In 2003, Bob Riesener, the winningest college baseball coach in the state of Alabama, retired after 1,000+ wins and 30+ years as a head coach at the collegiate level. Just a couple years earlier, Coach Riesener recruited me from Syracuse, NY, to attend the University of Montevallo (UM) with an athletic scholarship offer and a chance to live out my dream to play college ball in the south.
I worked my butt off in the summer of 2003, both at home in Syracuse, NY and taking summer classes at UM, not knowing who my new coach was nor how he would come in and lead us versus what we were used to.
Then, I got the news that our new coach would be Greg Goff, the pitching coach from the University of Kentucky and he was bringing an assistant with him from NC State in Jeremy Browning.
These guys came in an put us to work in a way I will never forget, running us hard in the August heat, working us out in the gym to limits I didn’t know I could reach, and teaching us skills on the field that made us into a decent team that would set the stage to help the program reach the NCAA Division II World Series just a few years later under Goff and Browning’s watch.
Many guys didn’t make it through that fall, but I did. And I was better for it. They taught me a whole new level of excellence, work ethic, and overall leadership, that is engrained in me as a man and will be forever.
Unfortunately, for me, I didn’t get to play more than a season for Coach Goff, as I experienced a second labrum tear in my right shoulder and was left with a decision to finish out my final year at UM in an unfamiliar place, as a student-only instead of a student-athlete, for the first time in my entire 21-year-old life.
I was depressed, asking myself what exactly to do with my time and my life, now that I was not playing the game of baseball that led me to trek 1,000+ miles away to Alabama from New York, in the first place.
Now, this truly is where I began a journey that showed my only true identity being in Jesus Christ, but that’s not the point of this post, even though I could tie every post back to that Gospel truth.
Instead, this post is about the journey that I went on in my final year as a Broadcast Journalism student at UM, to co-found a TV/Radio network (The Falcon Network), which still exists at UM for students to run and broadcast live streamed events; something that was new and cutting edge back in 2004.
The Falcon Network is where I would broadcast 100+ live sports events and produce 30+ televised sports shows. I had to raise money, sell sponsors, hire student-workers, buy equipment, learn the engineering side of editing audio/video, lead my team and of course, be the face and talent of it all.
I was the guy on press row, broadcasting the games live while holding a miniDV camera (Gen Z doesn’t even know what that is) to film it for my post-game highlight show. It was humbling but also quite exciting, because I didn’t know where it would lead me.
Many of my teammates and friends were wondering what the heck I was now doing with my life and why I was so passionate about going back to my dorm room or the Mass Communications editing suites to work on my “projects” all the time.
I had caught a “bug” for the creativity of it, and I was addicted to it.
I thought it was leading me to ESPN or something like that, which it actually did for several years to provide credibility to my first entrepreneurial venture.
But ultimately, it led me to entrepreneurship and a desire for autonomous creativity and leadership of a team for a purpose, which is something I continue to get to do for a living just 10 years later.
So in the summer of 2004, after our UM Men’s Basketball team, under the watch of Danny Young, turned the program around from four wins total, to win their first ever conference title and a berth into their first-ever NCAA Division II Tourney, I had no choice to go back to the footage and map out a documentary of this story.
I took the summer to travel around and interview the players, press and even stay in NY’s Brooklyn projects in the housing for a week, where the team’s point guard lives.
The film was packaged up as The Montevallo March To Glory and I was even able to attend the Ivy League Film Fest at Brown University, where I was honored in the Documentary Film Category.
I’m not going to go deep into the story because you have the film to watch for yourself, but the film’s storyline (second chance guys coming together to change the face of the UM Athletic Program while transforming their own lives forever) and the creation process that went into making the film, had changed my life forever.