Las Vegas Sun

September 24, 2023


Rebels take time to ‘shine’ at Joy Prom

Sanford and players continue to build bond with Las Vegas community

Joy Prom

Sam Morris

Robert Nutton waves to a friend while getting his shoes shined by UNLV football player Matt Murphy during Joy Prom on Friday at M Resort.

Spreading the Joy

Members of the UNLV football team joined 450 other volunteers to help with Joy Prom, a special night for those with special needs.

Joy Prom at M Resort

Kathy Jones smiles after getting a tiara and lip gloss from Tammi Musemici during Joy Prom on Friday. Launch slideshow »

Beyond the Sun

Asked to recall his prom in Immokalee, Fla., UNLV senior wide receiver Rodelin Anthony beams with an electric, toothy grin.

Head coach Mike Sanford prefaces his memories by saying it was a long time ago, but he remembers stressing so much as the student class president that he forgot to have any fun.

On Friday night at M Resort, Sanford and a handful of his players helped create prom memories for 250 others.

The Rebel football players ran a shoe shine stand, while the university's cheerleaders posed for photos with attendees at the Joy Prom, which was a classy, glamorous night for mentally and developmentally disabled residents to dress up, smile and cut loose on the dance floor.

For the Rebels themselves, it was a positive step in making a name for themselves as genuine members of the Las Vegas community -- something not always easy to accomplish in a town largely labeled as a tourist destination.

"The thing that I've learned over the period of time since I've been here is that even though people have this view of Las Vegas as a transient town, there's a very strong community here, and our football program wants to be a part of that -- it's very important to us," said Sanford, who is entering his fifth season at UNLV. "One of the things I've talked about with our team is doing everything. We want to win, perform well, and win a championship on the field, go to class, graduate, do well in the classroom and be good people and do things for the community.

"And this is guys putting their actions where their words are."

Before attendees of the Joy Prom took to the red carpet and ultimately to the ballroom, the UNLV players set up shop in the lobby by the pool, meeting, greeting and shining the shoes of those who wanted their services.

"It's great to show the community that we help out," Anthony said after a fresh shine job. "We're not just jocks or scholar-athletes. We're members of the community, also."

The players went through an introductory seminar beforehand, learning how to effectively interact with those they'd be around on Friday evening, and one by one, Joy Prom attendees beamed as they approached the big guys in the red uniforms.

The Rebels see community involvement like this as a way to make the public continue to realize that there's more to them than those jerseys.

"We want them to be able to say 'You know what, underneath that helmet, he's a gentleman. He's a real great individual with a nice soul,'" Anthony added. "It gives the community a chance to see us underneath the uniform. That's the way I see it. It's awesome, really."

Senior receiver Ryan Wolfe put on his full gameday gear -- pads and all -- to pose for some photos with those who requested him. Junior quarterback Omar Clayton signed a few autographs.

And the players soaked up every second of it. As rewarding an experience as that was for them, it was just as pleasing for Sanford to see.

"I'm very proud of our guys," he said. "This is what when we talk about (recruiting) 'character guys' that want to be involved in the community, this is an example of it. We have a great group of guys here, and we're proud to be a part of it."

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