A player of the century
Todd Wilcks, a second-generation star athlete at Douglas High School in the 1970s, can now be remembered as one of the football greats of the 20th century at the University of Nevada.
Wilcks was honored as an offensive lineman on Nevada’s Team of the Century Offense announced by the university this week, the culmination of a selection process that began on Oct. 1, 1997. Thirty players, 15 on offense and 15 on defense, were selected to the all-time list.
Wilcks, who still resides in Minden and works as an insurance agent, described the selection as a true honor.
“It was quite a shock, that’s a nice group to be associated with,” Wilcks said. “I know a lot of research went into selecting that one team … that was an unbelievable task … and when you stop to think about all the good players who have come out of Nevada over the years, this really is quite an honor.”
Five separate nominating committees were used to compile this team, selected by Nevada as a salute to an athletic past that dates back to Oct. 15, 1898, when the university played its first football game.
“The players who came out of this process were all members of outstanding teams or were outstanding individual players,” according to selection committee chairman Jeff Ardito, a Tahoe City product who played quarterback for the Wolf Pack in the 1970s. “They were instrumental to the success of the teams that they played on, and I think that this group is truly representative of a team of the century.”
Wilcks, who played on Nevada teams that went 32-13-1 between 1978 and ’81, was an All-Big Sky Conference selection and named to the Associated Press small college All-American team as a senior in 1981. He played each position on the offensive line during his four-year career and was recognized as a key part of a high-powered running game.
“Four of those guys (offensive linemen) all played or coached together, which was kind of nice,” said Wilcks, who stayed on at Nevada as a member of the coaching staff in 1982 and ’83.
Of interest, Wilcks was joined on the Team of the Century by cousin Neil Hulbert, a defensive lineman who played high school ball at Tonopah and then at Wooster in Reno. (Todd’s father Ron was a standout athlete at Douglas High, and his son Matt played freshman football at Douglas this past season.)
Some impressive names from the past were recognized on the Team of the Century, including All-Americans and players who went on to play in the NFL.
On the offensive side, quarterback Stan Heath, a first-team All-American who led the nation in passing in 1949 and then went to play with the Green Bay Packers; lineman Derek Kennard played with the New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys; and lineman Vic Carroll played with Washington and New York in the 1930s. Each of the four running backs was prominent: Marion Motley is a member of the NFL Hall of Fame and the NFL 75-Year Anniversary Team after his brilliant career with the Cleveland Browns in the 1940s; Frank Hawkins played for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders; Tommy Kalmanir, a standout on offense and defense, played for the Los Angeles Rams; and James “Rabbit” Bradshaw, who led the country in yards gained in 1920-21, played in the inaugural East-West Shrine Game and is a member of the Walter Camp Hall of Fame.
Defensive back Patrick Hunter enjoyed a successful 10-year career with the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona, defensive end Charles Mann played 10 years with the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers, defensive back Buster McClure twice played in the East-West Shrine Game and for the National League Boston Yanks in the 1940’s, linebacker Henry Rolling played with the Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and punter Pat Brady played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1950s.
Two defensive standouts from Nevada’s 1997 team were recognized: Linebacker Deshone Myles, who was drafted in the fourth round by Seattle and lineman James Cannida, Tampa Bay’s sixth-round selection. Cannida signed a contract with the Bucs on Thursday.
All of this has brought back some great memories, according to Wilcks.
“Oh gosh, it really does,” he said. “When you’re there, you’re always trying to give 100 percent and improve, and when you get finished up, you think what you have done is over and in the past so you move on to other things. Then all of a sudden, something like this comes along. It’s nice to know other people remember the success you had.”
UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA
TEAM OF THE CENTURY
Quarterbacks – Stan Heath (1947-48); Chris Vargas (1976-79)
Offensive line – Roberto Selden (1976-79), Todd Wilcks (1878-81), Derek Kennard (1980-83), Greg Rea (1981-84), Vic Carroll (1931-34), Leslie “Spud” Harrison (1922-25).
Tight end – Scott Beasley (1946-48).
Wide receiver – Alex Van Dyke (1994-95).
Running backs – Frank Hawkins (1977-80), James “Rabbit” Bradshaw (1919-21), Marion Motley (1940-42), Tommy Kalmanir (1946-48).
Kicker – Tony Zendejas (1981-83).
Line – Buster McClure (1943-46), Charles Mann (1980-82), Neil Hulbert (1987-90), James Cannida (1994-97).
Linebackers – Ken Sinofsky (1944, ’46-’48), Henry Rolling (1983-86), Matt Clafton (1988-91), Deshone Myles (1994-97).
Backs – Greg Grouwinkel (1972-74), Tony Shaw (1986-88, ’90), Patrick Hunter (1982-85).
All-purpose – Dick Trachok (1946-48), Jim Bailey (1926-28).
Punter – Pat Brady (1949-50).
Coach – Chris Ault (163-63-1, 1976-92 & 1994-95).
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