If college football had a comeback player of the year award, Nevada senior wide receiver Brandon Wimberly might win it.
Wimberly nearly was killed by a gunshot in June 2011.
He lost about 60 pounds during a two-week hospital stay to repair his intestines and missed the entire season.
He returned to the field last spring and goes into Saturdays regular-season finale against No. 25 Boise State as the Wolf Packs leading receiver.
We werent really sure (if hed return), Nevada coach Chris Ault said. He never hesitated. He said, Ill be back. Hes one of those guys whos always special to you.
Nevada did not make any of its players available to the Boise media this week. Heres Wimberlys story, based on the reporting of Chris Murray at the Reno Gazette-Journal:
Wimberly has a nearly footlong scar across his stomach from the June 18, 2011, incident, which happened after a group of Nevada players got into a fight with another group of people. The shooting investigation remains open so Wimberly has not discussed the details with the media.
The bullet came within a centimeter of killing him. He cant remember the six days that followed.
When you see the scar, it definitely shows you how serious it was, offensive lineman Jeff Nady said. Its not pretty. When you see that, you are kind of surprised hes been able to get back to this point.
Teammates flocked to the hospital, which lifted Wimberlys spirits.
Not one time did I think football was over for me, Wimberly said last summer. I couldnt give up on my team. They didnt give up on me. They kept showing up, they kept visiting, they kept me in good spirits.
Doctors considered the injuries life-changing. But for the Los Angeles native, who grew up in a violent area, that term can be applied in more than just physical terms.
It made me value life a little more, Wimberly said. I wouldnt say it made me value football more. I know at some point football will be over. It ends for everybody. I just didnt want it to end that soon. But it changed the way people viewed you. It brought my family a lot closer. It sucks to say that it takes something like that, but it did.
Wimberly was one of the Wolf Packs stars before the injury, too. He was the 2009 WAC Freshman of the Year with 46 catches for 653 yards and five touchdowns. He added 41 catches for 482 yards in 2010.
At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, hes an inviting target for quarterbacks.
Hes just a big guy, physical, Boise State senior cornerback Jamar Taylor told the Idaho Statesman. And then in the red zone, he comes alive.
Wimberly has set career highs this season with 61 catches for 749 yards. He also has scored four touchdowns.
He caught seven passes for 83 yards in the season opener at Cal. He set up the game-winning touchdown with a 19-yard catch to the Cal 2-yard line.
I dont know what the hell Wimberlys doing back, an emotional Ault said that day.
Wimberly has developed into more than just the Wolf Packs leading receiver. He also is the leader of an offense that has been one of the nations most productive.
Hes very bright, Nevada offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich said. He could be a quarterback, hes that bright. He could be an O-lineman, hes that tough. And hes as competitive as we have. He has a lot of really strong qualities. I think hes probably the glue of the offense as far as a guy who has been there and done that. When he talks, they listen.
The Wolf Pack will honor Wimberly with the seniors Saturday but they hope that wont be goodbye. The school plans to petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility.
Wimberly redshirted in 2008, starting his five-year eligibility clock, but only played three seasons. He has graduated with a bachelors degree and hopes to complete a masters degree in May 2013.
He has the right for another year, Ault said. Hes only played three years and I would think with the seriousness of the event of a year ago the NCAA would give him another year. Theyre supposed to be helping people out and I would think Wim would qualify for that hardship year.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398,