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high school recruiting:

UNLV football grabs another local recruit, receives verbal commitment from 2013 RB Niko Kapeli


Sam Morris

Liberty running back Niko Kapeli makes his way through the Silverado line during their game Friday, September 23, 2011. Liberty won the game 26-20.

UNLV lands LIberty recruit

KSNV reports UNLV lands Liberty High running back recruit, May 30, 2012.

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When Niko Kapeli joined the Liberty High School football team as a freshman in 2009, the Patriots program had never made the playoffs in its seven-year history and was one of Southern Nevada's worst teams.

Three years later, Liberty is a perennial Sunrise Region power — a fact that has a lot to do with the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Kapeli. The running back is the school’s all-time leading rusher with one year left in his career, leading Liberty to consecutive Sunrise Regional crowns and 16 straight league wins.

He hopes to have a similar impact at UNLV.

Kapeli verbally committed to UNLV on Wednesday, becoming the Rebels’ first verbal commitment for the class of 2013. Kapeli was also recruited by Utah, New Mexico and Northern Arizona, but committed to the hometown Rebels so his family could watch him play. It doesn't hurt that his brother, fullback Jordan Kapeli, will be a freshman walk-on at UNLV in the fall.

Third-year UNLV coach Bobby Hauck has long stressed the importance of recruiting locals — a fact he's backed up on signing day each February. The commitment of Kapeli, who rushed for 2,389 yards and 29 touchdowns last fall and is considered one of Las Vegas' top players for the class of 2013, is a major step in the right direction. Last year, safety/linebacker Marc Philippi and Ron Scoggins Jr. from state champion Bishop Gorman School, and Basic High School offensive lineman J’Ondray Sanders made up a strong local contingent.

The players who signed last year each stressed the importance of living our their college football dreams at home. Kapeli echoed those comments.

"I always liked UNLV and wanted to play there. It is close and my brother is going there," Kapeli said.

While UNLV was Kapeli's only scholarship offer, Liberty coach Rich Muraco said other schools were close to offering. Some programs wanted him to attend their summer camp, which Muraco advised the Kapeli family would be a waste of time and resources since UNLV was their clear No. 1 choice.

“I’m excited to see him go to UNLV and help turn their program around,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “The only way UNLV is going to get better is to have the best local kids stay home. And that’s Niko.”

Kapeli has 4,298 career rushing yards and 43 touchdowns, proving his ability last year in the state semifinals against Bishop Gorman when he rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown, and caught three passes for 80 yards and another score. Still, there were questions about his transition to the next level because of his height. "That motivates me more to push and prove them wrong, and show I'm a Division-I player," he says of the criticism."

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

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  1. Good job Hauck. That's a steal right there.

  2. Nice pick up for UNLV... he's Great player and a great kid too.

    Congrats to Niko and the Rebs!

  3. UNLV got a tough kid. Congrats Niko, get us one more big year at Liberty, then go help get the Rebels back on track. Liberty Patriots will be state champions this coming year.

  4. Like to see the kids stay local we'll get it turned around!

  5. No offense, I'm sure Niko is a great kid. But we picked up a 5'8" running back who runs in the 4.8's. How is that going to help us? I know the article says he is 5'10" I have seen him in person he is 5'8". I hope he works out, but this is why UNLV doesn't win, they get 2nd and 3rd tier local kids.

  6. GURU, doesn't mean this kid can't help the Rebels. Two of my favorite players in the NFL all-time were 5'8 and 5'9. Barry Sanders and Warrick Dunn. This kid is a competitor and he is going turn the naysayers into believers.

    Check this NFL video out...


  7. LvLarry,

    I understand what you are saying, but he doesn't have the speed to make up for his size. Barry and Warrick didn't run 4.8 40's. Don't tell me that speed doesn't matter at this level.

  8. Guru
    You must really hate this Kid why? How do you know he runs a 4.8...oh it said that in his combine stats right. Than you must be one of those guys who never played football. There is so much more than combine stats. Combine stats don't make you a good football player, all it tells you is that you can run fast or you can jump high or jump far. Those stats can never tell you that you are going to be a bust or great in the next level.

    There was a great running back that played for the broncos a few years ago. Terrell Davis was a sixth round draft pick his combine 40 was a 4.71 which you would agree is slow for NFL RB's. If you're a football fan than you would know how TD's career went. if not let me refresh your memory. during his rookie year he rushed for 1117 yards becoming the lowest drafted RB to rush over 1000 yards. TD also went on to win 2 superbowls, 3x time pro bowl selection, 2x NFL Offensive player of the year, Superbowl MVP.

    Well with that said Guru you are the type of fan that knows nothing of the game. You look at combine stats and base your opinions off of that. Simply said you are a plain hater. Oh its Offence not Offense, and one more thing don't say No Offence and than later insult the kid again by calling him a 2nd and 3rd tier player. You're just fueling the fire which i know you don't want to happen....Im just saying....

  9. As a fan, I can appreciate where guru is coming from. BUT, "combine speed" and "game speed" are different. This is common knowledge among coaches. Both Shaq Powell and Justin Sweet have been timed at around 4.5 in the 40yd dash. Yet several times in Liberty vs Gorman game, Niko "broke away" from both of them and twice outrunning them downfield for touchdowns. I've always believed timed speed in football combines is "somewhat" fair but nowhere near a "definitive" indicator of what someone could do in a game. And that is where it counts...in the game! Ray Brewer even said in the final podcast of last season that he didnt realize Niko Kapeli was that fast! I've said it before and I'll say again...if you want to turn your football program, you must make a legitimate, calculated and proactive effort to get and keep the local talent. Las Vegas is brimming with football potential. AND you must look past the cookie cutter recruits. Hauck's scheme has been to find kids with the size thinking he could build them up from there. He's looked past ABILITY to get size to which I strongly disagree as a Rebel fan and supporter of UNLV football! Well he's had the team for about 3 years and not a single player was picked up in this year's NFL draft. A few guys got scrap offers AFTER the draft was done. The way I see it is we start at home!
    1. Proactively spend your recruiting time and money going after the best Nevada has to offer.
    2. Once you get them, their families and friends will come to your games and buy your merchandise.
    3. Take that revenue and put it back into your football program making the needed improvements throughout.
    4. With improved equipment and facilities (and being LAS VEGAS), you become more attractive to pull interest from some of the top recruits across the nation.
    5. You seal the deal with some of the top recruits from outside Nevada now. Along with the best of Nevada, these players will help get more W's than L's (provided you have the coaching and game strategy to make it happen of course)!
    6. Along the way, BEAT UNR DAMMIT!
    ...but I digress! LOL... Excuse my bloviating.. I just finished reading bout Romney's visit to Vegas. hehehe! After watching Niko Kapeli from youth football til now, I guarantee he will be a player UNLV fans and College Football will be talking about in the year's to come! This really is a an awesome pickup for the Rebel Nation!!

  10. sorry I meant Romney and "Donald Trump" (hence the bloviating..LOL)!

  11. dxyl,

    Thank you for correcting my spelling error. I played in high school, college, and the CFL. I know football. You have to put aside your feelings for the young man, and view him as a recruit for UNLV. I sincerely hope that he works out, but to ignore his size and speed is absurd. I will point out that T.D. played behind one of the best offensive lines in football, coached by the best line coach at that time Alex Gibbs. He also wasn't 5'8". I have seen this young man play, and he is a good high school player. My opinions aren't entirely based on combine numbers, we have all seen fantastic athletes that don't pan out. However, it can't be ignored, and with other backs around town and California he wouldn't be my choice. I don't mean to offend the kid, just speaking my mind as a UNLV fan. Also, if your final comment about fueling a fire was a veiled threat understand I am not afraid to hold a conversation on the finer points of football.

  12. Guru
    No threats Im to old for that stuff...fueling the fire on this blog is more what i meant guru, but i do accept your invitation on conversating about the finer points of football. We can agree to disagree. You may have not meant to offend the kid, but your statement came out as offensive. Tell me what other RB's in Nevada's 2013 class will make a better choice than Niko Kapeli. I can tell you Niko is not 5'8' anymore. Your comment on T.D. saying he had the best line in the game, so you're saying that he was not a good RB. That his O Line is the reason he is great? Well if that is what you are implying than I would be right saying that Shaq Powell is not a good RB also. He arguably had the best O Line in the state. with that said i am so looking foward to our conversation on the finer points of football....you buy the first round...im just saying....

  13. Hauck needs to try harder to keep these boys home. Liberty should reserve a parking spot for him.

  14. Too small and slow to play big time football

  15. another hater...what can you do...lol...

  16. Gorman Homer... I absolutely agree! hahahaha Good one!
    And willi tomo 1... Bottom line, it doesnt matter what you or any of us thinks. As long as the UNLV coaches like him and want him...then he's big enough and fast enough to play for the Rebels in return for a college education! GO REBELS!!

  17. lmao @ wi536uy.... Willi tomo...bbbbuuuwwwhhhhahahahahaha...ok

  18. I like cheering for this kid.

    What he lacks in prototypical measurables i.e. blazing speed, he makes up for in his intangibles i.e. hard-nosed, gritty, clutch player, and he's an absolutely durable workhorse with high football intelligence.

    I don't know him personally, but he conducts himself on and around the game time football field with admirable humility.

    He'll be a successful player at the next level.

    Just getting the buzz around LV for the blue-chippers to consider staying at home is a good thing.

    I'm looking forward to the new season.

  19. GURU, I understand your point. He's about 5'9" and for a running back that's ok. His forty time could b better BUT he does have very good football speed. And he's a very tough kid. Some things you can't measure. This kid has toughness and a big heart. He's going to do well. And although I'm a Liberty homer I truly pull for all local kids. I hope we get 25-30 kids to college a year. Now UNLV needs to go after the Boyd kid fr Basic, Tillman fr BG Marcus Williams fr Durango (4.43 top 5 in nation at Nike combines), AJ McQuaig Durango, and I'm sure a few more that I'm missing.

    Anyway, once again congrats to Niko and his family. You'll do just fine.

  20. Who says this kid has to be the featured back...It takes 3 backs to get the job done these days. He definitely has an upside. Little guys are tough to find behind Hauck's growing offensive line.
    GURU sounds like Al Bundy or Skip Bayless. I want this kid to do well he's got my support and I'll see him in the end zone front Row 1 sec 117 seat 23 and 24.
    Don't worry kid they said the same thing about me too slow and I made it in the end zone plenty of times!

  21. Glad to see a local kid staying home to defend his home turf with his talent. College football is all about local pride, yet the top schools couldn't succeed without out of state talent. If ALL local talent stayed in Vegas, UNLV could be a top 20 team based on how many of their players go on to start for top 20 schools year after year. If you grew up in Vegas, this is your home town for life. You grew up here. This is your home turf. DEFEND IT! FIGHT FOR IT! Oregon fans only care about Oregon, same for AZ fans, Oklahoma fans, etc. They cheer for their HOME team. Why help them win to make their local yokels happy? Why not have love for your hometown and make your hometown team win, make your hometown fans proud to be from Vegas? You only have one home town. I'm glad to see this kid is staying home to defend his home turf. That speaks a lot towards his character IMO.