John Bender #62, reflects on past Season



As many of you know, John Bender, son of Linda and Wally Bender of Three Hills, plays football with the University of Nevada.
"Big John", has always kept us posted on how his career is shaping up and we look forward to his annual letter.
John is an outstanding athlete and we are so proud of his achievements to date. Who knew the "King of the Hill" was destined to play in the big leagues!. John's letter is as follows:

First of all I graduated from the University of Nevada this semester. I now have a dual major in Marketing and Management from the Business School. It feels great to be done school!
This was a big season for me, I've already been drafted to play in the CFL by the Calgary Stampeders, but I chose to go back to school, finish out my degree, and get ready to hopefully take a shot at the NFL.  Also being a senior on the team now I was going to be needed to unequivocally be the leader of our offensive line and make sure the guys are motivated, working hard, and ready to win a championship. We knew we had a good team, we just weren't sure if we had a great team.  At the end of the season we would find out and I think we have made our mark as we are currently ranked the #15 team in the NCAA (out of 120 teams.)
We had a great season. The Nevada Wolf Pack finished 12-1 and in a 3-way tie for the Western Athletic Conference Championship. We have 8 games in our conference each year and 3 teams finished 7-1, so therefore we are all co-champions.
We started the season out 2-0 after wins vs Eastern Washington University and Colorado State, both games winning easily by 25+ points. At that point we thought we had a pretty good team, but we were about to come across a big test, the #24 ranked team in the nation and #1 ranked defense the University of California was on their way to Reno for our next home game. They're a big school from a big conference and were supposed to blow us out, we ended up beating them 52-31 and at this point we knew we could be something special.
We ended up winning our next few games and moved ourselves into the top 25 rankings for the first time in school history. Getting as high as #19 in the nation when we were 6-0.
Then we suffered our only setback of the year on the islands in Hawaii.  We played a terrible first half, came back big in the 2nd half but fell short 27-21.  We had a turnover on our last drive of the game with under a minute left and we were about 30 yards from the end zone.  Our QB also fumbled the ball trying to stretch out into the end zone literally inches away from scoring another TD in that game. It was definitely a tough loss and a long flight back to Reno.
After that game we had a bye week, which meant no game the next weekend and 2 weeks to practice. We really used that time as a team to regroup, refocus and most importantly get better. It showed for the rest of the season. We came out firing the next few games and broke several school records along the way. We had 840 yards of total offense in our 63-17 blowout at the University of Idaho. We then squeaked out a win on the road at Fresno State which is one of the toughest places to play on the west coast. We came out of there with a 35-34 win scoring a TD with less than 2 minutes left. That game, personally for me, was awful, I suffered a really bad ear infection and just fought through and played that game on a lot of medicine, we found a way to win and it felt great to get it. But after that game I went back to Reno and I was basically on bed rest, I had to get two penicillin shots, and a ton of medicine put into me for this infection, it ended up making me miss a week of practice and the next game against New Mexico State. My team didn't slow down at all though putting up a 51-6 victory.
The win vs New Mexico State was the first time Nevada had won 10 games in a season in the FBS division of the NCAA. It was also the 500th win for the University a big milestone in both regards. But not nearly as big a milestone of what was about to happen.
The next game we had was the day after Thanksgiving here in the States, and was a game with national championship implications on the line.  The Boise State Broncos at the time ranked #4 in the NCAA were hoping for a big win against us, we were ranked the #19 team in the nation which would then propel them forward in the rankings and hopefully land them at #3, where they just need one of the teams above them to lose to land them in the national championship. So as you can imagine they were playing for a lot. Even if they didn't go to the national championship they would be heading to a BCS bowl game like the Rose Bowl or something which would give them a bowl payout of over $5 Million dollars for their university. So the stage was set, live nationally televised game on ESPN.  Also it was my senior night, all of the seniors on the football team, during their last home game, are escorted onto the  field by their families and cheered on and basically thanked for their contributions to the program. I had a lot of family and friends there and it felt great to have them celebrate this moment with me. But after that was over, it was on to the football game, #4Boise St vs #19 Nevada. The atmosphere was electric and their was over 30,000 fans in attendance.
We ended up winning a nail biter of a football game that went back and forth throughout.Final score Nevada 34-Boise St 31. Literally it was like we set the city on fire, we can't go anywhere now with people not knowing who we are and wishing us luck in our bowl game and all that. It's crazy, but it feels great, too.  We won our next game at Louisiana Tech and finished 7-1 in the WAC, 12-1 overall and are officially the best team in University of Nevada history. We also get conference championship rings, which I am very much looking forward to getting!
After the season was over, the all conference teams came out and I was named first team all conference. A great honour that I share with my teammates. After all football is a team game and literally we need all links of the chain to function properly. My teammates have set several records along this way as well. My running back that I block for Vai Taua was named 2nd team all american by CBS sports. Our QB Colin Kaepernick was named the WAC offensive player of the year. The tandem Vai and Colin are the best rushing a combination in the history of the NCAA, putting up more rushing yards, more rushing touchdowns than any players who have ever played together in the NCAA, ever. Quite the accomplishment for those two players, and I know I must have had something to do with it, being a starter on the offensive line for them for the last four years.
Now I am done school, finished my last exam last week. We are currently having practice every now and then, we are only allowed to have so many practices before our bowl game. Which is the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco vs  Boston College on Jan 9th at 7pm.  The game will also be televised live on ESPN in the states, and on TSN2 in Canada.
So that's the update on my life right now. As soon as the season is over I will sign with an NFL agent and begin preparing for the NFL Draft at the end of April. I will likely relocate to a training facility either in Florida or Arizona. I am told I have a good shot of being selected in the NFL draft and am looking forward to hopefully having a career in this game of football. I truly am living the dream, and feel incredibly blessed and fortunate to have an opportunity to do what I love doing professionally. If the NFL doesn't work out you will likely find me playing in McMahon stadium next season, which is not a bad worst case scenario at all.
It's crazy to think the goals I wanted to accomplish five years ago when I came to the University of Nevada, I've accomplished all of them, and then some.  It's a pretty special situation.
I'd also  like to thank everyone back home who has been so supportive, starting out with my family, who have literally been with me every step of the way.  But also going as far as my former teachers at Three Hills School to the people who e-mail me,  take the time to come see me play, and everyone else who has supported me from this community.
God Bless,