Air raid to Reno
Most Division I quarterbacks have two to three years of starting experience under their belt in high school.
It the cutthroat world of college athletics, however, one Fallon standout only needs one year to reach his goal.
Joe Pyle, who led the Fallon football team to the Nevada DI-A state semifinals, did just that as the former Greenwave signal caller makes the move to the University of Nevada this fall.
“It’s both a sense of relief and excitement,” he said of the decision. “I was excited at the opportunity because of how the coaches have been and going into a family atmosphere where they do care about me even though I am a walk on.”
Road to Reno
Like thousands of athletes across the country, Pyle’s dream of playing college started at an early age. Still in middle school, Pyle traversed the country to attend as many camps as he could.
Upon entering high school, he continued his pursuit and was a starter on the freshman and JV teams. Still, in the offseason he would attend as many camps as possible in hopes of catching the eye of big-time college program.
But there was a roadblock in the form of a former teammate. Pyle played sparingly his junior season as former Wave quarterback Morgan Dirickson finished his three-year reign.
Pyle, though, was unfazed and continued to improve despite his limited action on the field.
“To Joe’s credit, he was still able to get better that junior and get better so he was ready to go his senior year,” Hill said. “He was truly ready to go … and he was very productive when he got in there.”
Once Pyle was tabbed the starter, he came in prepared in hopes of ending a 30-plus year state title drought. Although the team came up short in the state semifinals, Pyle was named the Northern DI-A’s Offensive Player of the Year and to the All-State team.
He completed 124 of 217 passes for 1,758 yards with 20 touchdowns and just three interceptions. In addition, ran the ball 74 times for 336 yards and six TDs.
“He’s built himself into a very fine athlete,” Hill added. “He has tremendous arm strength and football smarts. He understands coverage, he understands what we are trying to with our system. They’re going to have different verbage … and hopefully that transition is faster than some others.”
Next up, though, was finding a new place to call home. He had interest from several smaller schools, but was invited to Nevada as part of a “walk-on” day after an in-school visit from Nevada assistant coach Mike Bradeson.
“He came to visit coach Hill and me and pulled me out of class and they introduced the idea of me walking on,” Pyle said. “I was really excited about it and a few months later went to the walk-on day. A few weeks later I decided to go for it.”
The selling points
Pyle had interest from numerous schools including the University of Redlands (Calif.), Cal Lutheran, St. Francis (Ill.), Colorado School of Mines and Colorado Mesa.
But one school was left, and Pyle was impressed with his visit to Nevada.
There, he met with head coach Brian Polian, offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich and recruiting coordinator Mike Bradeson. The trio of coaches had watched film of Pyle and with his size, about 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, arm strength, knowledge of the game and academic history, sold the Fallon product on the Wolf Pack.
Although no scholarship was offered, Pyle is a preferred walk-on and enters the season as an underdog to secure the open starting position behind the likes of Hunter Fralick, Dante Mays and Tyler Stewart.
“My goal is to come in, work hard and earn playing time whether that’s now or four years from now,” Pyle said. “I’m not in the competition now, but I want to go in, work hard and prove I belong at UNR. I’m just excited about the opportunity.”
Pyle said his visit to campus was a great experience. The athletes received a tour of the school, football facilities, Mackay Stadium and watched a slideshow on the program.
“After that, we got to sit down with our position coach,” Pyle said. “He told me as long as I work hard, I have as much footing as anyone else. I felt comfortable with my situation at that point. I wasn’t getting the short end of the stick as a walk on.”
But what really sold Pyle, though, was the family vibe Polian and his staff has created. Pyle said he felt wanted, but knows it will be a battle to find playing time.
Undeterred by the challenge, Pyle said he faces another as he is unsure whether he will be able to participate in fall camp. He said the NCAA restricts the number of players at camp to 105, and being a walk-on, may have to wait to join the team until the first day of school.
“The coaches reassured me throughout the process that Nevada is a family,” Pyle explained. “They care about everyone and how everyone gets the same opportunities if they work had. That’s why I choose them as opposed to other schools.”
Putting in work
As he does on and off the field, Pyle has developed a strong work ethic. Hill said it is one of his strong suits, noting his former player kept a 4.0 GPA in high school.
Pyle’s work ethic, however, will be tested as he must juggle the hectic football calendar plus his academic course load.
He will enter Nevada with an undeclared major, but is leaning toward either a degree in engineering or physics. As for his career plans, those, too, are up in the air as he is focused on getting settled with the Wolf Pack program and life as a DI student-athlete.
“I know they love the fact he is a 4.0 student,” Hill said. “He’s a very highly intelligent, self-motivated kid. I know coach Rolovich, coach Bradeson and coach Polian like what he does. It was enough to catch their eye.”
His long journey to a DI school has paid off, but Pyle said he is just as proud since he was only able to start for one year in high school. It’s a rare feat for today’s quarterback, but Pyle’s determination and focus to chase his dreams is fulfilled.
Nevertheless, he is continuing his offseason workouts and also expects to attend a football camp in the coming weeks to help refine his skills before joining the Pack.
“There’s a quarterback camp … where they try to get ready for the season,” he said.
Yet another plus, though, is Fallon runs a similar offseason to Nevada using the Pistol offense. Pyle mastered the Wave’s playbook, although Nevada’s is more extensive along with learning the nuances of reading the defense.
“I feel like I had a pretty good year at Fallon last year, so I could fit pretty well at Nevada,” he said.