Paulo earns high marks

Most college students have sat through at least one class that serves as a better sleep aid than Ambien.

Even good students can struggle to concentrate in such a dull, slow-moving class. For promising UNLV linebacker Ronnie Paulo, who graduated from Western High School with a 3.0 grade-point average, that class was People in Technology.

Though Paulo didn’t come close to failing, the C-minus he received in the course last fall made him ineligible for spring practice. That cost him valuable time to learn and practice the defensive system and begin making the transition to major college football.

"I took it pretty hard," Paulo said. "Me and my family, we don’t demand perfection, but pretty damn close to it."

He vowed not to let academics keep him off the field again. Paulo had a 3.5 GPA in the spring term and is channeling the same determination to training camp.

Paulo is an incoming freshman athletically, despite having been a student for nearly a year. The C-minus forced him to wait until this month to officially join the team.

But Paulo’s ability could help him make up for lost time.

"Guys like that have a chance to play right away," coach Mike Sanford said.

But how much is uncertain. Linebackers coach Dennis Therrell said it’s difficult for a new player to become a significant factor right away — even one as talented as the 6-foot-1-inch, 225-pound Paulo.

"A lot of it is how much of the defense can he grasp?" Therrell said. "If we do play him, how much of the defense can we run with him in the ballgame? That’s the difference between playing a younger player and an older player who’s been in your program a long time."

If Paulo’s play at Western is any indication, he can be dominant once he learns the defense. He had 108 solo tackles and 150 total in 2005 for the Warriors and was named the Sunset Region Defensive Player of the Year.

Nebraska tried to sign him but wanted a quick answer. Most high school players would jump at the chance to play for such a traditional football power.

But Paulo wanted to wait, even if it meant losing out on a scholarship to one of the Big 12 Conference’s top teams.

Had Nebraska waited, Paulo said it’s "50-50" that he would have headed there instead of staying home. But the lure of playing in front of family and friends might have been enough to keep him here anyway.

"I like being the hometown guy," said Paulo, who also considered Utah State, which UNLV will open its season against Aug. 30.

Paulo signed with the Rebels in 2006 as a grayshirt, meaning he could become a part-time student last fall but could not enroll full time until January.

He needed a 2.0 GPA last fall to be able to compete in spring practices, but the C-minus combined with a C in another class gave him a 1.88.

Falling short was quite a shock. But Paulo said the experience was worth it.

"It’s made me that much more hungry to be out here," he said. "I missed the game."

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