Rebel Offensive Lineman Tiger Shanks

Rebel Offensive Lineman Tiger Shanks

Wade Vandervort

UNLV Rebel offensive lineman Tiger Shanks (70) practices at UNLV Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023.

UNLV’s Tiger Shanks already has one of the undisputed coolest names in all of college football.

His name ranks up there with wide receiver Decoldest Crawford of Louisiana Tech and defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry of Alabama, who like Shanks are regular members of the lists of catchiest names in college football by Athlon Sports and other outlets.

Now Shanks, a junior offensive lineman, wants to make a name for himself on the field. When the Rebels open the season next month, it will be Shanks — who has 23 career starts — leading the way up front at right tackle.

“I’ve been trying to step into a leadership role on the (offensive) line, especially on the right side with me and Trigg (Amani Trigg-Wright),” Shanks said. “We have played together for three years now. We are really trying to lead the group and get everyone to be cohesive.”

Shanks’ real name is Hunter, just like his dad. Since birth, his family has referred to him as Tiger — and that’s how he is listed on the UNLV roster.

Shanks arrived at UNLV in 2020 after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, and he started the final two games of the COVID-shortened six-game season. He’s been a fixture in the lineup since, gradually making improvements in going from someone who was forced into action to an asset in coach Barry Odom’s first season.

“He’s mature. He’s got reps,” Odom said. “We’re leaning on him, for sure.”

The photo from Shanks’ initial season at UNLV in comparison to today shows the difference of three years in a college weight room for the 6-foot-5, 320-pounder. The baby fat is mostly replaced with muscle — the product of dedicating himself to conditioning in the offseason, Shanks said.

“I definitely feel stronger,” he said. “We’ve been working really hard with (strength and conditioning coach Jeff) Fish. He has a supergood weight training program and it sure is making a difference.”

Shanks was part of a winless team in his first UNLV season, when during the height of the pandemic the program was pieced together and played a partial season. In some ways, it was a blessing in disguise because he got invaluable field time.

He’s gone on to start 21 of 24 games over the next two seasons. With each game, he’s noticed the improvements. Same for his coach.

“For his size, he’s athletic. He’s got really good feet,” Odom said. “I think some of the schematics that we’re asking him to do — different types of blocks — some of it has been new to him, but we’re counting on him to be a huge part of our success. I do think he can play inside or outside. That versatility helps him and helps us a great deal.”

The transition under a new coach has been relatively seamless, he said. There’s confidence with the players that they can win six games to qualify for a postseason bowl.

“I love our new coaching staff,” Shanks said. “I love the new guys that we brought in and I think we are just jelling. Obviously, when a new staff comes in, you know, there is a little sense of nervousness for sure. But they took over, and it was like we hit the floor running.”

Shanks, like many of his teammates, senses the new staff will be pivotal in flipping the script from last season. UNLV won four of its first five games, and then suffered a six-game losing streak to finish with a losing record at 5-7 overall.

That fifth win, however, provided Shanks’ greatest moment at UNLV, he said. The Rebels won a close game with rival UNR, 27-22, to close out last season on a high note.

Of all the fans at Allegiant Stadium that afternoon, one of them stood out for Shanks: His mom.

A native of China, she had little knowledge of the sport when her son picked it up as a child in Oregon. Now, she rarely misses a UNLV game.

“She even went to Albuquerque,” he jokingly said of a game at New Mexico in 2021. “She‘s vocal and she loves it.”

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Mike McNamara

Mike McNamara

A Las Vegas Realtor since 2008. Mike has a wide range of knowledge around all things Las Vegas.

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