When I came to the University of Redlands as a first-year student 13 years ago, before my classes had even started I already had 100 brothers from the Bulldog football team. Looking back as a grateful alumnus, I realize my student-athlete experience was about far more than the game of football.
I played receiver for my small-town high school and wanted to continue athletics in college. I fell in love with everything about the U of R—the campus, the culture, and the coach. [Coach Mike] Maynard helped me instantly feel like I was part of something bigger than me. While football could be mentally and physically demanding, Coach helped build trust among teammates. Whether it was practicing with pads and tackle gear in the scorching summer heat or performing community service with teammates in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, we quickly learned some things simply could not be done alone, and in these situations we needed to work together to succeed.
Looking back, I have less distinct memories about specific games and championships, and more clarity about the camaraderie and environment that Coach created. He built our character and strengthened our work ethic. He held us accountable, ensuring we would deliver on what we said. Above all, he taught us about brotherhood and our need for each other to accomplish our goals. I remember Coach often paraphrasing a famous football quote, “It’s not about the Xs and Os, it’s about the Jimmys and Joes.” Coach cared deeply about us as individuals, and I am proud to be part of that legacy.
Right before my graduation in spring 2010, Coach called me into his office to share that a fellow Bulldog football alumnus (Danny Ragsdale ’99) was starting a financial planning business and was seeking qualified applicants. I had studied financial economics and accounting, so the opportunity seemed like a great fit. I now serve as the senior vice president and life marketing consultant for Exclusive Insurance Brokerage, working alongside a dozen other Bulldog football alumni. The values and lessons we learned in Bulldog football easily translated to our workplace—we have to be accountable and deliver on our promises, and we maintain the resiliency that Coach instilled in all of us.
With fond memories of my Bulldog football brothers, six years ago I had the idea to create a football alumni event that included two of our favorite pastimes—the game of cornhole and cold beer. We had about 50 attendees the first year, and it has grown ever since. We even built in some fundraising opportunities for the football program—nothing stiff or fancy, just getting together to support an experience we shared. Our most recent event was in mid-August at the Loma Club in San Diego.
Even though we have families and other commitments, it feels easy to give back, especially given the successes we have had as a result of what we learned at Redlands, and not just in the classroom. If all Coach wanted to do was win football games, my fellow student-athletes wouldn’t be as generous. They are giving back because they are grateful for the experiences they had, both on and off the field at Ted Runner Stadium, and for the lifelong bonds Bulldog football created.