April 7, 2011
University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on different topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All of his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page, mgoblue.com/brandon, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.
We talk a lot about family in collegiate athletics. The team concept, the idea of standing up for your teammate when things get tough, and enjoying the success of a group of individuals who have sacrificed for a common cause.
You develop a kindred spirit with student-athletes, coaches and staff that spans generations. Some of these individuals you know personally, others you know of through their name, and some others you know because of their relation to this university.
When you place yourself in this position, one gets the advantage of being part of something greater. You enjoy the many successes the program has garnered throughout the years.
Then there are the times when something happens and you lose someone in the family. Those days hurt, and when you are close to that person, the pain is felt even more.
Yesterday was one of those days when you felt the pain. Vada Murray passed away.
Vada was special for us at the University of Michigan. Maybe we had that special bond because his football coach, Bo Schembechler, would talk about his work ethic and commitment to the team. How Vada was the first in the workout room and the last to leave.
More important to Bo and Vada's teammates is what Vada did off the field. There were many who felt Vada wasn't going to be able to handle the game of football and academics at Michigan. Vada took this on as a personal challenge, one day walking into Bo's office and betting the legendary coach a submarine sandwich that he could pull off a 3.0 GPA during a particular semester. Bo took the bet.
At the end of that term, Vada walked back into the Bo's office. He'd lost the bet. Vada pulled a 2.9, not a 3.0. Bo told him not to worry, he was proud of the effort. Vada then went back outside of the coach's office and brought in a submarine sandwich. Bo looked up and smiled.
Vada didn't make the 3.0 cut. He worked hard for his goal and came up short. Then, Vada went out and worked even harder to try to achieve that goal. He showed his teammates what they needed to do, and if they couldn't hit that benchmark, they had to pay the price and work harder and smarter.
After football, Vada did the same as a police officer here in Ann Arbor. He worked hard to serve the community, helping individuals along the way in numerous ways.
Yesterday Vada lost his fight with cancer in his battle for his life. This was a fight he knew he wasn't going to win.
And as he did when he played, he fought cancer long and hard, longer than anyone expected. His physical and mental makeup allowed him to show us what could be accomplished -- even though everyone knew it was fight he wasn't going to win.
I'm sure that last night, Bo and he sat down again. I don't know if Vada had a sandwich in his hand, but I do know his old coach had a big smile on his face. Vada never gave up. He fought to the end.
On behalf of the Michigan Athletic Department, I would like to convey our condolences to Vada's family. He and his wife, Sarah, have two daughters, Kendall and Harper, and Vada also has a son, Deric, from his first marriage, to former Letterwinners M Club president Laura Melvin.
Friends, colleagues remember Vada Murray for quiet courage (AnnArbor.com)
Brandon's Blog: Smacking Adversity in the Mouth (Feb. 15, 2011)
Dave Brandon Home Page
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