In San Jose State's AutoNation Cure Bowl win last December, Spartan quarterback Kenny Potter was named the Most Valuable Player. There were Spartan heroes in the game -- running back Tyler Ervin, kicker Austin Lopez, linebacker Christian Tago, and tight end Josh Oliver whose one reception was the game-clinching score.
Defensive end Nick Oreglia was one of the Spartans who toiled with little fanfare, but was essential in the program's third consecutive bowl win in a 10-season span. He was part of a defense that came up with a season-high four quarterback sacks and limited Georgia State to 23 yards rushing on 20 attempts and a completion percentage rate of less than 50 percent for the only time in 2015.
The bowl win capped a season in which the Willow Glen High product went from no (not his initials) playing time his first three seasons to one of 10 players to start in every game last season.
"I'm happy I didn't walk away from it. It was tough being a walk-on and on the scout team for three years. Honestly, I didn't even see where I was on the depth chart to know if I could get any playing time," Oreglia said about his playing status on this date a year ago. "I was questioning if it was worth it to spend another year on the scout team. I stuck with it and it ended up working out."
The pendulum began swinging in his favor in late July 2015 when then defensive line coach James Jones told Oreglia he would be moved to defensive end. That would be his third new position to learn in his four seasons. The third time proved to be a charm, especially when he found out on August 15 after the Spartans' first scrimmage that he was being placed on scholarship.
In the AutoNation Cure Bowl, Oreglia matched his season-high of six tackles, was in on a quarterback sack, rushed Georgia State's Nick Arbuckle into two quarterback hurries and forced a fumble on a 3-and-1 play that resulted in a Panther punt on the 4th down and Ervin's 85-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead.
"Physically, I'm stronger, faster. Mentally, I figured out, `you can push through anything,'" says the 6-foot-3, 280-pound defensive end about the evolution of his game and his outlook on life since being on scholarship.
"There are some D-line walk-ons (in camp) and I kind of see myself in them in a way. I can see how frustrated they are trying to get the plays down, learn the playbook, trying to get all the different techniques down and deal with the whole situation being a defensive lineman. It's frustrating when you are doing it for `free.' I try to give them advice as best I can."
"The experience from last year gives me more confidence from the get-go for game one this year. It's a big confidence booster," adds the 2016 San Jose State graduate that majored in communication studies and is enrolled in the SJSU interdisciplinary studies master's degree program.
"Nick acts like a man on a mission. He's got a single-minded purpose right now. He works extremely hard. He's never satisfied with any one point in time. He's also become a more verbal leader in what he does," says new defensive line coach Barry Sacks, Oreglia's position coach since February.
"He's going to be on his way to have an exceptional year. His first two days have been unbelievable. He had a great summer's worth of work. He's gained some real good weight. He's so strong physically. He's improved his pass rush tremendously.
"If you look at the culture of this room (the defensive linemen's meeting room), it's incredibly different from they been through in the past. They bring one another up. It's accountability. It's a hard-working culture. Nick is probably the biggest by-product of that type of culture."
Oreglia and his teammates will be back in the football practice facility, Sunday, August 7, for the third day of preseason practice. Again, the entire session will mirror the first day with the veterans first, followed by special teams work and the newcomers going through their paces last on the neatly manicured field.
Tickets for all San Jose State football games are available at sjsuspartans.com. For an early look at the Spartans, come out for the annual Fan Fest, Saturday, August 20, 4:00 p.m. in CEFCU Stadium -- Home of the Spartans, located on 7th Street between Humboldt and Alma.
2016 Preseason Football Stories
Aug. 6 - San Jose State Athletics & CEFCU team up for a stadium naming rights partnership.