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Nevada alums Joel and Courtney Bitonio make historic $1 million donation to Pack football

Joel Bitonio blocks Anthony Barr during the season opener of Nevada's 2013 season. Both went on to the NFL. (Nevada athletics)
Joel Bitonio blocks Anthony Barr during the season opener of Nevada's 2013 season. Both went on to the NFL. (Nevada athletics)
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After being one of the best to ever wear silver and blue on the field, Joel Bitonio and his wife, Courtney, are now making a big impact for Wolf Pack athletics off it.

The Bitonios, who both graduated from the University of Nevada, have donated $1 million to support Wolf Pack football. The gift funded the program's new football weight room, which will be named The Bitonio Family Strength & Conditioning Center, in an effort to support Nevada’s pursuit to build a championship-caliber athletics department.

"I'm honored to be able to give back to the university that helped shape me into the person I am today," said Joel Bitonio, who played for Nevada from 2009-13 before becoming one of the NFL's most dominant players. "I know firsthand the impact that a strong football program can have on student-athletes. The weight room has always been more than just a place to train; it is where teams build character, develop discipline and learn the importance of teamwork. I'm proud to be able to support the football program's success and ensure student-athletes have the resources they need to succeed."

The Wolf Pack was one of two FBS schools to offer Bitonio a scholarship out of Woodrow Wilson High in Long Beach, Calif. Bitonio was a member of Nevada's historic 2010 team that went 13-1 and ranked No. 11 in the nation before becoming a three-year starter at left tackle, earning All-Mountain West honors in 2013 while starting the last 39 games of his college career.

A second-round draft pick (No. 35 overall) in 2014 by the Cleveland Browns, Bitonio recently finished his ninth NFL season with that franchise. A punishing left guard, Bitonio has played every regular-season offensive snap the last six seasons. He's been voted to the Pro Bowl each of the last five years, earning two first-team AP All-Pro honors and three second teams while building a potential Pro Football Hall of Fame résumé.

Bitonio met his future wife, Courtney, at the university with the two marrying in 2016 before welcoming a son and daughter. Their donation of $1 million is one of the largest in Wolf Pack athletics history. It joins a $1 million donation from Nevada men's basketball alum Ramon Sessions to help build a basketball practice facility; a $1 million gift from Don and Toni Weir for a new playing surface and renovation at Peccole Park; and a $4 million gift from Eric and Linda Lannes as part of an $8 million men's and women's basketball locker room/players lounge that's expected to break ground this year.

"Joel and Courtney’s gift is a transformational statement about the importance the University of Nevada plays in the lives of our student-athletes," Wolf Pack athletic director Stephanie Rempe said. "This gift will significantly impact our football program and the momentum we are creating within our athletics program. I am personally so grateful to Joel and Courtney for their generous gift and their leadership, and hope it encourages others in the Wolf Pack community to support our efforts to build a championship-caliber athletics program.”

Nevada football is currently in the process of renovating its facilities, which included a new $1.3 million playing surface that debuted last year thanks to a donation from Sparks-based ITS Logistics, whose chief operating officer, Mike Crawford, is a Wolf Pack football alum. Additionally, the coaches offices, locker rooms and strength and conditioning center are undergoing multi-million dollar renovations that are expected to be completed this summer.

Bitonio and fellow Wolf Pack alum Austin Corbett are in Reno this weekend for their second annual youth camp at Mackay Stadium, which will host a sold-out crowd of 500 local players Saturday morning before Nevada's Battle Born Showdown spring game kicks off at 1:30 p.m.

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