rebels football:

Blake Decker making his case this spring to be UNLV’s starting quarterback

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Courtesy of UNLV Athletics

Quarterback Blake Decker during practice at UNLV.

Heart of Dallas Bowl

UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring walks off the field after failing to convert on fourth down late in the fourth quarter against North Texas during the Heart of Dallas Bowl Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. North Texas won 36-14. Launch slideshow »

Blake Decker, the junior college transfer quarterback competing to be the UNLV football team’s starter in the fall, comes to the Rebels’ program with impressive credentials.

Last season at Scottsdale Community College, he passed for 4,241 yards and 47 touchdowns. Yet, despite the gaudy numbers, he says he couldn't care less about personal achievement.

“I go out there and I compete. I describe myself as a competitor,” said Decker, who enrolled in January and is competing with Nick Sherry during spring practice, which resumes Monday after spring break.

“I want to win more than anything, if that means throwing no touchdowns or throwing eight touchdowns,” he said. “It’s all about the team and it’s about winning.”

Decker’s mature outlook is no surprise considering his journey to Las Vegas, which started at a junior college in 2009 and included a brief stint in 2012 as a walk-on at BYU. The 23-year-old is older than most in the Rebels program, spending two years serving a Mormon church mission in Mexico City.

“It was an opportunity to go out and really dedicate my life to God and my church,” Decker said. “There was nothing football-related. One on hand, it was tough. On the other, it helped me gain appreciation for coming back and grabbing a football again and putting that helmet on again. It gives you those butterflies you have in junior high all over again.”

UNLV coach Bobby Hauck says the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Decker has some of the qualities as Craig Ochs, the quarterback he had for part of his successful tenure at Montana. Ochs led Montana to the 2004 Division I-AA national title game.

“He’s mature and bright,” Hauck said of Decker. “He’s a very, very intelligent guy and he’s confident.”

That intelligence is being tested this spring. Decker is playing catch-up to Sherry, UNLV’s backup last season who has passed for 19 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in two seasons, because he’s still learning the ins and outs of the offense. Some of UNLV’s concepts are similar to what he ran in junior college, which eases the learning curve.

“It will take well through spring practice for him to grasp everything,” Hauck said. “My perception is he is a fast learner. There is a lot to learn, and he is behind everyone else. A week to 10 days into fall camp, we’ll see the light go on for him, if not before.”

Click to enlarge photo

Quarterback Blake Decker during practice at UNLV.

Although he is competing with Sherry to become the Rebels’ signal-caller, it’s been a friendly competition. They are pushing each other to get better, comparable to the relationship Sherry had last season with Caleb Herring. Sherry was named the starter over Herring after fall camp the previous two seasons, but Herring relieved Sherry last season when he struggled and led UNLV to a seven-win season and bowl appearance.

“Nick is great. Jared (redshirt freshman Jared Lebowitz) is great,” Decker said. “All of the quarterbacks have been amazing. Everybody has a real positive attitude going in, and everyone is helpful. As a collective group, we are doing a good job learning the offense and moving forward.”

Learning the offense is surely easier thanks to one receiver. Devante Davis returned to UNLV for his senior season after a record-setting 2013 in which he caught 87 passes for 1,290 yards and 14 touchdowns.

“It’s amazing having a guy like Devante,” Decker said. “You can throw him the ball in any situation and he’ll go up and make a play for you. He will make you look good.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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