Caleb Herring was getting ready to leave the Rebel Park practice field for one last time last week.
“You’ve got one more (interview) here,” UNLV football media relations director Mark Wallington told the 6-foot-3 senior from Citrus Hill High School in Moreno Valley, Calif.
“It’s kind of surreal for me,” Herring said. “This was my last practice at Rebel Park. Some of the guys reminded me of that before practice started.”
There will be lots of “last” moments for the senior, leading up to UNLV’s first bowl appearance since 2000. The Rebels (7-5) will face North Texas (8-4) in the Heart of Dallas Bowl at the famed Cotton Bowl on New Year’s morning. (9 a.m. PT, ESPNU)
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“It would have been really tough to go a whole career here and not have enjoyed the success of making it to a bowl game,” Herring said. “It’s definitely a storybook ending.”
What makes this ending so much more special was the craziness of the middle chapters.
UNLV won just four games during Herring’s sophomore and junior seasons. His stat line for the 2012 season: 24-for-41 for 301 yards and two touchdowns passing; 18 receptions for 136 yards receiving.
After starting most of the 2011 season at quarterback, Herring was beaten out by redshirt freshman Nick Sherry before his junior season. Some players in his situation might have quit or transferred, but he stuck it out and moved to wide receiver where the team had a void.
“Having something taken away from you that you love to do, it hurt,” he admitted.
Herring started this season as the No. 2 QB on the depth chart, but got his chance on UNLV’s third possession against Central Michigan, with the Rebels already trailing 21-0.
“Being removed from quarterbacking definitely helped with my maturity,” he said. “I really take pride in a lot more of the things I took for granted way back to when I stepped on campus in 2009.”
Herring helped rally the Rebels to a 31-21 victory, completing 24-of-28 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns.
Herring’s current stat line this season: 234-of-364, 2,522 yards, 22 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He also has rushed for 313 more yards and five touchdowns
“I couldn’t ask for anything better,” he said. “I got a second chance to play quarterback, the position I love.”
After a mix of playing quarterback and receiver in Rebel career, Herring will play one final game at quarterback, looking to write one final chapter to his comeback saga.
“The senior motto around here is, ‘It’s not enough to just make it, we want to go ahead and win the game’ “, he said. “It will be a big thing for the young guys, the guys that are returning. The seniors would like to leave that for them to springboard into the off-season.”
STORY AND VIDEO BY BARRY WONG