Ryan Wolfe is a week away from closing out his stellar football career at UNLV, but it will end on the sideline with crutches instead of on the field padding his reception records.
Wolfe’s final season came to a close Friday after it was determined he broke a bone in his left foot during Wednesday’s practice at Rebel Park.
He is expected to have surgery sometime next week and begin a rehabilitation program that will last eight to 12 weeks, after which he will be on crutches for up to six weeks, according to UNLV.
Wolfe called the injury a “freak thing” in a UNLV news release.
“I just rolled my foot a little bit,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, but I realize there’s nothing I can do but focus on getting better and back into playing shape as soon as possible.”
Wolfe was not available for additional comment.
Wolfe’s total of 3,495 receiving yards is fourth in Mountain West Conference history and just 139 yards short of the record held by Colorado State’s David Anderson. Wolfe leads the conference this season with 74 receptions, which ranks 18th nationally.
Rebels coach Mike Sanford was disheartened by the injury to his star player, who is 12th best in NCAA Division I history with 283 career catches. Wolfe was in Sanford’s first recruiting class five years ago.
“It’s really sad, a sad situation,” Sanford said.
Sanford said Wolfe and about 10 other players were held out of contact drills Wednesday, which were part of the team’s bye week workouts. But Wolfe wanted to work on his punt returns. The coach said Wolfe “had a few bumps and bruises” and was on the field wearing a helmet but no pads.
Wolfe fielded a punt and caught his foot in a seam in the artificial turf at the team’s on-campus practice facility, Sanford said.
“In the five years I’ve been here at UNLV we’ve had several foot injuries,” Sanford said. “(Wolfe’s) injury raises the question about the safety of our turf at Rebel Park. It’s been overdue for replacement. It’s an unsafe field to practice on.”
Sanford was fired Nov. 15 after losing 45-17 at Air Force on Nov. 14. He blamed his program’s struggles the past five years, in part, on substandard facilities.
It bothers Sanford, who will coach the season finale on Nov. 28 against San Diego State, that he will not be able to take Wolfe out of next week’s home game so the player he calls “probably the best receiver ever in the Mountain West Conference” can receive an ovation from the crowd at Sam Boyd Stadium.
“He has been such a great player for us, and what a great leader he’s been,” Sanford said. “He’s just a tremendous young man.”
Two weeks ago, Wolfe, who will turn 23 on Monday, was selected as a first-team wide receiver on the 2009 CoSIDA Academic All-District Eight Team and could become the first Rebel to be selected to the Academic All-America team.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from UNLV with a cumulative 3.55 grade point average before this season began and has a 4.0 GPA in graduate school, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in sports education.
Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0247.