PAIR OF REBEL DEFENSIVE BACKS EARN SCHOLARSHIPS
Walk-ons Jocquez Kalili and Ty’Jason Roberts surprised with scholarships at team meeting Thursday
The UNLV football team gathered Thursday morning for its final meeting before the players head out on a short summer break and head coach Tony Sanchez had a surprise in store for a pair of Rebel defensive backs. Rising seniors Jocquez Kalili and Ty’Jason Roberts, who joined the program prior to the 2017 season as walk-ons, were called to the front of the room at the conclusion of the meeting for what they thought was just some extra praise for their hard work this offseason, but behind them on the big screen was the surprise that they were being awarded scholarships.
The NCAA recently changed a rule that previously restricted programs from giving scholarships to players that had been in residence for less than two years without it counting against the program’s scholarship allotment for that year, but with that rule modified it opened the door for Sanchez and the Rebels to reward Kalili and Roberts without it counting against the 2019 class.
Kalili is a local product out of Desert Oasis High School who began his career as a walk-on running back at Arizona, then spent two years at Mesa Community College before returning home last summer and joining UNLV football. After he arrived, he switched to defensive back and worked his way into a starting cornerback role before an injury cut his season short. Kalili played in seven games last fall, starting four of them, and recorded 23 tackles (16 solo), 2.0 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Roberts attended Hamilton High School in West Los Angeles, California, where he was teammates with quarterback Armani Rogers and defensive back Jericho Flowers. He redshirted at Arizona State in 2015, then took a year off from football when he transferred to UNLV in 2016. Last spring, Roberts attended open tryouts and made the team, climbing to a No. 2 cornerback spot on the depth chart heading into fall 2017. Roberts became a key reserve during the 2017 season, playing in 11 of 12 games, and is expected to move into a starting role in 2018.
“These guys are great players and the NCAA just changed the rules where you can be a resident one year and earn a scholarship. They walked on and one is a starting corner and one is a starting nickel and they deserve it,” said Sanchez. “It’s great for these guys on the team to see that when you work hard, put your head down and don’t worry about being on scholarship – just playing for the love of the game and executing at a high level, you can be rewarded and that’s what happened today and it’s well deserved.”
Both Kalili and Roberts were shocked when they turned around and looked at the screen behind them.
“I just want to thank the coaches here and everybody that’s been supporting me and gave me the chance to walk on and prove myself,” said Kalili. “I honestly never imagined this would happen. I’m going into my senior year and I’ve been through JuCo and another university, so it’s great that my hometown ended up giving me the best opportunity.”
“I thought this would never happen,” said Roberts. “I’m happy that they were able to see the work we’ve put in day-in and day-out, it’s just a blessing and there’s no words to describe how grateful I am.”
The Rebels open their season on Saturday, Sept. 1 with a trip to USC. The home opener is one week later vs. UTEP. Season tickets for UNLV’s six-game home schedule are on sale now by logging on to www.unlvtickets.com or calling (702) 739-FANS for more information.