UNLV defensive end Nick Dehdashtian was poised to have a huge 2018 under then-new defensive coordinator Tim Skipper. Skipper planned to make Dash one of the key members of his defense in his first year but a couple days into fall camp Nick had his second lisfranc injury in his young career and was lost for the season. This was the second time Nick had this injury; the other was during his senior year in high school which hurt his recruiting. At that time, Dash had interest from multiple Pac-12 schools and due to the injury those schools who were interested fell off. This time, I got a call from Nick and his father Derek and you could understand how upset and frustrated they were. To be perfectly honest with you, I spent a lot of time talking with Derek and Nick during that time. While it wasn’t “professional” I didn’t care and wouldn’t change a thing. We cried together, vented together, I encouraged them and would text back and forth positive messages to both them. Then Nick text me to tell me he was going to continue to work tirelessly to get ready for this season and wouldn’t let anything or anyone stand in his way.

The struggles weren’t just Nick’s, but it was also hard on Derek. “It seems like every time it was Nick’s year to have a big year, something happened to him. In high school he had the same injury to another foot, so he had to go to a Prep school in Chicago. That injury effected his recruiting. He had Pac-12, Big10, and Big 12 offers and interest until the injury, and then they all went away. That being said, he ended up at the perfect place with the perfect coach in Coach Sanchez.”

Derek continued, “It breaks my heart because he works so damn hard. He loves football and his teammates so much, and knowing what he would have to go through only made it worse, but it also brought out a side of my son that I am so proud of. He wouldn’t eat what everyone else ate, he would go workout three times a day and go running in the middle of the night just to get ready for this year. He was so determined to come back stronger and he has, and I couldn’t be prouder of my son.”

UNLV's Nick Dehdashtian's Long Journey Back

Now fast forward to this offseason. The change that occurred during Dash’s rehabilitation time was more than physical, it was emotional and mental. Nick changed his diet, reshaped his body, worked out twice a day–some days three times a day–and took last year’s lost season and used it as motivation leading into this season. Nick talked to recruits or commits like Vic Viramontes, Tavai Tuitasi, Aaron Lewis and others prior to coming to UNLV and scheduled workout and film sessions with them once they arrived. He became more vocal as a leader, something he was hesitant to do last year since he was injured. He also studied Skipper’s defense so he could understand every aspect of it so the impact in 2019 would be felt from day 1.

 

During spring and fall camp, head Coach Tony Sanchez and Tim Skipper took a cautious approach to Dash and limited his reps so they could keep him healthy this season. This didn’t always sit well with Dash who wanted to get back on the field and release a year of frustration on anything or anyone that moved. “All I’m going to say about Dash is we just have to keep him healthy. I don’t want to jinx anything,” said UNLV defensive coordinator, Skipper, with a smile and a chuckle as he walked away after practice.

 

“I’m healthy, hungry and ready to go,” Nick said. “I think it’s because I’ve been there before since this happened to me in high school so I know what it’s like to have that (the game) taken away and to have that happen to me twice really pissed me off. So now I just want to be as disruptive as I possibly can be. I want to win a Mountain West Championship, play and win a Bowl game, and make sure that going forward UNLV has a bad ass football program.”

UNLV's Nick Dehdashtian's Long Journey Back

Derek said that it wasn’t just bad luck for Nick to have the exact same injury–each time on a different foot–it was unheard of. “The doctor said it wasn’t bad luck, it was hardly ever heard of. So when the news came down and after we took some time to let our emotions out, Nick attacked his rehab like he was going after a quarterback.” Nick added “While it sucked to have it happen again, I learned a lot from the first time and was determined to get after it so I can be a better me this season for my team.”

 

The Rebels defense needs explosive players like Dash to step up and Nick agrees. “I don’t have any personal stat goals going into this season; I just want to be as disruptive as possible. I know disruptiveness leads to turnovers and we need to do a better job of not only creating turnovers but helping the offense out by getting stops and getting off the field on third down.” Dash said the difference from last year to this year is night and day. “Overall we have a better work ethic, a better want; our leadership is the best it has ever been. Just all around, this team wants it more than any other team I’ve been on here.” He added “I know wanting it isn’t enough but we’re working like I’ve never seen us work before at UNLV, so it’s a hunger that’s hard to explain unless you’re with us, so now we just have to go show out and play good.”

UNLV's Nick Dehdashtian's Long Journey Back

“The energy is just different, the savageness is different, guys are getting after it and we’re having fun doing it.” Dash elaborated on the type of team the Rebels are heading into the season opener against Southern Utah. “Guys are having fun getting after it and that hasn’t been the case in the past. Either the offense would dominate and we would suck or we would dominate and the offense would suck, but this year when the offense has a great period we’ll turn around and stop them the next time and then they have a good comeback. This is a very competitive team and we enjoy competing with each other and against each other. When its game time I can’t wait for us as a whole to compete against other teams and show them how different UNLV football is.”

 

In life, we learn from mistakes, experiences, and times that push us to our limit. It is no different for Nick. “The most frustrating part is to wait for game day. I am so ready to play!” When asked what is the most gratifying part of his journey Nick’s answer did not surprise me. “Staying healthy and just being back with the guys. I missed that because when you’re hurt you don’t feel part of the team so you get quiet and don’t really want to say too much. Just being with them (my teammates) in the locker room, BS’ing, making stupid games to play out of nowhere, you know just to pass the time away, that’s what I missed the most. The camaraderie, being back, that’s the most gratifying thing to me.”

UNLV's Nick Dehdashtian's Long Journey Back

Las Vegas is a town that either makes or breaks you. People come from all over to gamble and try to get rich or make it to the big time. In Nick Dehdashtian’s case, he is determined to make it. He has endured some tough times, but he’s now in a position to play pissed off and be a disruptive force for UNLV. He won’t have it any other way and I wouldn’t bet against him. “Just wait until the season starts and they unleash me,” Dash says with a huge smile under a very impressive beard. “They have no idea how savage I’m going to get.”

 

 

You can follow Nick on Twitter @NickkDashh