rebels football:

For UNLV’s Aaron Reed, being an ambassador for Rebel football is a job he takes with pride

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Jason Hefran

UNLV football player Aaron Reed.

Aaron Reed might not be the best player on the UNLV football team team.

The senior H-back and tight end, however, is considered one of the most valuable by his teammates and coaches.

Reed, a Las Vegas native and Silverado High product, will be honored Thursday before kickoff of the UNLV opener against visiting Minnesota at Sam Boyd Stadium as the recipient of the annual Wiesner Award.

The award was created in 2002 for the UNLV player that best exemplifies Tom Wiesner’s courage, enthusiasm, dedication and toughness. It is voted on by UNLV coaches and the team’s senior class.

A founder of the restaurants that are part of Big Dog’s Hospitality Group, Wiesner was a successful local businessman and politician, and longtime contributor to UNLV athletics. Wiesner died in 2002.

Listen to the former walk-on talk about his passion for UNLV football and it’s easy to understand why Reed is receiving the award. It’s an attitude similar to Wiesner’s love for UNLV.

“A lot of (my motivation) comes from the negative attention our program has and the negative things surrounding the program, and just wanting to change that light,” Reed said. “Don’t get me wrong, I love our basketball program. They are great guys. But I feel this should be just as big a football city as a basketball city.

“That is what I think feeds my energy. Not only my energy, but the other guys out here. They know (UNLV) football is a second-tier sport in Vegas and want to change that. We want to change that light and make the games fun to go out and watch.”

The 6-foot-4, 235 pound Reed will return to the lineup this season after missing last year with a severe knee injury. During the first practice last August, Reed suffered the injury — a nasty blow that required surgery and long hours of rehabilitation so he could be cleared to rejoin the team.

A reserve with just one career catch, Reed could have decided not to return. However, he just couldn’t pass on another season with a program he feels so strongly about.

He stayed involved with the team while injured by attending practices, helping coaches track plays during practice and keeping players in high spirits. The award typically goes to the Rebels’ top player, not someone recently put on scholarship for his final semester.

“Knowing the seniors voted on this, it’s more humbling than anything else,” said Reed, who is on track to graduate in December with a degree in real estate and plans to attend law school.

Reed delivers a similar message when talking to recruits visiting UNLV, telling them all of the good times he’s had representing the scarlet and gray. While UNLV has suffered through consecutive two-win seasons, Reed never wavers in sharing his thoughts about the positive direction he believes the program is headed.

“Rebel football means everything to him,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “He bleeds it every day. He is our best recruiter. It is really important to him that we succeed.”

Reed’s career didn’t take the traditional path, but he worked his way from practice squad player to contributor on special teams.

And on a Saturday afternoon in 2010 at West Virginia, he logged his lone collegiate catch, a 14-yard reception.

“At the time, it was a nice moment, but unfortunately, we weren’t doing so well in that game,” Reed said. “I look forward to having more catches this year. I think I can have a good year. I think this team is going to have a very good year. We have been working hard.”

Wiesner moved to Las Vegas from Wisconsin, where he was a three-year letter winner on the Badgers’ football team. He was a former member of the Nevada Board of Regents and one of the university’s top ambassadors.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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