Welcome to the refreshed Underdog Dynasty! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card. SB Nation is collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!
Underdog Dynasty is one of SB Nation’s unique sites in that it offers a site for many fan bases to call home. Due to how spread out our community is, we felt it was best for the staff to offer a variety of stories on why they became fans of their favorite college football team.
Cyrus Smith - FAU & Oregon
Growing up I loved college sports and I immediately knew that the college I was going to attend had to be a Division 1 school.
Although I’m from New York, I grew up in Orlando. All around me was college sports fans who liked the Big Three. Every college football season all I would hear is Florida, Florida State and Miami. None of those schools appealed to me so I didn’t care for them but I knew that if I was going to be apart of the conversation I had to pick a team.
Somehow I ended up with Oregon. The first college football game I remember seeing was Oregon vs Colorado in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl. My favorite color is also yellow and I love rainy days so I figured why not.
By 2007 I still loved my Ducks and was determined to go to school there but on December 21, 2007 I found myself to be watching the New Orleans Bowl and saw FAU dominate Memphis to win their first bowl game.
It was my first introduction to FAU. To this day I still remember how they had some astronaut introduce the starters in the bowl game. I was intrigued and decided if I never got to Oregon I’m going there.
In my senior year in high school, everyone knew me as the kid who wore Oregon stuff. Hats, jerseys, hoodies, I had everything. Add in the fact that Oregon actually got really good and there was no doubt in my mind where I was going to college. I applied, got accepted, AND they gave me a scholarship. I’ll never forget my mom getting emotional while I was reading the letter.
A few weeks later I convinced my friend to visit FAU with no real intention on going there.
I loved it. I loved the beaches nearby, the diversity south Florida had to offer, and since I was going to major in journalism I liked how south Florida was a pretty good media market (way better than Portland).
The tour guides showed us where FAU Stadium was being built and how our class was going to be the first one to experience an on campus stadium. On the drive back to Orlando I was sold on the vision of being apart of that. I knew I was going to be an Owl.
My best friend agreed. FAU was where we were going for college.
Flipping from Oregon to FAU was a pretty big deal. My high school friends and teachers were shocked. My mom couldn’t believe it either. Since I was a kid I always told her I was going to Oregon. Whenever report cards would come out she always got me Oregon apparel.
But being at FAU felt right for me. Getting the acceptance letter from Oregon was enough for me to know that I could have been a Duck. I’ve always liked being different but being at FAU was more about being different. It was about being apart of a school that was growing into a destination (it didn’t hurt to have a beach five minutes away either). Besides, how could I turn down rooting for Schnelly and his awesome stache. I still love Oregon but that passion, love and underdog mentality has now extended over to FAU and will be there until I’m six feet under.
Go Owls! Go Ducks!
Jared Kalmus - UTSA
Much like Cyrus, I grew up with sports fandom affiliations thousands of miles from my hometown in south Texas. Infatuated with guys like Nomar Garciaparra, Mo Vaughn, and Manny Ramirez, I became a huge Boston Red Sox fan in my formative years. Despite never having visited Boston, I was able to adopt a strong feel for the city and its culture through the wonders of satellite television, broadband internet, and social media.
As I aged I knew that I wanted to see more of this world than my small hometown could offer. What better big city to escape to than the home of my favorite sports team? Boston College jumped out to an early lead as my dream school as Matt Ryan’s Boston College Eagles served as my first real introduction to college football outside of the Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies.
Of course life at 18 never charts out the way we plan it at 16.
While my SAT scores were solid, I quickly realized that I lacked the academic cache to earn a financial aid package that would make the Catholic university’s $60,000 tuition and fees per semester manageable. I quickly shifted my attention to the public University of Massachusetts but again balked at the gaudy price of out-of-state tuition amid the Great Recession of 2008.
Down on my luck, my creative writing teacher happened to pass out a flyer for a scholarship opportunity the week after I began to lose hope on being able to afford tuition anywhere outside of Texas. UTSA’s English department was offering a $5,000 scholarship to young writers that were interested in attending UTSA. Despite the due date being just a week away, I quickly penned a lengthy essay detailing the then-pending demise of the traditional press and media in favor of blogs and social media outlets.
Afraid that my submission might not make it to campus in time to be considered, I took the initiative to drive up to San Antonio to deliver my painstakingly-edited essay in person. Having visited the northern suburbs of San Antonio repeatedly for high school football games, I already knew I loved the geography and atmosphere of the area. I was wholly unprepared for how much I would love UTSA’s campus.
Carved out of pristine limestone and adorned with glistening glass, the campus provided a high-tech modernity that blew me away. I came across so many unfamiliar looking people and languages during my time on campus that provided a level of diversity that I had hoped to find on previous visits to Baylor, Texas, and A&M.
Sure enough, I ended up winning the writing contest for the scholarship but that was just icing on the cake— no amount of financial aid can account for finding a new home in UTSA.
Aikman Chambers - Appalachian State
Just like Cyrus and Jared, I also grew up a sports fan. Not only do I love football but I am a big basketball fan also as I am a fan of the Charlotte Hornets in the NBA and UNC in college. My dad being such a die hard Dallas Cowboys fan named me after Troy Aikman (FYI: I’m a Redskins fan). My story is probably just a little different than most because I have not attended college, as after graduating high school in 2016, I went full time into the field of broadcasting. Being just 19 years old, it’s safe to say I am the young buck of the group.
Appalachian State has always been a part of my life as I have been attending games since i was about seven or eight years old. I have been a season ticket and Yosef Club member with ASU for years now. I can still remember as a nine year old kid in 2007 seeing Appalachian preform the greatest upset in college football history against Michigan. I love FCS football and still follow it regularly since that is how it was when Appalachian was apart of the SoCon. But I was very pleased back in 2012 when the announcement was made that they would be headed to the Sun Belt.
To me nothing beats gamedays at “The Rock.” It’s like a religion because it is an every Saturday thing for me. No matter if the game is at home or away I am always watching or listening to ASU football each week. I am one of the newer faces to UDD as I just joined early February and I’m looking forward to this upcoming season and reporting on the Mountaineers throughout the 2017-2018 campaign. Fight Apps!
Vidal Espinoza - Texas State
I grew up a huge sports fan but kind of took off the beaten path. Myself being from Austin, my dad was a fan of the Cowboys who I thought were dull in comparison to the baby blue, no-huddle flash of the Houston Oilers of the mid/late-1980’s so I jumped on the former “Luv Ya Blue” franchise. Being a stat-head since the beginning I used to record stats for all my sports video games and I would have my parents buy me sports statistic almanacs every year. When it came to college football I was a Longhorn fan until the 1991 Cotton Bowl. I was so excited to see that game only to see them demolished by Miami 46-3. At that point I stopped paying attention to college football and more toward the pros, that is until I started thinking about my own future beyond high school.
It was around the time when I started to apply for schools that I first took notice of a school 30 minutes south of me called Southwest Texas State. I visited there while in high school a couple of times to go listen to Austin American Statesman sports writer Kirk Bohls talk to students and was intrigued by the school. As I switched my potential major from Journalism to Graphic Design I dropped the idea of going to Boise, Denton, or staying in Austin and decided on going to school in San Marcos. Now having a school to call my own the only problem was rooting for a football team in (at the time) I-AA division play. Which meant no national coverage and hardly any local coverage. But that changed in 2012 when we were called up to the big time of FBS play.
Being a Bobcat, I have rooted for them since Spergon Wynn was drafted by Cleveland. I’ve watched every football game and those who know me know I’m unavailable on most Saturdays during the season. I wish I could’ve played ball but academic issues and physical injuries derailed those plans (I still have my eligibility Coach Withers if you need a punter). But it doesn’t matter. I keep that maroon and gold on high no matter what.
UDD is an awesome site covering all these great schools and a decade ago I wish coverage was as plentiful for Texas State as it’s being covered today. I’m proud to be a Texas State alum, of the football team and even prouder of trying my best and having a platform to write about my Bobcats. I’m excited for 2017 and if you’re not down with that I got four words for ya......Eat ‘em up Cats!
Joey Broback - G5 Football
I live in Minnesota where football is adored, but not taken too serious nationally. College football has always been in my blood but I never really paid attention during the season to any smaller schools. That is until ECU-Tulsa happened.
September 5th, 2010 was a day in which I was supposed to do homework during the 2:30 time slot of games. There weren’t any intriguing games to me except between the Pirates and Golden Hurricane, so I figured it would be good background noise. A 51-49 Pirates win later, and it’s safe to say I never finished that homework. That game got me completely hooked on Group of 5 teams, adding to my passion for college football.
When Tom Herman took over Houston, I knew they had something special. I watched them stun Florida State in the Peach Bowl, and attended the game in which they upset #3 Oklahoma to open the 2016 season.
Saturdays will continue to be a day where you will find me in front of multiple screens, and I can’t wait to cover both Houston and the AAC in 2017. I’ll always remember that ECU-Tulsa game, and it is crazy to see how things have come full circle. I come from a Power 5 world hoping to share what the Group of 5 has to offer. The AAC is ready to make some noise in 2017, and I am thrilled to be apart of the Underdog Dynasty team when it happens!
Joe Serpico - Temple Owls
I come from a family of two Italian immigrants that came to the United States at a young age. My father came here without knowing any English to work at a pizzeria inside a Philadelphia mall. Today, he owns several restaurants in the Baltimore area. He always worked hard for everything he's had, and the restaurant businesses is something the entire family is apart of.
Philadelphia could not have been a more perfect place for my dad to begin his journey in the USA. Philadelphia is a blue-collar city and that's why my parents fit in. My parents taught us to be proud of where we came from, and I developed a love for the city.
There are two things that make up natives of Philadelphia: a love for family and our sports teams. Growing up in the City of Brotherly Love, I have always had an admiration for the Philadelphia Eagles, Sixers, Flyers and Phillies. As a Philly sports fan, you are almost immune to year after year of failure. I have seen all of our teams struggle mightily at different points of my life.
However, there are two moments in Philadelphia's rich history of college athletics that Have always stuck out to me: Kerry Kittles' run with Villanova basketball and Temple Owls Head Coach John Chaney threatening to kill UMass' John Calipari.
My family moved to Baltimore after elementary school to open the first of many area restaurants. I have grown to love Charm City, adopting the Orioles as one of my favorite teams and making the best friends a man can ask for. But when it came time to make a college decision, it was really a simple process.
I narrowed my college search down to three schools: Towson, Salisbury and Temple. Towson was the local school that everyone went to, and while I was accepted, it was really the fallback option. Salisbury University was interested in me to play collegiate soccer so I visited and even made plans to room with a friend if I went.
But, I always knew I wanted to go back to Philadelphia for college. Temple University got back to me late in the process, but it was a no-brainer for me. It was the perfect decision for me because it fit everything I stood for. "Temple Tough" meant working for everything you have. That's what my family taught us to be.
I knew I wanted to enter the sports journalism field and Temple had access to great facilities throughout the area. Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Eagles, was also the home of the Owls. Liacouras Center is a beautiful arena in North Philadelphia. The opportunity to network with so many professional and collegiate sports teams was ideal. You knew you were learning from some of the best with the number of professors that worked at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.
One of my first interviews on campus was Coach Chaney's induction into Temple's Hall of Fame. It was an absolute honor to not only meet the man, but talk to him and several of his players before his induction ceremony. I will admit, I was a bit scared to meet him because all I could think of is him wanting to kill Calipari, Chaney embracing a freshman reporter on one of the biggest days of his life made me feel at home. He genuinely cared about the students at Temple. It felt like family.
I was there to watch Al Golden turnaround an abysmal football team and set the foundation of program. They went 1-11 in his first season, but each year they got better under Golden, and ultimately in their first bowl game in 1979. The basketball program made the NCAA Tournament in all my years there. The friends and memories I made will last forever. The decision to go to North Broad was by far one of the best of my life, and I am proud to say I am Temple Made.
Joining UDD has been a blessing. I get to continue to cover Temple athletics and work with a great staff that wants to see the underdogs succeed in college football. Can’t wait to see what the 2017 season brings us.
Adam Woodyard - All of Them (and North Texas)
I’m a fan of G5 football because nobody roots for Goliath. My senior year, UNT started 0-6 (0-1), and like most students at the time I wished the school would put any of that money toward my own major, not a football team that wasn’t going anywhere. Then UNT won their next five games to finish the season 5-6 and go to a bowl game in New Orleans, of all places. I had to become an expert fast. How did the bowl selection process work? Who would we play? What were the stakes? Which Bourbon Street bar had the best drink specials?
We drew Colorado State out of the Mountain West (who soundly crushed us), so then I learned the teams in the Mountain West. Then I learned all the conferences. I’ve followed every season since, in a sport where one loss can ruin your season, while an NFL team can lose seven games and still make the playoffs. UNT wouldn’t lose another conference game until 2004, but has fallen on hard times in the 13 years since. I’m still hanging around, waiting for another run, even if it’s not at my school but with another one in our G5 family.
Adrian Bermudez - UTSA
I dont have a very rich college family history. Most of the older folks in my family went to Houston a long time ago - back in the SWC days - but they were still about 40 years away from winning the Peach Bowl and conference championships. I never had a vested rooting interest, and growing up college sports was just that: college sports. It didn’t mean much to me; my house was all about pro sports and college was never on TV.
The only time I can recall watching college sports in adolescence was at my friend Kyle’s house. His family was made up of generations of (you guessed it) Aggies. Kyle’s house was kind of the hangout spot growing up, so I saw a lot of college ball when I was over there, but again, I didn’t pay it a whole lot of mind.
Growing up in Houston you’re surrounded by transplants or children of transplants, so everyone you know has a different fandom they come from. I wasn’t exactly an overachiever in grade school; I was really just going through the motions with no plan. One day at dinner, my mom was all over my case about college, and I told her I was just going to go to community college and then transfer to U of H. Long story short, she shot down the proposition. She actually told me, “you’re not staying in Houston.”
Honestly, I don’t even know how I found out about UTSA. I guess I had some friends that went there but I can’t recall when the first time I heard of it was. I had a cousin that graduated from there in the mid-2000’s, and an aunt and uncle that lived in San Antonio, so I applied there simply for convenience sake: it wasn’t too far from Houston and I could shack up with the family.
Well, a couple of months later I visited the campus and immediately fell in love. The hills, the modern layout, the weather, the city, the girls - it was paradise. The talk of the town was how the school was finally getting a football team. I grew up playing the drums and spent football seasons on the drumline, never missing a game. So, on that visit, I went to the music building and inquired about joining the first drumline in school history. It was like a dream scenario, a perfect fit.
Shortly after that I was back in San Antonio for rehearsals, and that football team changed my life. I got a degree, I learned to how to write columns, and I marched out of a tunnel in front of 55,000 screaming fans. It was like overnight college football became a huge part of my life, and I’m forever grateful for it.
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