"I'm never going to go to Central."
That's what I told my mother when I was a sophomore in high school. My sights were set on somewhere bigger. Notre Dame, Boise State, Tulane, South Carolina... anywhere that wasn't po-dunk Mt. Pleasant, MI.
I cheered for God's Team growing up, as was my Catholic Duty, and had an attachment to the Carolina Gamecocks from my time living in Beaufort, SC, so I had big dreams.
Visits to Staples Hall, the music building on campus, where I competed in state choir my sophomore year, and a visit to Dow Hall, the science building, my junior year as a forensic speech competitor certainly didn't help the cause. I felt lost and overwhelmed in those buildings. Dow, especially, looked ugly to me.
"Besides Mom, everyone from Grayling goes to Central. I wanna go somewhere different."
All of that changed later in my junior year.
It was CMU and You Day, October 2, 2010. My best friend Jeremy and I got a tour of the entire campus, had lunch at Fabiano Hall, and then applied to college together. The day culminated with free tickets to a football game between CMU and Ball State. It was a smashing 31-10 loss, but we had tickets on the visitor's sideline and leaned up as close to the railing as possible.
We butchered out ways through the fight song and cheers, supplied for us on paper cards. We tried our best to make insults that obviously didn't work. Then, we drove back home to Grayling, about an hour up I-75.
CMU earned a soft spot in my heart that day, and when the call finally came in my senior year saying I had earned a full-ride scholarship, I threw out my Notre Dame and South Carolina gear and bought as much maroon and gold as my closet could muster.
It was a decision I never regretted.
I attended every basketball and football game that I could when I didn't have a class (although I did skip a "Religion and Film" class to attend the game where CMU basketball clinched the regular season title. Sorry, Prof...) Soon, I became known for my rowdiness and unique costumes at games. (I had the habit of wearing a straw hat and/or a full three-piece suit to games.)
Celebrating a touchdown on the sidelines during my senior Homecoming game.
Some of my best memories come from games I attended, such as:
- The CMU-Kentucky women's basketball game where Crystal Bradford just missed a potential game-winning shot to beat the #13 Wildcats after being down 20+ to start the second half.
- The CMU-New Hampshire football game where both Cody Kater and Alex Niznak were injured and then-third string QB Cooper Rush brought CMU back from down double-digits to win the game.
- The first round of the NCAA Women's Basketball tournament, where CMU and Oklahoma battled in St. John Fieldhouse on Ohio State's campus and Niki DiGuilio capped her amazing career as a three-point sniper.
- The triple-OT men's basketball game between CMU and Ball State where Braylon Rayson scored 12 straight points to end the game.
- The game where CMU clinched the MAC regular season title in basketball for the first time since 2005 in my last basketball game as an undergrad. I'm not gonna lie, I cried that day.
- The time I made a half-court shot during an EMU-CMU basketball game. I won an iPad Air and the admiration of all the CMU Twitter accounts as "Hat Man."
- My senior homecoming when myself, Kara, Emily, Shannon, and Nick were all allowed to lead cheers for the student section from the sidelines. I got to run with the flag after every score.