Las Vegas Sun reporters Taylor Bern and Ray Brewer discuss the UNLV football team's efforts during spring practice heading into Friday's Spring Showcase. The Rebels, which are coming off a two-win season, have shown signs of improvement.
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The brothers, who have the same father and are six months apart in age, never competed on the same athletic team despite spending parts of their childhood together in Los Angeles. And, when Tim moved to Las Vegas with his mother to attend high school, the distance could have easily caused their relationship to suffer.
But, like everything that has happened in their lives, they say it has made them stronger. Before their senior year of high school in 2009 — Tim at Cimarron-Memorial High in Las Vegas and Tajh at Cathedral High in Los Angeles — the brothers made a pact to play in college together.
So, when coaches recruited one, he made sure to mention taking a look at the other. Tajh, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound defensive back with elite speed, received a scholarship from UNLV during Bobby Hauck’s first recruiting class. Tim was offered a preferred walk-on spot.
Finally, they were teammates.
“It means a lot for us to be together on the same team,” Tajh said. “We always talked about getting this chance to play together. We didn’t know it would be at UNLV, but I’m glad this is the place it’s happening.”
Both have become key cogs on the defense. And, on some plays, the rising junior linebacker Tim and the sophomore-to-be defensive back Tajh will line up next to each other. It’s just like they planned.
The Rebels will conclude spring practice Friday at Rebel Park with the Spring Showcase, the program’s version of the spring game. It’s another chance for the brothers, both listed as starters on the UNLV depth chart, to thrive alongside each other.
“We are always with each other after practice, talking about plays or what went wrong (on the field) and how we can fix it,” Tim said.
Added Tajh: “The way it is set up, we play on the same side of the defense and I line up behind him. He knows how I play and I know how we play, so we complement each other and communicate well.”
If they sound grateful for the opportunity to experience Division I football together, it’s because they’ve learned not to take anything for granted. Their father, Anthony Hasson, is serving a lengthy prison sentence for drug trafficking, making the thrill of running onto the field at Sam Boyd Stadium together a therapy of sorts in dealing with the disappointment of not having their father in attendance. He’s never seen either play.
While Anthony Hasson can’t be in the stands, he’s still within ear-shot. The brothers frequently talk with their father during three-way phone calls, sharing stories of their college football experience and listening to his stern words of advice to live a clean life. He is scheduled to be released in November 2014, meaning he will be able to attend the final games of Tajh’s senior season.
“Even though that happened, he is in constant contact with us. It’s weekly, almost daily to stay on top of us and make sure we don’t slack off,” Tim said. “He has made sure (our family) stayed together and keeps everyone close.”
The Rebels received a steal of a prospect in Tim Hasson.
He was an all-Northwest Division selection as a senior at Cimarron-Memorial, registering 106 tackles in helping the Spartans reach the Sunset Regional title game. But, because he also played wide receiver at a school that rarely passes, he partially flew under the recruiting radar and didn’t receive a scholarship offer.
But during Hauck’s first season in 2010, when the Rebels had to fill several holes in their depth chart because of injury and graduation from the previous year, the coach was forced to use the walk-on in the defensive rotation and in special teams. It didn’t take long to realize the Rebels had a special player — Tim scored a touchdown on special teams in his second game and was eventually awarded a scholarship.
Last year, Tim was a regular part of the linebacker rotation and finished eighth on the team in tackles with 46.
Tajh has followed in his brother’s footsteps and in becoming a valuable part of the defense. After red-shirting in 2010, he had 17 tackles and a fumble recovery last fall during his freshman season.
“They are fluid athletes. On top of that, they are good guys,” Hauck said. “They are tight. They are great kids and great students. They are the kind of guys you want on your team.”
Being teammates is everything they imagined it would be. Finally, they are together — on and off the field. Whether it’s rehashing plays from a game, grabbing something to eat or socializing with other teammates, the brothers are enjoying their sibling relationship to the fullest.
When a photographer from the Sun arrived at Rebel Park to take their portrait following a practice, they were delighted. The brothers don’t have many pictures together. That seems likely to change.