Brian DeRoo ’78 doesn’t believe in coincidences. When he looks back on his life, which includes four years as a dual-sport student-athlete at the University of Redlands that planted the seed for two career paths—one in professional football and another in education—and most recently resulted in a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Hall of Fame induction, he views it as all a part of a grand plan.
That’s his reasoning, too, when he talks about how he came to enroll at the University of Redlands having already planned to attend a different college in pursuit of a degree in landscape architecture. After playing varsity football at Redlands High School, where he was named "most improved” and led the team in receiving in 1973, DeRoo received a phone call from Frank Serrao, the late U of R football coach.
“He wanted to take me to dinner and talk about playing football at Redlands—no one had ever done that,” DeRoo recalled. “So, I changed horses midstream. So much for being a landscape architect.”
It turned out to be the right decision. At Redlands, DeRoo found success on the football and track and field teams. He gained three All-Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) First-Team awards while contributing to the conference football title each year and the team's 19-0-1 four-year record. He was named Outstanding Player of the Game at the NAIA Division II National Football Championship in 1976 and became a two-time NAIA All-American in football.
In track and field, he won the SCIAC triple jump title and captured three district championships in the decathlon. He was named an NAIA All-American twice, finishing as high as third in the decathlon at the national championships.
Off the field, DeRoo’s teammates served as de facto friends in the classroom. As a first-year commuter student, he relied on them and members of his fraternity, Chi Sigma Chi, for camaraderie on campus. After moving to live on campus as a sophomore, he spent more time with athletic department faculty and staff members, learning from Physical Education Department Head Lee Fulmer, Tennis Coach Jim Verdieck, and Serrao.
“If you were a P.E. major, which I was, you were fortunate to have them all as your instructors as well,” he said. “It was a good time to be an athlete in Redlands.”
During DeRoo's four-year career at Redlands, the Bulldogs competed in the NAIA before joining NCAA Division III in 1983. The recent NAIA induction marks his fourth Hall of Fame nod; he was inducted into the Bulldog Bench Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame at the U of R twice—individually in 1984 and as a member of the 1976 football team in 1997—and entered the Redlands High School Hall of Fame in 2005.
He recently attended the NAIA ceremony in San Antonio alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Shianne. Fellow Redlands High School alumnus and former U of R and Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick presented DeRoo with his celebratory plaque; the pair caught up during a game of golf after the ceremony while Cheyenne drove the cart.
DeRoo's football jersey is the only number to be retired at Redlands; it has been displayed in the Fieldhouse since 1978, the same year he was drafted as a fifth-round pick by the New York Giants. He enjoyed seven seasons of professional football between playing for the Giants and Baltimore Colts in the National Football League and the Montreal Concorde in the Canadian Football League.
After retiring from football, DeRoo launched a career in physical education that spanned over 30 years. Cognizant of the impact U of R coaches had on him, DeRoo aimed to make learning about personal fitness fun and constructive. In between coaching nearly 50 seasons of golf, football, and track and field, he encouraged students to make healthy lifestyle decisions and was known to hold “smoothie parties” where students brought different ingredients and appliances to the classroom to explore flavor combinations.
Currently, DeRoo is a full-time parent to twins Shianne and Nicholas. He spends his days assisting Nicolas, who has cerebral palsy, and driving Shianne, a level 7 gymnast, to practices and competitions. Looking back on his success, DeRoo noted that the common thread that runs through it all is Redlands. When asked what the Bulldog spirit means to him, he pointed to his son’s U of R t-shirt, the footballs on display in his office, his Chi Sigma Chi mug, and said: “It’s what you surround yourself with—it doesn’t leave you.”
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