LAS VEGAS (UNLVRebels.com) - Before UNLV's season-opening game vs. No. 12 Wisconsin this Saturday, senior defensive tackle Isaako Aaitui (pronounced e-saw-AH-co ah-ah-2-e) will be recognized as this year's recipient of the Tom Wiesner (pronounced WEEZE-ner) Award and will have the honor of wearing the Wiesner Jersey, which is designated by special stitching on the back, throughout the 2010 season.
The second Rebel defensive linemen to earn the award, Aaitui is the unquestioned leader of this year's UNLV line and was a preseason Third Team All-MWC selection by Phil Steele's. The native of Pago Pago, American Samoa (Faga'itua High School) has been transformed since hitting campus in 2006 from a raw rugby player with only one year of organized football experience into the NFL prospect that he is today.
The expected three-year starter has 73 total tackles, including 11.5 for loss, to his credit while wearing the Scarlet & Gray.
The award, which debuted in 2002 and is voted on by the coaching staff and senior class, was created to honor one Rebel senior that best exemplifies the late Mr. Wiesner's courage, enthusiasm, dedication and toughness.
A Wisconsin native and three-time letterman on the Badger football team, Mr. Wiesner sought his fortune out West and became one of Las Vegas' leading businessmen, philanthropists, politicians and ambassadors. The founder of the successful restaurants that are part of Big Dog's Hospitality Group, Mr. Wiesner helped guide Rebel Athletics from their infancy and was inducted into the UNLV Athletics Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Contributor in 1994.
Also a member of the Nevada Board of Regents, he died in 2002 at the age of 63 after a battle with Leukemia. He was inducted posthumously into the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.
"The players did a great job in choosing Tui for the Wiesner Award," said UNLV head coach Bobby Hauck. "He has shown to be a tremendous team leader and fights hard every practice, whether he's hurting or not."