Former Berry athletes return to work at the college

Joshua Mabry, Campus Carrier Sports Editor

Berry is a place that makes such a large impact on people, some feel they never want to leave. Several staff members played an intercollegiate sport during their college days and still are connected to sports in some way, whether that be through being a coach or participating in intramurals.

Paul Deaton (91C)

Paul Deaton, head cross country coach since 1992, ran on the Berry track team from 1987-1991 when the college was in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) conference. He earned an All-American title during his senior season.

“At the very end, the NAIA track and field championships included a marathon event and that’s what I was All-American, sixth place in,” Deaton said. “That certainly defined my four years when I was able to have that race.”

Deaton said that before he started at Berry, the team had recently scaled back from a full track team.

“We were just a cross country team who also competed in track,” Deaton said. “The distance runners ran full cross country and track seasons.”

However, not everything was smooth-sailing on the track team during those days, according to Deaton.

He said that the team went through many transitions. He had a couple of different coaches before the team reached stability with Bob Pearson, who was Deaton’s coach for his last two seasons and part of his second season.

“[Pearson] is also the man who hired me after I finished running to start coaching,” Deaton said. “He was a big part of my life.”

In addition to Pearson, the support of Deaton’s teammates also led him to return to Berry.

He said that when he first came to work, he thought his coaching career would not be long-term.

“I was thinking short-term, but since I enjoyed it, I kept doing it,” Deaton said.

Other reasons Deaton came back to Berry include why he decided to come to college here in the first place. These include the value that he places on athletics at the college level, the values that Berry has, the quality of the degree, the beautiful campus and the people.

He said that the reason he has stayed at Berry so long is the quality of the alumni and seeing the value of the degrees that they get at work.

“The people are doing well and that their experiences in cross country and track add to that make a difference,” Deaton said. “The same reasons that I chose Berry have become stronger to me.”

Deaton said that his favorite thing about being a coach is helping people realize their life goals and seeing their possibility.

“In doing that, there’s a lot more that goes on than just the physical,” Deaton said. “I just love it when an athlete has that experience of seeing what they are capable of and achieving it.”

Matt Mixer (11C)

Residence Life Area Coordinator Matt Mixer played basketball at Berry from 2006-2011 with a medical redshirt for one year when the college was a part of the NAIA.

Mixer said that the basketball team played at the Ford Gymnasium when he started at Berry, but he was able to be there for the opening of the Cage Center.

The best parts of being on the basketball team were being able to travel and represent the college, according to Mixer.

“I really liked being on the bus and having a college experience where athletics were a huge part of that,” Mixer said. “Being on a scholarship was a big deal as well because it felt like investment in the school was that much more important.”

Mixer said that Berry gave him so much, so he enjoyed giving as much as he could back to it.

With his current job, Mixer said he just fell into it. He and his wife moved back to Rome for her job and he was offered a temporary position in Residence Life. He said that he was good at his job, so they offered him a full-time position.

The best aspects of working at Berry are the history and focus of the college, according to Mixer.

“The head, heart and hands thing was a big deal for me,” Mixer said.

Mixer said that even though Berry struggles with some societal woes that are common with college students, Berry’s approach is better through the work study program and other programs that are offered.

Even though Mixer is now an employee at Berry, he still has a sports connection. He participates in intramurals and tries to make it to as many sports games as possible.

“With Residence Life, we are encouraged to have relationships with students and build those up,” Mixer said. “Intramurals is a huge proponent of that.”

Mixer said that he plays on teams with WinShape employees, students and other faculty and staff. It is even common to see Mixer on teams where he is the only staff member.

Mixer encourages other faculty and staff to participate in intramurals because it helps make them more approachable.

“It helps remove the façade of you being a robot,” Mixer said. “They don’t see your life outside of the classroom or office that much. Being able to come out and participate allows you the opportunity to build a different side of the relationship that you normally wouldn’t have.”

Mixer said that Berry alumni returning to the college to work is helpful because they know the culture of the college and went through similar experiences that the students are going through.

“I’ve been through that, not someplace else, but here,” Mixer said. “There’s nothing that they have done at Berry that I was not a participant in at some point.”

Cori Bradham (15C)

Cori Bradham, admission counselor, played on the soccer team during her time at Berry. She now participates in intramurals and coaches the club ultimate frisbee team alongside her husband.

Bradham said that she was recruited to play on the soccer team, but it was not the right fit for her during her first year.

“That transition to college, I was just too nervous about it,” Bradham said. “We had the NAIA still, so it was the last group of that conference. Those girls were legit.”

Bradham decided to play on the team for her sophomore year, but realized that it really was not what she was looking for in her college experience. She stayed connected to sports and participated in several intramurals, however.

“That was the biggest thing for me,” Bradham said.

At the end of her sophomore year, Bradham discovered that there was an ultimate frisbee team.

“I’m over here like, ‘That is not a sport,’” Bradham said. “I went out there and that was the most fun I had because it was a combination of soccer, basketball and football.”

She said that she started playing for fun and ended up falling in love with it. She said that ultimate frisbee challenges people to think differently.

Bradham and her husband, Robert Bradham, have recently been working to develop the program, especially since graduating.

The club team started with 10 consistent players, according to Bradham. Now, every year at the team’s annual ultimate frisbee come out event, over 80 players attend and about 30 play consistently throughout the year.

“It’s super fun,” Bradham said. “They’re super competitive for college. Our goal is to go to nationals this year.”

Bradham said that the boys who play on the ultimate frisbee team also play intramurals with her and her husband.

“It’s nice to have that community even after graduating,” Bradham said.

Outside of sports, Bradham enjoys mentoring the ultimate frisbee players and having the opportunity to love on them.

“They keep us busy, but it’s really nice to have kids that we can pour into through sports here at Berry,” Bradham said.

Shakarah Boswell (16C)

Shakarah Boswell, admission counselor, played softball all four years of her time at Berry from 2012-2016.

Boswell said that she began being recruited to play softball during her sophomore year of high school, but did not have any interest in playing college sports at that time. She received an email from a Berry softball coach inviting her to a softball camp.

“I had never heard of Berry College before, so that’s how it got on my radar,” Boswell said.

Boswell said that she did not think about it too much at first, but in her senior year, she received an email inviting her to the camp again.

“From there, me and my dad decided just to visit the college,” Boswell said. “Again, I didn’t have any interest in playing ball in college, but when we came for a campus visit, I fell in love with Berry and automatically knew I wanted to come here.”

Boswell went to the camp and was recruited to play softball for Berry from there. Boswell said that she fell in love with the community right away.

“I fell in love with all the girls we played with,” Boswell said. “It was very competitive. We just had a great time with each other.”

Boswell said that if it was not for the softball team, she does not think she would have graduated from Berry. Softball helped her get everything organized in regards to her academics.

She said that she struggled academically her first year, but the coaches helped her get the resources that she needed to succeed.

“It was really great that was able to be organized so I was able to keep my academics where I wanted them to be because of softball,” Boswell said.

Other than academic help, Boswell said that she enjoyed the relationships that she formed with her coaches and teammates.

The softball team was loving, Boswell said. She did not have a car during her time at Berry and they drove her around everywhere she needed to go.

“They were my sisters,” Boswell said.

She said that to this day, she stays in touch with her team, which she believes is amazing.

“Not long ago, I got invited to a housewarming party for one of the girls that graduated a year after I did,” Boswell said.

The most challenging part of being a student athlete was getting organized with softball, clubs and work, according to Boswell.

Boswell plays intramurals now. She played soccer in the fall and will play softball this spring.

Danny Price (88C)

Danny Price, in-house general counsel, started playing on the men’s soccer team in the fall of 1983.

“I started out on the freshmen team,” Price said. “At that time, Berry actually had a varsity and freshman soccer team.”

He moved up to the varsity team about halfway through the season and played most of three seasons on the varsity team.

Price said that he did not play his senior year because he wanted to focus on academics and prepare for law school.

The best part of playing men’s soccer then was the location where the team played, according to Price.

Soccer matches used to be played where the football practice and intramural fields are now, Price said.

“All the students and people who wanted to watch, they would come out and they would sit on the hill,” Price said. “We had really well attended soccer matches that were really close to the dorms and everybody just came out, sat under the trees and had a good time.”

Price said that his coach, Bob Pearson, had a good understanding of how the various aspects of life had to be balanced even though he wanted the players to be fully committed to the soccer team.

Price said that he encourages others to be a student athlete if they are considering it, because he has always valued his participation in sports.

“I’m a firm believer in the lessons learned on the athletic field,” Price said. “I had to learn time management skills and get better at balancing all of those things over time.”

Price said that he came back to work at Berry because it is a very special place to him and his wife.

“It was a little bit of time and fate that brought me back to Berry,” Price said.

He was formerly in a private practice, finishing up his first term serving as an elected prosecutor in a county outside of Savannah. He closed the practice and said he did not want to run for prosecutor again.

“I was at a crossroads in my life,” Price said.

Price said that he was on the alumni council at Berry and was back on campus when a couple employees asked him to come back and help with major gift fundraising in the advancement department.

Price took the position and four years later, college officials asked him if he would be interested in taking the position of in-house general counsel that they were creating.

He took it because he had much background and experience in real estate and corporate law and litigation.

Brian Farrer (02C)

Brian Farrer, head golf coach, played golf at Berry from 1998-2002 under Scott Pierce.

Farrer said when he came in as a freshman, he was fortunate to have the team before him win the national championship.

“We were able to piggy back off of that and benefit by the team before us being very successful,” Farrer said.

During his time, Farrer said that the team finished second twice and fourth twice at the national championship.

Farrer said that he also enjoyed the education he received at Berry.

“Being part of the business school, the professors there were incredible,” Farrer said.

Farrer’s favorite aspect of Berry was that he still talks to some of the players that he played with and he met his wife here.

He said that he received the opportunity to be a graduate assistant in 2002 because Pierce took a job at Armuchee High School because he did not want to have travel as much with the high school team.

Pierce said that Farrer would be a good replacement, and the rest is history.

“The ability to drive on this campus and say that this is where you work, there’s nothing like it,” Farrer said.

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