GV athletics becoming a brand of their own

Brady Frederickson

Eric Coulter

Brady Frederickson

Brady Fredericksen

Summertime in Allendale, a season filled with construction and preseason football practice. What that actually means is I don’t have any sports to inform or make you chuckle about. What I can do is make a friendly gentleman’s bet with you.

I also want to point out that I’m not a gambling man – I’ve been to a casino once, and I lost all of my money in two hours – I’d say I’m just a guy who’s confident with an idea.

Anyway, here’s the deal: I bet you by 2021, ten years from now, that the Grand Valley State University athletic brand won’t be limited to Michigan.

I’m not saying GVSU is an enigma to the rest of the country, but relatively speaking, it’s a midwest affair. A brand is something well-known, something that people can associate with something.

Ohio State and USC are brands, but they’ve gone from being known for winning to being known for being slimy and secretive cheaters.

GVSU is known for winning, and for being the ultimate sports program in Division II- shown by their NCAA-record eight straight Directors’ Cup.

They’re also clean as a whistle. Outside the recent Zach Breen controversy, you can’t think of another negative about athletics here. The GVSU brand is something that’s not only significant now, but has and will grow into something much bigger in the next decade.

Look no further than the recent 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft for evidence. GVSU’s Cody Grice, a junior outfielder, was drafted in the 12th round by the New York Yankees.

Like them or not, being drafted by the Yankees is a big deal, and if Grice can work his way up to the big leagues in the next few years it will be an even bigger success for both the GVSU baseball program, and GVSU athletics as a whole.

He’s not going to wow you with his stats, but Grice is more than capable of developing into a useful big league player. For a good comparison, look no further than the Yankees’ current big league centerfielder, Brett Gardner. Gardner is a speedster who can make up ground fast defensively and wreak havoc on the base paths. Grice may not be the pure speed player Gardner is, but he could be a bigger and more powerful-hitting version.

The Yankees drafting of Grice is just one of many professional successes for GVSU athletes.

Take Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Matt Thornton. The 6-foot-6 lefty is one of baseball’s hardest throwers. He’s coming off an American League All-Star appearance last season and, after a rough start to the season, is beginning to again look like one of the leagues dominant left-handed relievers.

While they might not be playing football these days, current Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Carr is another Laker success story at the highest level.

Currently the No. 2 corner for the up-and-coming Chiefs, Carr has gone from fifth round risk to steady starter. He’s not going to make the highlight reel with his hands, but he’s a guy who can tackle and play an efficient corner.

Two other Lakers linked to the NFL are Green Bay Packers’ lineman Nick McDonald and undrafted free agent Cam Bradfield. McDonald didn’t play this last season, but he was on the Packers’ Super Bowl-winning roster.

Bradfield is another story. The All-GLIAC lineman has the ability to be on an NFL practice squad, but with the current lockout in place, Bradfield and many other undrafted free agents have not had the chance to speak with teams to negotiate contracts.

These successes are great, and they’ll surely help the recruiting process for the GVSU programs they represented, but the brand won’t truly explode until a notable star-level player emerges.

As far as we know, that athlete could be reading this column today. So lets revisit this little discussion in ten years, shall we?

Brady Fredericksen is the GV Lanthorn’s sports editor. You can email Brady at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/itsbradybtch.