UNLV senior defensive lineman Nate Neal revealed Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic has affected how the Rebels have communicated while constructing their culture under first-year head coach Marcus Arroyo.
For the better.
“During this time, we had the most communication that we’ve ever had,” Neal said. “I feel like we developed some chemistry that was well needed, and I feel like it’s going to benefit us in the long run.”
Arroyo, Neal and senior running back Charles Williams addressed the program’s fan base during a 50-minute virtual town hall moderated by Fox 5 sports director Kevin Bolinger. The trio spoke about the state of the program amid the virus, championing the values that Arroyo and his coaching staff have worked to implement in the last six months.
Fans occasionally peppered the coach and players with questions through Bolinger.
Optimism is abloom.
“The momentum hasn’t dissipated in my mind. It hasn’t gone down in regards to what we’ve done as a team,” Arroyo said. “The academic integrity, social responsibility and the competitive excellence piece of our program really stays in the forefront of everything we’re doing. … That’s who we are. That’s what we’re trying to identify with. I think what we’re trying to create is something that’s hard to undo.”
Rebels athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois was also on the call and said she toured Allegiant Stadium with Arroyo last week. The stadium is among several things prompting the optimism.
“It’s really exciting,” said Williams of Arroyo’s offense at Oregon that he is implementing at UNLV. “It’s very explosive, very fast, and something I can fit in,” Williams, who led the Mountain West in 2019 with 1,257 rushing yards. added that the offense is dynamic and versatile. “We don’t just use certain players. We get everybody going.”
Arroyo also addressed the cancellation of spring football practice, noting that it is not unique to the Rebels but was part of the new reality for most college football programs.
He touched on the importance of social justice, too, in wake of George Floyd’s death on Memorial Day in Minneapolis. He said the program is bringing in a political science professor to speak to the team about “the entire process, front to back, left to right, with an open mind across lanes.
“If we want to make a real change, these guys, our communities, our families … we have not made what we’ve done or what we’ve talked about or the lessons we’ve got to learn convenient. They’re not easy. You’ve got to really get into it,” Arroyo said. “I hope our players and our staff and our program feel it the same way that I do.”