This Saturday the Rocco Theater will fill up with people who adore sports and are infatuated with college football for the annual Rimington Trophy Presentation.
People much like Brad Fossberg.
They’ll want to listen to Hall of Fame Coach Bobby Bowden speak. They’ll rise and applaud the official honoring of Reese Dismukes of Auburn as the nation’s top center with the Rimington Trophy. The event itself is something I absolutely love attending and I’m certainly not a “banquet” person. The underlying message, the reason for everyone getting together will be to spread awareness about cystic fibrosis and raise funds for finding a cure for the disease.
For the last few years I have helped to select the Rimington Award for the DI-FCS, DII, DIII and NAIA levels of college football. Basically I reach out to experts and scouts at each level of college football, review film and narrow down the candidates before selecting the winners of each division. I was honored to be asked and the selection process is something I take great pride in being a part of every year.
But as the years have grown on and perhaps even as I have matured a little bit, the award and banquet have become about much more than honoring the best football player at the center position. It’s become about awareness and remembering. Dave Rimington, the namesake for the award, is the President of the Boomer Esiason Foundation and heads up their campaign to end cystic fibrosis. So far the Boomer Esiason Foundation has raised over 100 million dollars to help combat the disease which is something that affects Esiason’s own family as his son Gunner lives with the disease.
I haven’t known a lot of people with cystic fibrosis. Growing up I heard of a few people that had it but never really experienced it first hand until I met and worked with Brad Fossberg. As part of a resume that makes many people ask “what is it that you do?” I spent about five years in radio working closely with Brad Fossberg. Our friendship started in 2002 and only tempered from his passing last fall to cancer.
Brad lived with cystic fibrosis much the same way he lived with cancer in his final months. He’d never let the disease get him down and was the picture of professionalism at his job. Often times he joked with me, referring to cystic fibrosis as a “minor inconvenience” as he kept hammering away everyday like an old fashioned workhorse, or in this case, one of the best college football centers in the country.
Brad did it all. He was a morning show host, sports director and news director for GI Family Radio. An announcer for a dirt track racing, the “go-to” volunteer host, indoor football play-by-play man and countless other duties. He was a husband, a father, a mentor and an inspiration. He was talented with a microphone but never made the occasion or the message about himself. It was always about the event, the kids or the team.
For two years I worked every morning with him. He was doing mornings on KRGI-AM and I was hosting my show on “Thunder 103.1”. You couldn’t find two more different audiences in radio. At least once a morning I’d pop into his studio or vice versa and he’d give me a bad time about whatever antic I was up to that morning.
“Having your listeners call in to describe mullets again today, Jason? That’s some riveting stuff. Can I do that and you interview the state senator?”
Then he’d cap it off with that quick laugh he had where he’d slightly tilt his head back and explode with a “Mwaha”
That’s the best way I can describe it. If you new Brad and heard him laugh, you know exactly the sound I am describing. He had a dry deliver and sense of humor that could capture a room. He was infectious that way. As you spent more and more time with him you truly realized he was one of the good ones. He was a fair broadcaster, a great interviewer, an even better announcer and ultimately one of the most tremendous people I’ve ever had the fortune to associate myself with. He won awards for his talents he’d never let you know that.
Occasionally he and I would talk about his life with cystic fibrosis. He’d downplay the whole thing even though you knew at times he was struggling with it. I remember one time specifically I was in studio and he asked me to cover a few basketball broadcasts for him because he “had to go to the doctor and let them beat this crap out of his lungs.”
I can’t imagine what he went through but Brad would never complain about his ailment. I wasn’t around him when the cancer diagnosis came about or while he battled it for the following year. He and I would exchange text messages from time to time. I’d sent a quick word of encouragement and he’d always thank me and then sincerely ask how I was doing. Here’s a guy with cystic fibrosis and cancer with limited time left who was truly concerned about how I was doing at the time.
But that was Brad. As humble as he was talented, as selfless as he was profound and as good of a person that existed in this world.
When the banquet comes this Saturday, I’ll quietly be remembering Brad Fossberg. If the day ever comes where I need to battle against a disease, I’ll be hoping I can muster half of the strength, courage and reserve as Brad did in his life.