ALBUQUERQUE - Brandon Wimberly was shot in the abdomen during a fight in the early morning hours of June 18, 2011. He lost 60 pounds in a two-week hospital stay and was told he'd likely never play football again.
Friday, at the end of an all-conference season, the Nevada wide receiver smiled when talking about how far he's come.
"Physically I've felt better than I had any other season, just having a year off, something I haven't had since I was 7 years old," he said. "I didn't feel like I was starting from scratch, starting over.
"Coach might laugh and say I was faster back then. … If there was something I couldn't do, I didn't see it."
Wimberly missed all of the 2011 season, but led the Wolf Pack in receiving this year, with 63 catches for 788 yards, entering today's New Mexico Bowl against the Arizona Wildcats.
"This was a tragedy that's been a remarkable turnaround," Nevada coach Chris Ault said. "This was a guy that was close to death - and a very, very special person among our football players."
Ault called Wimberly - whose 2,003 career receiving yards rank No. 14 on the school's all-time list - "as competitive a player as we've ever had at this university."
Wimberly might not be done.
The Inglewood, Calif., native graduated last year, and has been taking graduate courses. The Wolf Pack is appealing to the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility.
Nevada honored him on Senior Day, but wants to have him back on the field next year.
"We're awaiting their answer," Ault said. "Hopefully a positive answer."
Don't expect a packed crowd today.
The Wildcats have sold about 1,000 tickets. But with donated seats to military members, and tickets given to members of the school's traveling party and players' friends and family, the Cats figure to use more than 4,000 of their 5,000-ticket allotment.
As of Wednesday, Nevada had sold about 100 - yes, 100 - tickets to its fans from an allotment of 10,000.
"I don't have a guess on attendance," said Jeff Siembieda, the New Mexico Bowl's executive director. "I hope it'll be about 25,000."
He admitted "a lot" of the game's success in the walk-up ticket market "will depend on the weather," which is expected to be cold and rainy.
"Albuquerque fans, people, don't come out when it rains," he said.
There are other complicating factors, from graduation festivities for both the University of New Mexico and the UA to home basketball games being played by both schools.
Steps from University Stadium, UNM will host rival New Mexico State this afternoon.
"We've had a larger number of obstacles than we've had in some other years," Siembieda said.
It will get better; next year's game is Dec. 21, and should avoid, at least, graduation conflicts.
• UA coach Rich Rodriguez said he was a fan of the future four-team NCAA playoff, but was happy the bowl system would remain otherwise unchanged.
"Leading up to the game, every bowl I've ever been to has been a positive experience for everyone involved," he said.
"I've always been a bowl advocate … I think it's been a very positive thing in college football. I would hate to take that away."
• Ault praised Wolf Pack junior Stefphon Jefferson, the nation's second-leading rusher, but implied his success came in part because of the team's run-heavy "Pistol" offense.
"If you're a running back at Nevada, you'll get some yardage," the coach said. "We've had some great backs. … It's been a success story for us since we put the 'Pistol' offense in."