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Inside Jake Ware: The Bond That Brings Us Together Derek Sills: A Lasting Effect Spring Sports’ Preview For All the Right Reasons Achieving Our Mission: Rings & Diplomas Volunteer for the Eagle Fund

The Bond that Brings Us Together

“I knew it would be an experience that would transform my life.” - Jake Ware


t was a perfect confluence seemingly intended just for Jake Ware. It was about baseball, it was travel to a Latin American country and it was an opportunity for him to share his spirituality with others. He knew he and destiny were in sync. Mike Tidick, one of his GSU baseball coaches, approached him in the fall of 2008, about a ‘great opportunity,’ with a group called Athletes in Action. Athletes in Action, founded in 1966, organizes players to travel to other countries or within the United States, to play sports and to deliver a spiritual message about Christianity. “My

interest was sparked once I made contact with the organization,” remembers Jake. “I knew it would be an experience that would transform my life,” he adds. And so he prepared for his adventure. The trip was planned for the summer of 2009. Nicaragua was his and 12 other like-minded college baseball players’ destination. Each player was required to raise his own funds for the trip which Jake accomplished with donations from family and friends. Knowing Nicaragua was his destination gave

Jake the opportunity to study about the country, something he readily enjoyed academically, further supporting his major in International Studies at Georgia Southern. It would be a great opportunity for him to practice his minor, Spanish, while exploring first-hand a part of the world in which he was keenly interested. Preparation for the month-long journey began in Dallas, where Jake and his new teammates collected to get to know each other, and to play together as a baseball team before they met-up with their Nicaraguan opponents. These were the first of Jake’s new-found friendships on the trip. But finding friends through baseball was not new to Jake. “Baseball has been a passion since I was four,” says Jake. While growing up, his family moved three times. “With moving around, I found that the best way to make friends was through playing baseball. It was a good way to meet people and break the ice,” says Jake.

While in Nicaragua, Jake also found that young kids, just like he had been, were playing stickball — the lack of proper sports equipment wasn’t stifling their game. “They grow up loving our major leagues and they know all about American teams and players,” remarks Jake. His Athletes in Action team played in numerous cities at 12 different universities and in their spare time they worked on service projects. Once the Nicaraguan players learned that Americans were coming to play, some even enrolled in school just to have the chance to compete against Jake and his team. Games were often played in rough fields, littered with bottle caps — alongside chickens, pigs and other farm animals. The opportunity also arose for the Athletes in Action team to play a professional team. It was a good challenge for them and even though they did not win, they were able to hold their own. After the games, one member of the Athletes in Action team would speak, through a translator, to the group about his individual spiritual path. All team members eventually would have an opportunity to present. Afterwards, both teams would gather together to get to know each other better giving Jake the chance to practice his Spanish. Through this personal contact, the American and Nicaraguan players connected with a common bond — sports. The game is the same no matter where it is played — no matter the hardships. They were playing for fun.

Then came the exchange of gifts, as new-found friends will often do. Jake had met a young boy around 14-years-of-age (pictured above to Jake’s right), the same age as his younger brother, and had given him a gift of a GSU wrist band. He did not expect to ever see him again, but he did, at another game, and the young boy offered his gift of a batting glove to Jake. Reluctant to accept it, Jake knew how precious any piece of sporting equipment was to these players. But the young man persisted, “I want for you to remember me,” he implored to Jake. The bond of friendship could not be ignored.

2010 Spring Sports’ Preview Baseball


oming off a 2009 Southern Conference tournament championship and ranking as number two seed in the NCAA regionals, head coach Rodney Hennon looks at his new and returning players and sees the team as a good combination of talent up to the challenges of this season’s schedule. “There are a number of newcomers, but we have a good mix of veteran leadership and youth,” says Hennon, in this his 11th year as head coach.

“They love to play in front of fans. It really energizes them.” – Coach Rodney Hennon

Last season was a senior-heavy championship year and many good players were lost, so returning players will have big roles. “Current seniors who have experienced success should help the new players understand what it takes to win championships,” says Hennon. Several returning players stepped up the second half of last season and really sparked the team. Infielder A.J. Wirnsberger, is a forth year starter, while outfielder, Roman Grimaldi, and infielders, Kevin Bowles and Kyle Blackburn (above) all brought leadership qualities to the game last year. Although Coach Hennon expects the Southern Conference to be a challenge as the league is getting better each year, he believes, “If we can peak at the right time, we will be in position to win another championship.” Dexter Bobo, Andy Moye, Matt Murray and Jake Brown all bring experience and leadership on the pitching staff, “a good recipe for success,” remarks Hennon. Georgia Southern baseball has a long tradition of home field fan support, especially last season when large crowds cheered for the team all the way through to the championship. “They love to play in front of fans,” says Hennon. “It really energizes them.” With 14 of the first 16 games at home, players should benefit from their hometown support. Last season they were at 26 and 5 on the home field. The home schedule brings with it some exciting games including opening games with Tennessee Tech, who went to NCAA regionals last year, Georgia Tech, who are a pre-season top-10 team, and South Carolina who will be playing on J.I Clements field for the first time in years.



aggie Johnson and her staff are looking to build on the foundation of their fairly successful first year that took the Eagles to the SoCon tournament for the second time in the last two seasons. With Johnson’s first true recruiting class this year, she plans to build on last season’s strong base to win the tournament and get to regionals.

to graduation, our offense is strong and we want them to play aggressively,” says Johnson. Senior Nina Iduate (left) will be lead-off batter, continuing her great career as an Eagle. There are some early tough teams on the schedule to give the team needed experience. In the past, eight teams went to the conference tournament, but now because of cost containment reasons, only the top four finishers in the regular season will go. With the last two years as runners-up in the SoCon tournament, “every game this season is critical — each game is huge to our success,” says Johnson.

Golf Returning pitchers are junior Brianna Streetmon (above), 2009 SoCon Pitcher of the Year and junior, Megen Smith, both key to the mound. Johnson is expecting her players to have continued good communication and trust in each other on the field. “They learned to do this on a higher level last year,” says Johnson. “We must have a strong defense to win games because giving up that run or two may lose the game,” she adds. Senior Jenny Side is moving to third base because of the loss of the 3rd baseman to graduation. Marie Fogle, the conference’s 2009 Freshman of the Year is the fastest on the team playing in the outfield, and the coaches are looking for her to step-up as a leader among the freshman competition. “Although we lost some big hitters


he 20092010 Eagles return five letter-winners from a 2008-2009 squad that finished 10th at the NCAA Southeast Regional and took second at the Southern Conference Championship. With three returning starters, Georgia Southern is on path to capture the SoCon title and earn its eighth berth to NCAA postseason play in 10 years. Leading the way will be junior Logan Blondell (right), the reigning Southern Conference Player of the year. “Logan has had a great career so far with two pieces of hardware on the wall in Southern Conference ‘Freshman of the Year’ and Southern Conference ‘Player of the Year’,” says head coach Larry Mays.

Spence Fulford (left) returns as a senior after setting a career tournament-best 205 in the NCAA Regional last season. “A great student-athlete, he has really grown up a lot both as a player and a person in his three years here. We’ll be looking for his leadership on the team as one of our senior leaders this year,” states Mays. The third returner from the NCAA Regional lineup is junior Joe Monte who highlighted his sophomore campaign with a sixth-place finish at the John Hayt Invitational. Seniors Ryan Zabroske and Matt Deal round-out the returning players. Mays also welcomes four newcomers to the squad, Coleman Calhoun, T.J. Holley, Florian Sander and Thomas Sharkey. With the loss of three seniors from 2009, Mays will look to his 2010 senior class for leadership and the continuance of the team chemistry that has been absent years prior. “We had great chemistry last year. The team really came together and buckled in and believed in each other,” says Mays. “They left good footprints for the guys to follow in this season and hopefully we can do that,” he adds.

Track & Field


he Georgia Southern Track and Field team has several exciting athletes to watch this year. “These women will be doing big things this season,” according to head coach Natalie Smith.

Junior Lynndsey Hyter, returning Indoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year and Field Athlete of the Year, brings strength and experience to the team. Other strong Eagles to watch include seniors, Demetrise Anthony and Laura Fuller (right), sophomore Morgan Jefferson, and freshman Jasmine Billings. It is not just the team’s performance on the field that makes coach Smith optimistic, they are excelling in the classroom, as well. “I am proud of their start both on the track and in the classroom, this year,” says Smith. Looking to improve on past indoor championship results, “this year our goal is to do better than third place,” says Smith. In the outdoor championships, “we hope to recapture the championships at Appalachian State where we were the 2007 champions,” she adds. Outdoor events begin the second week in March. Fans can see them at home on Saturday March 27th, when Georgia Southern hosts the second annual invitational.

Men’s Tennis


arning a Southern Conference First Team Doubles Team, the 2008-09 Georgia Southern men’s tennis team went 10-9-1 overall and 5-4 in league play. In seven of eight seasons under head coach Justin Miles’ supervision, the Eagles

have reached the quarterfinals of the Southern Conference Tournament, most recently in 2009. After losing three seniors to graduation at the end of the season, the Eagles returned seven in 20092010, while adding four newcomers. “We have a good team that started this spring,” says Miles. “We expect to have good results with the talent we have.” Three returning seniors with a lot of experience include Gregory Bekkers (above), Justin Flynn and Jayraj Jadeja. The new season opened with a tough schedule with four straight on the road including two national teams, Georgia Tech and Florida State. “Although there was a tough start, it helped prepare the players for other teams on the schedule as they get closer to conference play,” says Miles.

The Eagles lost three seniors from last year’s roster, but return five starters while adding five to the roster. “The three returning seniors look forward to being leaders on the courts and taking pride in the tradition of Georgia Southern athletics,” says Bonner. With only four teams going to the tournament this year, “making an appearance at the SoCon tournament this year is an important goal,” adds Bonner. On the academic side, the team won the GPA award for Georgia Southern Women’s Athletics for the sixth year in a row. “This is not only a team that works hard on the tennis court but also in the classroom,” says Bonner. Although the win was for women’s athletics, the team had the highest overall for all Georgia Southern teams. The team academic goal for this year is a 3.5 GPA.

Women’s Tennis


fter posting the best season since 1998, with a record of 13-7 and 7-3 against conference opponents, the women’s tennis team looks to build on the success of the 2008-09 season in 2009-2010. Last season, junior, Melanie Rolle (above right) was an all-conference player. “Coming off a strong season, the goal is to have another player or double’s team as all-conference selections,” says head coach, Amy Bonner.

Be a part of this season’s success and buy your Eagle Baseball season tickets today by calling 1-800-GSU-WINS.

A Lasting Effect


Kmart football and a formative team developing under the magical aegis of Erk Russell started it all. It was a team that would wow the football world with early and powerful accomplishments — a team whose extraordinary feats would linger in the hearts of countless young people who would remember all the details of the national championships that were won, and the star coach who inspired everyone. Such are the memories of Derek Sills. But Derek’s memories are not just about the winners, any more than he is just about Georgia Southern football. Derek is, quite simply, a fan of everything about the school. “Southern is a magical place,” says Derek. “They take the average person

and make them good, they take the good person and make them great, and they take the great person and make them legendary,” he beams. Such enthusiasm is the mark of an inspired supporter. And Derek responds to his personal respect for anything Georgia Southern by working to help the school achieve its goals volunteering as an Eagle Rep for the GSU Athletic Foundation. “I see my job as educating others — helping them to understand the significance of giving back to a place that gave them so much,” he says. Perhaps that instinct was partly honed while in high school, working at R.J. Pope’s clothing store in Statesboro. Mr. Pope was an early supporter and fundraiser for GSU football. As a matter of fact, he was a member of the fundraising group from the early 80’s affectionately called the “dirty dozen” by

“I see my job as educating others – helping them to understand the significance of giving back to a place that gave them so much.” - Derek Sills

Erk Russell. “That was the group that started it all, and I feel that the current Eagle Reps are the newer version of what that group started,” he says. “They would speak with anyone who was willing to listen,” says Derek. And Derek believes it is important to continue the work they started — spreading the word and raising funds. Derek seems to have a natural understanding of what athletes and their coaches require. Playing football at Metter High School, he later became a community coach of the school’s football team. A 1996 graduate of Georgia Southern, he is currently heavily involved with the school serving as a board member and Eagle Rep with the GSU Athletic Foundation, a member of the Alumni Association board and president of the Eagle Club for Liberty County, Georgia — all while pursuing a banking

career as First Vice President and head of Financial Services with The Heritage Bank in Hinesville, Georgia. He often stops by the school to visit with coaches, welcoming the opportunity to meet some of the student-athletes. “They are so appreciative for what has been done to help them,” says Derek. “They are given an opportunity to get a college education and become a success, and 99% of them will go on to be a pro at something other than sports,” he adds. And so he defines the importance of getting an education while playing a sport. “This is an opportunity that may change the course of a person’s life,” Derek believes. An indelible contribution to students that will raise them up

in life, much like the impression made on Derek in high school when he first met Erk Russell. “Erk had a lasting effect on me,” says Derek — a lasting effect that continues to support and inspire others through his own selfless contributions.

Achieving Our Mission: Rings and Diplomas


t is the mission of the Georgia Southern University Athletic Foundation to raise funds to provide an opportunity for every GSU student-athlete to compete in a championship-caliber sports’ program while seeking a college education. This meaningful objective helps these ambitious and dedicated students strive for and reach their individual vision of Rings and Diplomas — graduation and a championship ring. But their goals cannot be realized without our assistance. The scholarship commitment of the athletic department is $2.7 million in 2010. Even though the Eagle Fund donated $600,000 in annual scholarship support in 2009 to offset the cost of this critical need, there is still a shortfall of $2.1 million that our athletic department must raise to provide a quality education and essential athletic resources for our student-athletes. We aspire to close the gap between the cost of the athletic scholarships and the dollars needed to bring talented students to Georgia Southern. In addition to raising scholarship funds, the Athletic Foundation has set future goals for major athletic capital projects. An expansion of our membership base and volunteer program will provide the groundwork for expanded participation and increased donations.

For All the Right Reasons “It was a tremendous honor to represent Georgia Southern on the football field. I will never forget the triumphs, heartaches and friendships shared. Most importantly, though, I will always cherish my degree from GSU and thank those who helped provide my scholarship.”

– Harland Bower, GSU Football #47

“The last five years has been the most memorable of my life. I am grateful for the financial support which allowed me to play college football and earn my degree. Georgia Southern is a special place, and I hope future student-athletes have the same opportunities I have enjoyed.”

– Cole Fountain, GSU Football #70

Capital Projects Additional Capital Improvements:

Reaching the pinnacle from a solid foundation

• Football Locker Room • Academic Enhancement Center • Volleyball Arena Enhancement • Soccer/Track Lighting • Softball Batting Cage

Operating Expenses Additional Operating Expenses: • Scholarship Supplement • Staffing • Travel • Recruiting

Communications Strategy • Improved Web Presence • Improved Written Communications • On-demand Information

Engaged Leadership • Recruitment of Volunteers • Improved Committee Structure

Expanded Membership Base • Membership Rep Program • Student Eagle Club • New Graduate Program


Volunteer for the Eagle Fund Program

he Georgia Southern University Eagle Fund is implementing new efforts in fundraising. We are adopting the Eagle Fund Volunteer Program, a volunteerbased fundraising model, which will expand our overall membership not only for next year, but for the future success of the Eagle Fund. Like any business, we depend on word-of-mouth and positive referrals to express the mission of our foundation. The Eagle Fund Volunteer Program will allow our current members to take ownership in our athletic programs by conveying their message to friends, family, and alumni. Our volunteers will be essential components to the Eagle Fund in accomplishing its fund-raising goals. Last year, we were able to reach 92% of our fundraising goals. That success has allowed us to provide scholarships from both an unrestricted and endowed basis. This monetary support keeps alive our vision of “Rings and Diplomas,” so that every student-athlete at Georgia Southern will have the opportunity to pursue his or her goal of a college education and a championship ring.

The Georgia Southern University Eagle Fund has an exciting future. Our focus for 2010 is the overall growth of our donor base to help supplement our current scholarship deficit. To achieve this critical goal, we must retain current members and recruit new ones. Our volunteers will be charged with that simple mission. As a volunteer you will be asked to: • Establish a personal relationship with your contact list, through personal contacts, by telephone, or in writing; • Contact active members to update their biographical information; • Look for any potential new members or fellow volunteers. Don’t limit yourself to simply GSU alumni; • Attend monthly meetings in your area; • Give a personal, annual donation to the Eagle Fund; • And above all, represent Georgia Southern University in a positive manner. Now, more than ever, the Eagle Fund Volunteer Program is essential to our continued growth and success. Your efforts to encourage continued membership giving, as well as, recruit

new individuals will be the basis for the Eagle Fund’s success. The Eagle Fund is committed to the continued growth and success of Georgia Southern University. Simply put, get involved and watch our athletic program grow before your eyes. Join us as an Eagle Fund volunteer and make a difference for Georgia Southern University student-athletes. For more information, please contact Lucas Stuckey at 912-478-1109 or lstuckey@

Eagle Fund Annual Campaign Dates Announced The Eagle Fund Annual Campaign will begin on March 1, 2010, and conclude on May 31, 2010. Donors can expect the first campaign correspondence to arrive in their mailboxes in early March with follow-up pieces throughout the spring. Please remember the priority point deadline. All contributions must be posted prior to May 31st to qualify for priority points. Your priority point total is used to fairly determine priority in parking allocation and in acquiring high demand tickets. In the next five years, the football schedule includes games at Navy, Alabama, Georgia and Georgia Tech — games you will not want to miss. Encourage your friends and fellow Eagle fans to join today. Through our combined efforts, we can further fund the “Rings and Diplomas” vision for our studentathletes.

Soaring Student Eagle Club Formed


The Georgia Southern University Athletic Foundation, in conjunction with the Alumni Association and Eagle Sports Marketing, has formed a Student Eagle Club to foster attendance, sportsmanship and philanthropic giving for GSU Athletics. The club will offer membership benefits including reserved premium seating at sporting events, exclusive “chalk-talk” sessions with coaches, tailgate events, t-shirts, first choice on student away-game tickets and the opportunity to earn priority points prior to graduation. With this attractive incentive-based program, it is hoped that student participation will lead to increased enrollment in the Young Alumni Program and future Eagle Fund donors. If you have a student enrolled at GSU, please have him or her call Lucas Stuckey at 912-478-1109 to start receiving benefits today.

Soon you will be able to find GSU Athletic Foundation news, online. We are pleased to announce the creation of our newly designed website www. The new site, while still under construction, will highlight our student-athletes, and explain the important role our organization plays in the success of the GSU Athletics Department. The website will bring real-time information to our donors and a navigation-friendly venue to find the information you need.

SoCon Basketball Tournament Tickets It’s never too early to start thinking about supporting our men’s and women’s Eagle Basketball teams in the Southern Conference Tournament. The tournament will be held March 5-8 in Charlotte, N.C. To order you tickets, please call 1-800-GSU-Wins.

For more information on how to join the Eagle Fund call 912.478.5520 Georgia Southern University Athletic Foundation • P.O. Box 8115-01 • Statesboro, Georgia 30460-8115

Georgia Southern University Athletic Foundation, Inc.


PO Box 8115-01 Statesboro, GA 30460-8115

Welcome to the first edition of the Georgia Southern University Athletic Foundation’s quarterly newsletter, Soaring. As an organization, we are committed to bringing you the original content, feature articles and sports highlights that keep you connected with our program. With a new look and direction, we hope that you will enjoy receiving this professionally published newsletter.

Support Georgia Southern University student-athletes who are seeking to rise to new personal heights by advancing their lives through sports and education while earning their “Rings and Diplomas.”

John Mulherin President johnmul@

Kathryn Bryant Office Manager kathrynbryant@

Kay Shuman Athletic Ticket Manager kayshu@

Lucas Stuckey Eagle Fund Director lstuckey@

Dee Parker Records Manager dparker@

Writer/Editor: Bonnie Jaeger Graphic Design: Hilde Keldermans

GSU Soaring, Winter 2010  

The newsletter for the Georgia Southern University Athletic Foundation. Support GSU athletes, support Rings & Diploma!

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