The Incredible Kicking Man

(Illustration by Chris Jones; photos by Josh Hawkins, Lonnie Timmons III, Geri Kodey / UNLV Creative Services)

With all due deference to longtime Raiders stalwart Sebastian Janikowski, kickers just don’t normally look like offensive linemen.

Unless they happened to play for UNLV from 1991-94.

Nick “The Kick” Garritano was built like a Jeep in his playing days, on the field between 240 and 265 pounds, with a six-cylinder leg to match.

“A good buddy of mine used to tell me stories about what the other players would say,” Garritano recalled. “It was always an interesting treat to the fans to see me. They'd say, ‘Oh give him a hot dog,’ or they'd throw all sorts of different things at you.”.

But the comments never flustered him. “I knew that would come with being a bigger guy and doing what I did. I probably ate a little bit too much, drank too many beers. But the bottom line was, I worked really hard at lifting weights. I worked really hard at kicking, and I did everything I could to be a success for the team.”

Coach speaks to player

UNLV Hall of Fame kicker Nick Garritano, now a baseball coach for CSN, was an unusual sight on the football field as a 240- to 265-pound kicker.

Heftiest Warhorse Laser

It’s not, as you kind of secretly hope, the stuff of James Bond villain death traps. But for more than 20 years, a visible-light laser in physics professor Michael Pravica’s lab has been soldiering on. The housing is about four feet long. It used to pump out 20 watts of power, but now delivers about one watt. Which is still fairly powerful: other, newer lasers in the lab produce four-tenths of a watt. Pravica uses it for spectroscopy of synthesized or pressurized samples in his research into new polymers. The normal lifecycle of this kind of laser is 10 to 15 years, but an attentive Pravica has been able to baby it to a longer service time. After all, lasers don’t grow on trees. (But if they did, those trees would be awesome.)

That lineman’s build wasn’t an accident — Garritano played guard in high school, as well as kicked. When he landed at UNLV on a scholarship, he kept lifting weights with the linemen and loved to compete with them. It took him a year to accept, though, that his days in their trenches were behind him. Once he did, his career as a kicker flourished.

The UNLV Hall of Famer’s name is splashed all over the record book. His 15 points in a game, from a 1992 tilt against Cal State Fullerton, were only eclipsed in 2017. He’s the only UNLV kicker to hit four field goals in a game twice.

But the real excitement was the longball.

On seven attempts from 50 to 59 yards, Garritano converted five, including two in a game against San Jose in front of a costumed crowd on Halloween night in 1994 at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Garritano connected on kicks of 51 and 54 yards. After the game was done, San Jose kicker Joe Nedny told Garritano “good luck in the league.” Nedney knew what he was talking about — he went on to a 15-year career in the NFL, kicking for the 49ers, Titans, and others.

The 54-yard blast Garritano repeated two weeks later against the UNR Wolf Pack in a game that sealed the Big West for the Rebels. That sent them to the Las Vegas Bowl, where an ESPN camera crew followed Garritano around during his pregame warmups and introduced him as a “beer-bellied booter.”

“It was pretty neat,” he said. “Not every kid in the country gets the lead on SportsCenter. We all enjoyed it. It was just like anything. Everybody respected me for the ability I had, but on the outside looking in, I was an easy target. Most kickers are all of 5-9, 160 pounds. Obviously, I looked a lot different from everybody else.”

Most Likely to Make You Feel Like You’re in a Cathedral

Pipe organ being played If you’re ready to be physically overwhelmed by an instrument, just step onto the Doc Rando Recital Hall Stage of the Beam Music Center and bask in the enormity of the Maurine Jackson Smith pipe organ. Smith, ’95 BA History, graduated magna cum laude at the age of 59. About 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide, the organ was shipped in 10,000 pieces from Germany and installed over the course of four years from 2000-04. With its 3,000 pipes, it’s the largest organ of its kind in the state, and figures to be for a long time. Unless some casino company decides to built a St. Peter’s Basilica-themed resort.

Largest Historically Relevant Piece of Furniture

When the Thomas Beam Engineering Complex was being built in 1988, The Howard Hughes Corp. donated a trove of the famous recluse’s paraphernalia to the College of Engineering, including the H-1 Racer replica and photos of Hughes. They also included a conference table, 14 feet long by 7 feet wide, that was so big it had to be carried through the metal studs that frame the conference room in the Dean’s Office before the room was finished around it. The table, according to Hughes colleague Beam, was made from the same wood as the Spruce Goose — fitting, as it sports a Spruce Goose logo in the middle. It also has cigarette burns in the wood courtesy of Hughes. The personal touch makes all the difference.

The Lab You Never Saw Coming

Dancers practice in lab A chemistry lab full of beakers? A biology lab ready for dissection? A computer lab filled with racks of servers? Nope, nope, and nope. The biggest lab on campus is Ham Fine Arts room 111 — 3,978 square feet of dance studio for work from arabesque to plié.

Biggest Classroom

For large survey classes on campus, look no further than Carol C. Harter Classroom Building Complex room A-106, better known as the Frank Koch Auditorium, named for a donor whose contributions are funding graduate students long after his death. At 3,961 square feet, it’s the grand dame of UNLV classroom space. But it's also one of only 14 lecture halls that seats more than 100, which helps UNLV keep its average class size to around 30 for undergraduates. Professor Michael Green’s History 100 is a quintessential class for the space: large numbers from a broad cross-section of campus, without needing specialized equipment. “There can be challenges to teaching a larger class in terms of building relationships, but it also helps if you're inclined to work at it and you move around,” Green said. “The Koch Auditorium is configured in such a way that I can move among the students, and that helps. One interesting similarity [to smaller classrooms] is that the questions are still likely to come from the front of the room, no matter the size of the class. It doesn't mean those students are always more interested, but they seem more inclined to participate.”

Garritano would be summoned to minicamp with the 49ers, but ultimately came back to finish his Kinesiology degree in 1995. He entered the coaching ranks, first coaching baseball and football at Chaparral High School before moving over to Green Valley and, eventually, the College of Southern Nevada where he is entering his ninth season as the Coyotes’ baseball coach.

Garritano returned the Coyotes to the NJCAA World Series in 2017 — which the team had won in 2003 behind Bryce Harper. With more interest in the Las Vegas Valley from four-year Division I schools, his job as a recruiter has become more challenging over the years. But regardless, Garritano and his staff have sent 18 ballplayers into the MLB draft.

“It's definitely a lot more satisfying when you see a kid get his degree and be able to continue his education at a four-year institution,” Garritano said. “If we can change a kid's life, that's a lot more important than trying to win a game.

“This community has given me every opportunity in life that I've asked for, and I feel it's important to live up to every expectation. The day I ride into the sunset, I want to be able to say we did it morally and ethically correct.”

And with a big leg that packed a big wallop.

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