Long before Ty Gangi was climbing the passing charts at Nevada, he was angling for a shot as a walk-on freshman at Colorado.
The Wolf Pack quarterback, who ranks 15th nationally with 1,073 passing yards, will return to the Centennial State on Saturday when Air Force hosts Nevada at 2 p.m. on ESPNews.
“I loved it there and made some friends I’ll have for life,” Gangi said of his time in Boulder.
He didn’t love all of it.
The Buffaloes didn’t have a scholarship for Gangi, but a CU assistant tipped off one of his high school coaches that there was a shortage of quarterbacks with transfers leaving after coach Mike MacIntyre’s first year. Gangi, a California native with a grandfather who played at UCLA and an uncle who quarterbacked Cal, wanted a Pac-12 shot and this was it.
“Coming in that fall it kind of put me in the cool position of being No. 4 at a walk-on as a quarterback, which usually doesn’t happen,” Gangi said.
But he felt he warranted more. When a classmate, on scholarship, advanced beyond him in spring in spite of on-field performance, Gangi realized where he stood.
Besides that, the Southern California native said he never adjusted to the cold.
“I really wanted to get a scholarship somewhere and have a really fair chance to compete at the quarterback position,” said Gangi, who transferred to Ventura College and set records at the junior college with 452 yards and five touchdowns in his first game.
It was there that Nevada found Gangi. But, again, not as a starter.
He came in as a sophomore and backed up senior Tyler Stewart. When Stewart was injured in Game 8, Gangi finished the year. He led the Wolf Pack to victories over Utah State and UNLV to close the season and felt he had positioned himself as the starter.
But then coach Brian Polian and Nevada “mutually agreed to part ways” and Jay Norvell was hired. Norvell brought Alabama transfer David Cornwell along with him. Gangi beat out Cornwell to open 2017, but after an 0-2 start the team turned to true freshman Kaymen Cureton.
The benching lasted for two games.
When Gangi returned to the starting position for the opening of Mountain West play, he seized it. He led the Mountain West in passing yards in conference games and earned his way onto ever major quarterback award watch list to open this season. At his current trajectory, Gangi would throw for about 7,300 yards at Nevada – which would rank eighth in program history (short of the likes of Colin Kaepernick and Cody Fajardo, but not bad for a transfer who had to wait until his senior year to have a firm grip on the position).
He never saw action in the Pac-12, as hoped, but he led the Wolf Pack (2-2) to a 37-35 victory over Pac-12 member Oregon State on Sept. 15.
It was a scenic route from California to Colorado, back to California, to Nevada and now back to Colorado one final time.
“My journey wasn’t the easiest,” Gangi said. “But in the long run it was the best one. I wouldn’t change it for anything.”