked by a 2-10 record, in which the defense allowed 464 points.

In 2001, the team collected three victories. Last season, although the days on the field were immeasurably better than two years previous, they did not pass without hope for further improvement.

Cordova and defensive tackle Derek Kennard Jr., along with linebackers Carl LaGrone, Daryl Towns and J.D. Morscheck, are friends for life and nearly half of the 10 defensive starters returning this fall from a 5-7 team.

“The thing that’s notable with that group is that many of these players have been three-year starters, and some of them four-year starters,” Tormey says. “Cordova, Towns and Kennard...LaGrone and (rover) Ronnie Hardiman. ... They all started as freshmen. This will be their fourth year as starters. So they have played a lot of football.

“I believe that this year’s group of seniors will be the strongest group we’ve had,” Tormey adds. “That’s why we expect to have our strongest team.”

Cordova believes that overall strength is a result of hard work.

“Coach [defensive coordinator Jeff] Mills puts me up as a leader of the defense,” Cordova says. “I go out there and just try to work my hardest and try to make everybody work as hard as I do.”

In 2002, the 6-foot-2 Cordova topped the Western Athletic Conference with 8 1/2 sacks.

“I just never stop when I’m out there,” he says. “I think my speed has a lot to do with my being able to take down a quarterback from behind. It’s good having the speed of a linebacker at defensive end because there’s not that many people who are going to get around you.”

Opposing offensive coordinators might think Cordova is solely a speedy rusher who can be stopped with physical play. The 22-year-old has a confident retort for that assessment.

“I would say, ‘Bring it on,’” says Cordova, named by media covering the WAC as preseason Defensive Player of the Year. “I’m going to be ready for it, and my strength has increased quite a bit these last couple years. I’ve worked more on my technique.

I was undersized when I first got out of high school. I was 200 to 205 pounds, but now I’m 240, 245.”

The human development and family studies major is considering a career in child counseling. He worked occasionally as a preschool volunteer during the 2003 Spring Semester.

No weakling for team building, either in classrooms full of youngsters or under the lights against UNLV at Mackay Stadium, Cordova believes in bonding.

“This past spring, last summer, this summer, I bonded with everybody on the defensive side,” Cordova says. “But me, Daryl, Derek, Carl and J.D., we were all little guys coming in and playing against these men on the field, you know, getting our butts kicked. We’ve been through a lot together.”

Cordova is certain that learning from those experiences as a unit should create a tough day at the beach for opponents who come his team’s way.

Volleyball standout Burton makes a name on court, on camera

A self-described 6-foot-2 “jock who knows how to cram” in the classroom, Nevada volleyball middle blocker Kellie Burton is so much more. In addition to playing a prime role on Nevada’s NCAA Tournament team in 2002, the 20-year-old Burton is a Dean’s List student in the Reynolds School of Journalism.
University Relations writer Pat McDonnell interviewed Burton in the Reading Room in the Reynolds School in midsummer.

By Pat McDonnell

Q: You are interning with Bryan Samudio (sports director at KOLO-TV). In that position you have been seeing some ABC-TV feeds picked up by the local station on the war in Iraq and other important international events. As a journalism major, what is your opinion regarding the media’s coverage of the war in that country?

“It’s definitely going to be kind of sugar-coated. I believe that we give information that we want people to hear. We’re not going to give them all the bad news. We want to sound like we’re the ones that are ahead. As far as any war, you want your country to be behind it.”

Q: Looking at what you’ve done in your life ... and you’re young, what do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment so far?

“I consider athletics to be my greatest accomplishment. Not only has it paid for my education, but it’s opened so many doors for me. I’ve met a ridiculous amount of people in the community, coaches, sportscasters. It’s a good way to get your foot in a lot of doors. You learn about yourself. You learn to work with people, and I think I’ve done some outstanding things in athletics as far as basketball and volleyball. I would never give up any of the experiences I’ve had in the last eight years (USA Today selected Burton as Nevada Basketball Player of the Year in 2001 after her senior season at Galena).”

Q: What is the most important lesson you have learned in college, including your first year at the University of Arizona and now at Nevada?

“I think integrity and self-motivation. You have to do the right thing when no one else is looking. That’s so true, especially in college when you have to motivate yourself.”

Q: Now, more of a fun question. If college life were a sport, what sport do you think it would be?

“I think it would be luck. What’s a game of luck (she whispers)? I don’t know. Golf (laughs). Actually, golf would be a good thing because you never know what every day is going to bring. You can come in and have the best game of your life and then the next day walk in and, you know, shoot 20-over-par.”

Q: A lot of the buzz in the national media is on Title IX (mandating gender equity in collegiate athletics), and I’m wondering how athletics has shaped you as a woman?

“It has made me a more confident person. It has given me so much more to add to myself as a person. As a woman, in general, it’s so good to be able to go to college for something, to work hard for something, instead of just having to go to school.”

Q: In your Writing for the Media class this past spring, you wrote a final paper on “The New Commercial Face of Reno.” What would you do, in the future, if you were the head of economic development or the area visitor’s bureau?

“I would probably make downtown and the river so much better. Half the people at the university whom I know have no idea that there’s a river flowing through downtown. I thought that, with having a beautiful river right in central Reno, it should definitely be a place where people want to hang out. Not [a place] to be scared because it’s dangerous or what not.”


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