Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio and his wife, Courtney, have contributed a $1 million donation to Nevada, Bitonio's alma mater, to support the school's athletic programs and fund a new football weight room, which will be named The Bitonio Family Strength & Conditioning Center.
"It's really a surreal experience," he said. "You go into the NFL, and you hope you have a big career and get to a point where you have some money and can help people out. Me and Courtney have done a lot in the Cleveland community and Long Beach, (California), where I'm from, and Nevada football is a huge part of our lives and my life. It was just a no-brainer and something I'm very passionate about. We wanted to help where we can and leave a legacy at the University of Nevada as well."
Bitonio attended Nevada from 2009-2013 before he became a second-round pick by the Browns in 2014. He's been voted to the Pro Bowl in each of the last five seasons and has been named a first-team All-Pro guard in each of the last two years.
Bitonio has been charitable with his time and money since arriving in the NFL, and he was recognized for those efforts last year by being named the Browns' 2022 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee. His efforts have included being an ambassador for Greater Cleveland Food Bank, serving as a co-chair "Taste of the Browns," the group's largest fundraiser, and hosting a "Shop with a Pro" event with kids every holiday season since coming to Cleveland. He's also identified multiple opportunities to raise awareness for A Kid Again Ohio, including by hosting a group of families during training camp and supporting the organization through My Cause, My Cleats.
Now, Bitonio is giving back in a huge way to the place that gave him the steps to his NFL platform, and he'll have a weight room at his alma mater named after him to remember his legacy and generous donation.
"Hopefully my kids will understand it in a few years, and maybe even their kids will see it someday. That's our family name, and that's a big reason for this. We could've called it the 'Joel Bitonio Field Center,' or something of that nature, but we wanted to go with 'Bitonio Family' because it takes a village and it takes a family to be put in a position to be successful in life. That was one of the cool things we can do is just honor the Bitonio family as a whole.
"It's going to be surreal to see the name on there and what it means, and hopefully it affects lots of generations of young men that come through the school in a positive way."