cheney, villanova, black, play, football, coach, sister, high school, college, teammate, people, mom, hbcu, school, white, kid, clint, learning, walk, book
Clint Murphy, Bo-Dean Sanders
Clint Murphy 00:03
Welcome to the pursuit of learning podcast. I’m your host, Clint Murphy. My goal is for each of us to grow personally, professionally, and financially, one conversation at a time. To do that, we will have conversations with subject matter experts across a variety of modalities. My job as your host, will be to dig out those golden nuggets of wisdom that will facilitate our growth. Join me on this pursuit. Today I talk with bodeen Sanders in a two part conversation about race, diversity, and inclusion. bodeen grew up playing football in Jacksonville, Florida, for an all black High School and was a walk on at Division Two cheney University, a historically black college with a rich history bodeen then transferred to Villanova as division one football program, a dream for bodeen and a learning experience as he joined a predominantly white football program. Listen to learn bodines journey, and join an important conversation. Bo-Dean Welcome to the pursuit of learning, I want to start our conversation where you start your book off, and that was at your high school graduation, a few things jumped out at me, the first thing was that you mentioned your school was 99%. Black, and that more and more black men were dropping out of high school or not going to college. What do you think the driver of that was when you were back in high school? And have you seen that evolving over the last 20 years?
Bo-Dean Sanders 01:59
Well, Clint, thanks for First of all, for having me. I appreciate you inviting me on your show. Yes, I’ll answer the latter question. First, it has changed. And so don’t let me forget to answer that in depth. But I was born in 1965, which is right at the heart of here in America are civilized rights movement. So the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, the Voting Rights Act was passed a year I was born in 1965. So you can imagine based on how much of our history, you know, about Jim Crow laws, and you know, further back slavery, you can imagine what the culture and relationships were like, in the south, right? So I graduated high school in 1983. And it’s, and I don’t want it to sound like an excuse. But if the government was not investing in communities of color, but they were investing in police department, or investing in other areas, then African American men disappointed disillusioned, saw no reason to continue high school if they didn’t see a future for themselves in what they aspire to be. Right. So I was lucky, I wanted to be a football player. Well, what if a guy wanted to be a business owner? Maybe he wanted to own a carwash. He didn’t want to go to he didn’t have to go to college to own a car wash. He had to have the funds, right? And all those other things, business plan, all those things, we know a business owner would need to borrow money from the bank. But what if the banks didn’t loan money to a person of color? Maybe the person of color had to jump through hoops versus a person equal to that 20 year old African American, and that other person would be white, right? So there were so many hurdles and barriers for people of color in general, right? You may and you may have heard this term before, but here in America, we grew up repeating to each other that people of color had to be twice as good as our white brothers and sisters in order to achieve something, right. So if you think about all those barriers, then some guys probably gave up and say, Hey, I’ll sell drugs, or I’ll quit school, or I’ll just do whatever hustle to make ends meet to survive, then deal with going to college and having to work hard, study hard. And and then go from there. So I mean, I’m kind of simplifying it, but I’m sure there are it was is much more complicated than that. But those are some of the issues. I can think of why someone my age 18 years old, decided to quit High School in the 11th grade, maybe they had family issues at home, mom needed help. So he quit school to get, you know, whatever job he could get to help mom pay bills, which is what I did after I graduated high school.
Clint Murphy 05:32
Yeah, that’s right. So I’m hearing a few things, actually, part of part of what would come out of what you’re saying is given that timeframe. And given the generation before you, there may have been a lack of role models to show you, you could do it, there may have been some systemic race issues that made it unaffordable or unattainable in the eyes of the young men in your generation at that time.
Bo-Dean Sanders 05:59
Absolutely. I’ll use instead of assuming and guessing I’ll use a perfect a good example. My dad was in the military for six years, I guess that was during our around the Vietnam War period. And after he got out of the military, he and his brother and a few friends formed the band. And my dad basically self taught himself how to be a musician. He could play multiple instruments. Today, at 8182 years old, he’s a music teacher still, but the opportunities for him were limited. Right? He had a little bit of success. But any grand your opportunities were difficult, because if you think about I was born in 1965, that means he had a band 1955 to 1960, let’s say in that timeframe. Can you imagine a small band traveling in the south from one location to the next, right, so they had limited, right, and there was a movies out there kind of depict what life was like, I think it was a Sam Cooke movie and maybe some other movies. So he was not one of the lucky ones that was able to advance his career. So that’s kind of a good example of how difficult it was.
Clint Murphy 07:31
And is that movie, The Green Book? Is that the one you’re referring to?
Bo-Dean Sanders 07:35
I didn’t see it. But that’s what I remember a movie that came out maybe a year or two ago, the Green Book, that’s a good example of, you know, folks who did make it through but you know, as they say, even in sports, for every 1 million kids, only a handful are going to make it talk to the pros, regardless of what sport it is. Right? So he was one of the ones that didn’t make it to big time. So he had to do whatever he had to do, which was pivot, get a job and and support his family. And my dad, I would describe, and I may have described it in the book. I’m not sure. But my dad is an Urkel. If you remember that character called Urkel. My dad is not a street guy. He is not a athletic looking guy. He’s an Urkel. He’s a musician. Right? He’s, that’s, that’s what he looks like, you know, glasses can play, you know, multiple, multiple instruments. So and the reason I say that is because he does not fit the stereotype of the big black man. Right? My dad shorter than me. Matter of fact, I think he was shorter than my mom. So So yeah, so he, he didn’t fit the typical description, negative description of a black man. So if he had it hard, imagine someone who would fit in the negative stereotype of a black man, how hard they would have it. I hope that answers your question.
Clint Murphy 09:14
Yeah, it makes a lot of sense what you’re saying there. The one thing that was interesting, and I think you saw it, even with your older sister, was you made a specific note that you didn’t see the same issue with the women that you were in school with that more of them. were finishing high school or making the decision to go to college. What do you think was the driving difference between the two groups, mothers, mothers,
Bo-Dean Sanders 09:46
right, mothers, if you think about that timeframe, mothers, if they if they couldn’t keep their sons and pry their sons away from the streets, then they focus that energy on the girls
Clint Murphy 10:01
on their daughters
Bo-Dean Sanders 10:02
on their daughter slap, right? So my mom didn’t graduate college. And I’m not even sure again, if I wrote this in a book, but I don’t think my mom graduated from high school. Because in the south back in the day, if the guy was 2122 23, and the young lady was 14 1516, as long as both parents agree, they could get married. And that wasn’t that was my mom and my dad and their case, right? So my mom stressed education. And my sister was, you know, the recipient of all that energy. And because in my household, my mom had four kids. Papa, as a musician was a Rolling Stone. So I have other sisters. I don’t call them half sisters, but they have different mothers, right? And so I have other sisters. But in my house, I grew up my sister, my brother, me and my, what I call my Irish twin. So my sister being the oldest sibling in the household, she was and she and all my sisters are smart. But she was academically smart. So we knew she was going to go to college. The question was, where was she going to go? And what could she afford? And my mom afford? Right? So that makes? And so yeah, she was destined to go to college? And she did. And so both of
Clint Murphy 11:31
you graduated college, you didn’t mention in the book, your Irish twin sister, and your brother? Did they also go to college? Or what was their path?
Bo-Dean Sanders 11:42
I mentioned my brother very softly. He was in the military. That’s he did not go to college. And so he went to the military after high school, and then my Irish twin, who’s less than a year younger than me. And as I described in the book, people in the neighborhood and everywhere, would say, we were like, twins, you know? And I say, No, no, people would say we’re just we’re a lot alike. And I say we’re more than like, we’re like twins, because we had the same personality, the same, you know, mannerisms, we were both thin. At one point, she was taller than me. And then I had a growth spurt. So we were basically two peas in a pod so and we pretty much did almost everything together, fight track. So yeah, but she did not go to college. However, she still today works for the police department. And I’ve been trying to convince her to retire. But she’s pretty close to retirement. So she’s been working with my hometown Police Department for easily 30 years.
Clint Murphy 12:52
The next thing that really jumped out about your high school graduation was you had a teacher, Miss Vaughn, who wanted you to go to college for academics, and you wanted to go to college to play football, not for academics. If it was just academics, you said, I’m going to stay home, in work and help my mom out financially and help my older sister go to college. Where did that single minded focus and determination come from? Because even even without going straight to college, it didn’t appear there was a path, but every day you were working out is if and maybe that’s just as if dot dot dot, you knew something was coming? Where Where did that come from in you?
Bo-Dean Sanders 13:38
You know, that’s a great question, Clint. I, I don’t know where it came from. I know what I felt. And what I felt was, and maybe I was just naive. Right? But I refused to believe that I didn’t have the ability to play football somewhere. Um, I believe that because you know what? Not to make me think about it. Let me take a step back. Because my mom didn’t allow me to play sports like she allowed to play my brother. Maybe that’s where it came from. Because remember, in the book, I write about staying at the school to try out for the basketball team in elementary school. And because my brother did, and my mom didn’t have a problem. So I decided to do the same thing. And the next thing I know, I see my mom who walked from our house to the elementary school and pulled me off the basketball court and said that to the coach, you can keep that one meaning my brother, but you can’t keep this one meaning me and she literally pulls me off the court by my ear, and we walked back home. She would not allow me to play sports at all. So once I got to the point where my uncle which was my my mom was the oldest of her siblings, she had five sisters and two brothers. So my mom’s youngest brother, who can’t be more than seven or eight years older than me, would hound my mother about letting me play football because I would hound him to get him to hound her about letting me play football. So by the time he almost came to a head, a fistfight with my mother to allow me to play sports, I guess that feeling of wanting to do something, and being denied it stuck in me. And then when I was able to try out for the team scared out of my wits, right, I didn’t. In other words, I didn’t play peewee football, Pop Warner football, Little League football, neighborhood football. I was a late bloomer, I was behind the curve, right. So when I walked on the field for the first day, put on my shoulder pads and helmet, I had to demonstrate to the coaches, that I could play football without ever being taught how to play football from a coach, I basically self taught or my uncle had something to do with walking me through talking me through going to football games, watching it on TV. And so when I was able to make the team, I guess that accomplishment stayed in me, where the wielding the drive to want to play. And then making it that great feeling. Once I was denied the opportunity, I don’t say denied once I didn’t get the opportunity, or earn the opportunity to go to college, I had something to fall back on, meaning a disappointing feeling. And that kept me working out because also, as I wrote in the book, I saw on TV during Christmas time, which is usually bowl football season, right? And then you hear the stories of athletes who either transferred from a junior college, or they were Mormon, and they went on a mission. And then they after their mission, they came back and then went to college. So they were a lot of late bloomers. And you heard a lot of stories about guys trying out for a team as a walk on, you know, maybe they had academic issues, whatever. But there were so many great feel good stories out there, about guys getting the opportunity who didn’t get it the traditional way of a scholarship. So that also kept me going and saying there’s an opportunity. I just got to find it.
Clint Murphy 17:35
I just got to find it. And, and you So how old were you when you would have started playing then? Age grade? Were you around grade seven? grade eighth grade eighth grade was when you started. Okay.
Bo-Dean Sanders 17:48
We call the junior high nowadays a junior. That’s
Clint Murphy 17:51
right. Yep. Okay, sorry. And so you would have been 13 ish. Yeah. Yeah, that’s my oldest son. That’s, he turns 13 in four or five months, and he just started football touch this summer, just a few weeks ago.
Bo-Dean Sanders 18:09
And I would coach first, yup. flag football, let his body mature. No head banging. Now that we know about concussions, they say the brain isn’t developed yet. And then if he falls really, really in love with it. By the time he gets to high school, then that’s another decision you and your wife
Clint Murphy 18:30
and yeah, he’s going to hit the school that he’s going to for high school. They have a big football team. And so and he’s a he’s actually a very big boy. I think he got my brother’s genetics. So he’s going to be a football basketball boy. Good. It’ll be those will be good. But yeah, so Okay, so you started a bit late. And did you? You also went through a late growth spurt? Yes. So when you first started, you weren’t as you know, I’m picturing by the time you graduated high school. You would have been about six two 185 190. But you got that? Yeah, you got that very late, right.
Bo-Dean Sanders 19:10
I got it late. So as I said earlier, I was smaller than my Irish twin, until I had a growth spurt of eating ice cream every day during the summer, one summer.
Clint Murphy 19:21
And what age would you say you really got your size? Would that have been great? 11 or 12?
Bo-Dean Sanders 19:28
I think it was my the summer leading into my 11th grade year.
Clint Murphy 19:33
Yeah. So you didn’t you didn’t get much time to really learn how to use that size and throw your weight and strength around to display what you could do. Right. And so you had a late start. And then opportunity came knocking. You mentioned Christmas. Your sister You didn’t realize she was working behind the scenes with some friends. Yeah, you an opportunity for college. Tell us what that was like when you found out you had a way in?
Bo-Dean Sanders 20:02
Well, I was work after graduation, I got a job at the local mall, and was selling suits and men’s wear and and saw kids, as I would catch the bus, I saw kids, you would think a kid graduating high school would want a car, right? I didn’t want a car, that wasn’t something I was interested in. So my money was going towards the opportunity to go to college, and then help my mom out around the house with bills so she can kind of focus on my sister and her her tuition and the things that pop up for kids in college. So I would catch the bus, I’d see kids going to either summer practice or fall practice. And and that kept me going in terms of working out, right. And so my sister and my godmother who lived across the street saw me putting in the work, right? There’s one thing to say you want to do something. There’s another thing if people see you working at it, so you can accomplish it. Right. So, you know, we down south call it selling wolf tickets or talking at the side of your neck, you know, saying you’re going to do something but never do it when my sister saw me working out when she come home for break because her college is about two hours, two hour drive away. my godmother saw me working out because when I work, I come home, change my clothes, walk outside and do wind sprints in the street. So my godmother had a chance to look out her bedroom window before she went to bed to check on me. My mom will look out the window to see if I was okay. Right. So they saw me putting in the work. And so I guess they said in their mind, he’s serious. He wants to go to college. He wants to play football. Let’s get him in somewhere versus My idea was to play big time football, which was Auburn, Alabama, Florida, Florida State. You know, Kentucky, you know, South Carolina, you know, the big schools, the SEC and ACC schools, right? That’s what I saw on TV. Right? So but you can’t get everything, right. And I was already used to disappointment, because remember, I got switched from a defensive back to an alternative lineman to help the team be a better team. Right. So I already was used to the disappointment of not playing the position I thought I could play and that would help me get to college. But accepting that fact, working out playing that position, doing the best I could because the coach says, We need you in order to help the team win. And it was the right decision. I was voted the Fellowship of Christian Athletes of the year represented my team for that award. And so holiday season comes my sister comes home for Christmas break. I walk in the house one night, really a very important part was I had a classmate at cheney University.
Bo-Dean Sanders 23:21
we’re no no, my sister was at Bethune cookman down and they told me she was
Clint Murphy 23:25
Bo-Dean Sanders 23:26
One of her classmates, high school classmates was also at cheney. So that was the connection. So I had a teammate, one of her classmates who was two years older was, was that chaining so based on those connections, you know, who you know what, you know, that kind of thing, relationships, right? She was able to put the put the package together, make the connections. And next thing you know, I walk in the house and I thought there are a lot of cars in the driveway. So I thought, hey, Reggie’s here. Carl’s here, everybody, they’re here to say goodbye, because they’re, you know, getting ready to go back to school for the beginning of the second semester. And next thing I know, they’re telling me, I’m going with them. Right? They’re telling me that I was accepted at the CIT entertaining University, and I would be going with them. So that was my Hail Mary.
Clint Murphy 24:22
That that was Reggie was on the football team was you know,
Bo-Dean Sanders 24:26
yeah, cuz Reggie graduated with me. So
Clint Murphy 24:28
with you, and he was on your football team?
Bo-Dean Sanders 24:30
Yeah. So he started in the fall of 83. So he had already been there one semester. And then come January, we’re now traveling back up. So I’m starting in the spring of 1984, January to May.
Clint Murphy 24:48
Now when you were going there, you were in your mind you were thinking, I’m going to walk on this team, but when you sign to go, that wasn’t known yet, right? You’re just like, Okay, well He was my teammate in high school, he’s on the team, I know how I am relative to him, I’m gonna make this team.
Bo-Dean Sanders 25:07
Correct. My sister had had it with me finding using my resources to find a way to get into college, right. So she took the initiative to say, Let’s get him in the college, because she probably knew the longer I waited for an opportunity, the longer it would take to get me into somewhere. Right. And she knew at that point that starting at Cheney, a Division Two school with a football team would be better than me staying home, going to a local junior college or whatever, and just, you know, earning a degree not playing football, she knew I’d be miserable. But she also knew that the chances are, I could be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and be one of those statistics of a black kid at a nightclub or at a restaurant, and a gun fight breaks out. And you know, you hear those stories. That’s when those stories started. When I was in high school, that’s when the drive by shooting started to happen. That’s when a lot of gunplay and you hear stories of a great athlete or good athlete or student being at the wrong place at the wrong time. And so she didn’t want to sit. She didn’t want that for me. So she was perfectly fine with me heading up north.
Clint Murphy 26:35
Okay, and so you ended up going to You already said the name but you went to cheney college with a rich history, and it was an HBCU. For our listeners who don’t know what an HBCU is? Can you fill them in on that? And a bit of the rich history of cheney as well,
Bo-Dean Sanders 26:58
absolutely HBCU. that acronym means historically black college or university. And folks may have heard a lot of it in the past year, if they follow the media and American news, because our vice president graduated from one of the top elite HBCUs called Howard University. So there’s a lot of folks have now gotten used to hearing that acronym. A lot lately. athletes, be it our white brothers, or white sisters have heard of HBCUs. Because generally their teammates have filled them in on the opportunity. You know, you can think of a kid in high school, do I want to go play football at Grambling? Or do I want to go play football at Ohio State? So athletes have heard of HBCUs, but maybe the general public, in terms of kids may not have heard of it. So I get to Cheney, cheney is the oldest HBCU in the United States. It was founded in 1837. So Clint, think about it. 1837, I’ll get to that point. I was about the redirect folks, in 1837. That’s before the Civil War. Pennsylvania is a free state is not a slave state. It’s surrounded by slave states, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, right? All the way down south. So life is different if you’re a person of color, and you lived in Pennsylvania, and versus if you lived in the southern states, right? It may not have been horribly different, but it was still different. So, again, I’ve come to find out based on history, that life was still difficult for people of color in free states. It’s just wasn’t legal to own them. Right. So. So if you think about the history of cheney University, and it reverts back to my history, I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church, my grandmother was one of the head, Usher’s, we would get up on Sunday mornings, a big yellow bus would come to our house, we’d walk out the door and get on the bus and the bus would take us to church, and we go to what’s called Sunday school. And then after Sunday school, we’d have a break, and then we would go to actual church service. That’s why people who aren’t familiar with black churches are surprised to find out that church for us is not a two hour or a one hour event. It could be an all day event, right? And so, if you go to church, you learn discipline. Right? You learn you got to sit you see, no horse plan, no child plan, you got to pay attention. So but you don’t learn that in church. You learned that in Sunday School first. And then you got to apply it when you get to church, right? So there’s a foundation, a spiritual foundation for people who go to go to church, but specifically, a Southern Baptist black church, there’s definitely a foundation. So think about Chaney University being founded in the city of Philadelphia in 1837, probably in the basement of a building, right? And because even though it was a free state, people probably didn’t like the fact that blacks were educating themselves.
Clint Murphy 30:31
Yeah, learning to read learning,
Bo-Dean Sanders 30:33
learning to read, how did you learn to read, you went to church, or you went to school. So either way that school and at church was not in everybody’s face, it was hidden. So cheney University started in Philadelphia, probably in a basement. And then over time, migrated out to the suburbs. So in the name changed over the years. But the when cheney was founded, the name of the school was the Institute of colored youth. How about that name? So I go to show you where we were in that time, right. So cheney has a long history of educating people of color. So when I got to Cheney, I was learning some of those things. And I probably forgot a lot of it until I did my research when I started writing my book. But those are the kinds of things that black students, my classmates, a lot of them attended Cheney, because it was the oldest HBCU somebody in their family, it’s their legacy kid, somebody in their family attended there, as well. And so I fell in love with cheney. cheney was a great school had a great experience, it was similar to the experience I came from in terms of predominantly black community. Right. And so yeah, I love chaining. Yeah, and
Clint Murphy 32:00
you mentioned it right there. But you had effectively still at this point, other than when you went to the summer camp for the Christian Fellowship Award that you want, you had not yet played on a team with a white guy. So ever. You were at Cheney, predominantly all black school, you would come from an all black school. And we’ll come back to the snow in a minute, because that made me chuckle as a Canadian. But in one of your weekends off you, you went to Villanova, and you’re playing pickup basketball game with some guys. And one of the guys on your team was a white guy. And it was the first time you’ve been teammates with a white guy. What did that feel like for you? Did it feel any different? And did it start to raise any questions in your mind relative to maybe the assumptions we grow up with about the other races?
Bo-Dean Sanders 33:02
Well, for me, it was. And that’s a great question, Clint. For me, it was it was still different, but not in the way people may think. Or in the way people have read other books about race. Remember, I had a foundation, a spiritual Foundation, I grew up in the church, in my grandmother’s church, but I also had a Sports Foundation. Right? So the spiritual foundation is, love thy neighbor as thyself. turn the other cheek. Right? Even though I grew up in the south, and I heard all kinds of horrible stories about how blacks were treated over time, and over the years, and so forth and so on. The preacher was still preach about loving everybody, right? being kind to everything, right? So I have a spiritual foundation. And then I have a Sports Foundation, which is, trust your teammate. Right, communicate, listen, you know, protect your teammate. You know, all of those things you hear coaches say, to players doing practice, right? discipline. Don’t be selfish, be self less, you know, help each other. Right. So when I got on the court for the first time with Ted aceto, Jr. Yeah, it was it was different, but I didn’t approach it with malice. I approached it with Okay, this is my first time playing what with a guy that doesn’t look like me. I hope I can live up to it. I hope. I mean, first of all, I was dealing with my issues. Right, right. I was dealing with that more so than paying attention to I mean, I realized he was white and I realized I had never played with a guy that was way before, but I was more concerned with I want to play well. So my focus was not yet again it was there. But my focus wasn’t on on playing with a white guy. No, I was okay, I want to win. Because in basketball, if you lose, you got to sit and wait to get back on the court. So my mind was totally not in in a negative fashion, it was more of a surprise that I was playing with a white guy versus a negative or I’m playing with a white guy, right? So once we start playing, and I see this kid who’s better at basketball, then more than half the guys in the gym. I’m like, okay, I went this, this guy can play I want to. So I know, as a teammate, get the ball to the guy who can play. If you can’t play, and you get a rebound, you get the ball to the guy who can play. So I had no problem passing him the ball versus keeping it from him because he was, ya know, I wanted to win, get him the ball. He’s embarrassing, everybody. Get him the ball. So when you have that attitude, everything works out. And I’m sure from his perspective, receiving a pass from me, knowing he knew he was better than 75% of the guys in the gym, made him feel comfortable playing with me, because I knew the only way I would gain respect from being on that court was getting a rebound. There was nothing else I could do to prove I was a good basketball player, but get a rebound. And I use my football abilities and toughness to throw guys out of the way elbow, guys beat them up to get that rebound and get Ted Jr. To ball. And that’s what I did. So we were able to build a camaraderie that way.
Clint Murphy 36:56
So for you it was it was more just a mental curiosity, if you will, that no, this is this is the first time I’ve had a white teammate. It didn’t. It didn’t impact the way you played the game at all. It was just something to file away in the brain where you said, Oh, that was something that I haven’t done before that was different,
Bo-Dean Sanders 37:17
something I hadn’t done before. Absolutely, no. And it probably was better that he was on my team versus on the opposite. You know, the competitive five guys. So maybe maybe that made a bigger difference to I don’t know, the only thing I know is it didn’t it didn’t matter to me. But it was just my first it was put it this way from that moment on. Like when I got to Cheney, that was a first when I tried out and walked out on the team. That was a first I did a lot of things that were first, but then that was a real first right. That was a different first, right. And then from that point on everything else was a first. But even more so more amplified.
Clint Murphy 38:00
Yeah, it started accelerating. Yeah, exactly. That’s what I picked up on that trip itself was also a first and this was where it got exciting. So you started to realize as you were on that trip that it wasn’t happenstance, you were effectively being recruited to come play football at Villanova, who was reinstating a team after about roughly three years off, I think. Correct. And so I’m picturing this. You’ve done half a year at cheney walk on to a div to football team. Less than a season later, you’re getting recruited to play for a div one football team go back to when you were in high school. That was the dream. That was the dream. How did how did that feel?
Bo-Dean Sanders 38:50
Oh, it was it was an out of body experience. It felt like everything was coming full circle. While I was at chaining you know, I focused on preparing for spring football practice so I can make the team for the fall. I fell in love and and you know, I got my first girlfriend because I didn’t date in high school because I was focused, right and my sisters wouldn’t allow me. And so things were falling into place. Right. And so all of a sudden, I get lucky get invited to a party. I go to Villanova, which is in the in, you know, maybe no more than 10 miles 15 miles max away from cheney. And it’s my first time off of campus. And the guy who invited the group of us to Villanova was Villanova basketball player. He was an all American. He was about to get drafted into the pros. And so the drive over from cheney to Villanova. We’re having a conversation. We’re going getting to know each other the same way you would if you meet somebody in a group for the first time, right? How you doing? What’s your name? What do you do? Right? We’re all you know getting to know each other. I tell him I’m you know, I’m a walk on on Chinese football team. And you know, I’m happy to be a cheney. And then where you’re from, you know what, we’re building a relationship. We’re getting to know each other. By the time we get to Villanova. Um, he knows something more about me. I know more about him. We have a great time at the party. We stay overnight, Friday night and Saturday night. And you say, Well, how did you guys do that? Well, it was Easter break. So all the kids went home, or at least those who could afford to go home and at Villanova. Most people could afford to go home because Villanova is an affluent Catholic, Irish Italian school. And so happy Dobbs was the player’s name, who invited us over, he got the keys from some buddies of his who weren’t going to be using their dorm room, they would be gone. So I had a room to myself on my bed, it was like going on a trip and having your own hotel room. So what I learned after the pot, first of all, the party was put on by what’s called the Black cultural society, one of the organizing groups on campus, you know, minority groups, right. So I’m sure a lot of folks will will know, you know, if, if, if you’re at a school, there’s lots of organizations, right, so here was an organization created for black Americans. Right. And so the party was great. The students were great. They were a little different in their confidence than the students at cheney. I noticed it. And let’s be, I’ll be frank, what I learned later was, they were more confident and, and had a little bit more cachet about them because of the school. You know, Villanova is one of the top schools, you know, top 50 schools in the country. Right. And so when you’re talking about that kind of brand, I’ll use that word, that kind of history. It’s like going to Harvard, Yale, Penn, Princeton, right. Brown die bleak schools. Right. So Villanova is just, you know, a tad under those schools in terms of its reputation, so it felt different. And then the next morning, we get up to go to breakfast. And next thing I know, the cafeteria is in the dorm. And I’m like, hold on, this is a dorm with a cafeteria in it. That was weird to me. Yeah. happy, sad. Oh, yeah. It’s also the nursing school. So if you are a nursing major, you come to this building for classes. I’m like, okay, that’s awesome, too. Then the next thing you know, we’re passing a pool, Olympic sized pool in the building. I’m going home on a cafeteria or dorm, a hall for for nursing and a pool. I’m like, no way. And in order to get to the basketball court, we pass the pool. And then we get to the basketball court that’s also in the built in the same but in the same building level. This is crazy. There’s no way this is a real University. There’s no way this not this can’t be real. But that was my introduction to Villanova. So of course, I fell in love with it. I’m like, this is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Because I Cheney, there was only two dorms, a dorm for the guys and a dorm for the gals. That’s it. In terms of living, we had to go outside to play sports, we had to go to another building to lift weights or whatever. There was no pool on the campus of cheney University. I can tell you that at least I don’t remember it. So it was a total different environment. And so of course, you know, if you’ve never seen anything like that you fall in love with it. So I fell in love with it. Then I had an opportunity to meet Ted aceto. Junior’s dad, the kid I played basketball with. It wasn’t an issue for me to find out that Teddy Junior’s dad with athletic director because even though my high school had majority black students, meaning we had maybe one or two white students that I honestly, I don’t even remember. I still had a few white teachers or white whites in the administration. So it didn’t it wasn’t a surprise. So I meet the athletic director, he tells me about, and I already had learned how we long had played football there. And so that was exciting. And because everybody knew who How long was right, he had as a rookie, won a Super Bowl Championship with the Raiders. And so I find out that they’re starting their football program up again, because they dropped it after how long got drafted to the Raiders, which was three years prior. So I saw an opportunity to transfer in at a higher level, cheney was division to Villanova division one, double A. And so I said, Wow, this is an opportunity that I need to think about, I don’t want to turn down but I need to think about it. And so I walked out before we left the campus, I walked out the gym, to the turf football field. I’ve never seen turf before in my life. So I’m like, wow, they’ve got a turf football field. I was hook line and sinker in terms of seriously thinking about transferring, and we left it with the athletic director saying, when you’re done your semester, and you go home, I’m gonna send you some information, you fill it out and send it back, which would have been the application to apply to get into school
Clint Murphy 46:15
and Bo-Dean So you get that. I mean, you’re there Easter weekend, you spend the whole weekend, you’re playing some basketball, you’re hanging out with these guys. You’re going to the party, you’re looking around campus, you’re seeing a lot of black people, everything feels a Okay, you love it, great football team. It’s got a similar feel and vibe, maybe a little more swagger than where where you were at cheney. So when you’re at home, and you tell your family, you expect a lot of support, and then your sister Pam has an exact opposite reaction. So can you maybe fill our listeners in on why Pam kind of gave you a slap upside the head?
Bo-Dean Sanders 46:57
Well, again, I like to tell people I’m a slow learner, but a quick study. And being a person that was a little late bloomer, I assume that Villanova if it wasn’t a black school, it was pretty close to a black school because I only saw the majority of black people when I was there. I didn’t know it was an Irish Italian Catholic University. Even if even if happy Dobbs told me it was, I don’t remember it. I only remember what my eyes saw. And what I felt right. And I felt I was on the campus of a big elite black school. That’s what it felt like. So I get home, I go back to cheney. Everything works out in terms of I finished the semester, everything’s great. I’m thinking about leaving. I asked one guy who was part of the Florida crew, a guys from Florida who were at who was at chaining, and he was a senior graduating and he was about to try out for the Eagles. His name is Andre waters. And I asked Andre because he was the upperclassmen. I told him about my trip. I didn’t tell very many people about my pack. I don’t think I only told two people about my trip, my girlfriend and Andre and he gave me the extra push, I needed to continue to think about transferring. He said Go for it. And that was great coming from him because he as a Division Two football player five, eight was about to try out for the Philadelphia Eagles. He had no shot coming from a Division Two school, right? Most people would think guess what he went on to have a great career as an NFL football player for the Philadelphia Eagles. So him giving me that push was the same energy he was going to use to try out for the Philadelphia Eagles. So I went back to Florida. I told Reggie, who was my high school teammate that I was thinking about transferring. And he was disappointed because we had talked about playing together for a long time, right? And that means something when you’re with someone on your team, and you’re from the same hometown, and you’re basically playing defense together, that’s confidence you can’t find right. That’s confidence you can’t find so he was disappointed. I then tell my sister I waited to my Irish twin graduated high school. Right? I didn’t want to bring blow up her time of graduating high school because that’s a big thing. Right? I waited to after she graduated high school, which was probably a week or two after I got I got home. And then I said I can’t hold it anymore. So I gather everybody around the kitchen table. Pam, my Irish twin saying and my mom and I say listen, here’s what’s going on. I had a trip to Villanova. It’s a great school. It’s a black school. It’s one it’s a it’s a really it’s a huge campus. It’s got a pool. That I tried to sell it all. And my mom again, not a high school graduate was like, you know, okay, what does that mean? And my Irish twin was like, Okay, I don’t care. I got things to do. You know, she just graduated high school, she’s ready to go hang out with her friends. And then Pam’s like you What? You know, you hold on, you’re doing what? And see, Pam is at another HBCU. She’s at Bethune cookman in Daytona Beach. Right. So she’s at an HBCU. And she’s living the HBCU life pledging a sorority, right? Going through that experience. So she wasn’t happy at all she was. And also she had, she kind of had a reason to her and my godmother that lived across the street, put in the work to help get me into cheney
Clint Murphy 50:53
to get you in.
Bo-Dean Sanders 50:54
So I can understand that disappointment. At that moment, I may have understood that disappointment. But I overcame that, because for so many years, I was doing what other people wanted me to do, versus me doing what I wanted to do, right, I was the good kid, if mom asked me to follow my sisters and go with my sisters to the mall, I had to do it, my brother was never asked to do that I was asked. And that means something. Because if my sisters wanted to go shopping, they just didn’t go to the black mall, they went to the white mall across the bridge on the other side of the river. Or some people might say on the other side of the tracks. So if my sisters and their friends were going to the white side of town to shop, they needed protection, just in case something happened. So I was always and I’m a middle child. So I’m always the one being asked to do this, do that, you know, a taking the hand me downs from my brother in terms of clothes, or shoes or whatever, or sports equipment, whatever. Right. And this opportunity was my opportunity. I discovered that it’s in my you know, it’s on my plate. And that’s how I was thinking my brother had a basketball court in the backyard. My uncle’s literally poured concrete and made a basketball court with the hoop in the backyard. Some some people may see a basketball who, you know, in, you know, honest curbside because nowadays they have their own foundation, right. But my brother had a basketball court in the backyard. I never had anything like I didn’t have a football field. I didn’t have you know what I mean? So because my brother was a basketball player, so I, I had to have a deep conversation with myself after my sister and my godmother. And all the women in my family said Are you sure? Think about this. You don’t know what that school and my sister knew what it was about. She knew Villanova was a Irish Italian Catholic University. She even said to me, just because Georgetown University has all black players. And if you remember back then they had Who? Patrick Ewing, just because Georgetown University has all black players and their coach john Thompson is a black man. Does it mean Georgetown University is a black school? And that was her reply to me saying Villanova. If not a black school, it has got a lot of black students. She’s like, No, don’t. You’re wrong. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Get you? No, no. So that’s what I had to deal with when I told her
Clint Murphy 53:41
and so you ended up going for it and you thought to yourself, there’s a chance she could be wrong. Fast forward to the start of the school year and you get to campus. And she was absolutely right. You ended up actually in your temporary accommodations. rooming with a white guy in predominantly most of the students who were seeing around campus were white, and I think some stats not only that with with your roommate, you got to practice five out of 75 players were black, and only one out of 11 coaches. So the basketball like you said, was a first but this this for you, as you said it was just amplified, all of a sudden, totally different world than you’re used to. What was that like when you first started playing in that environment?
Bo-Dean Sanders 54:38
Again, it was a first I had to make adjustments. But I had a spiritual foundation and a sports foundation that I could fall back on. And what I mean by that is when I got off the and I when I traveled from Jacksonville to Philadelphia to come to Villanova, I took a train that’s To 17 and a half hour train ride by myself, right? And so I was growing up every minute I was on that train by myself, because when I left to go to Cheney, I was with two other guys in a car. This was now on me. There was no one else to help, no other support. I was now on my own as a real college student. And so when I arrived at Villanova, I get off the train. And the campus is bigger than I imagine, right? The train dropped literally dropped me off right in front of Villanova. I could see the football field, I could see the big church, right, with the big crosses on it, right. And I’m like, Whoa, it’s bigger than I thought. And the parking lot was full. The night that I visited, the parking lot wasn’t full and I couldn’t tell how big the parking lot was because I got there at night. So I get out and there are cars everywhere. I see BMWs Porsches. Lamborghinis, Maseratis Rolls Royces. I’m like what? So it’s immediately different. And then a guy I run into as I’m crossing the parking lot to head to the football locker room to check in Italian guy. He’s got the gold chains around his neck. He’s got the wife beater t shirt on. And he introduces himself and he thinks I’m a basketball player. And I said, No football. He remembers Yeah, Villanova starting a football program up again. He offers me a ride. Not very far. I can literally see the football stadium where the football office is. But he’s still offered me a ride. So I took him up on it. So that was my first initial introduction to Villanova coming off the train. Then I walked from the football office to go to the register’s office to register and do all the things you have to do as a freshman. And I didn’t see one black person, Clint, I didn’t see one person of color, the whole walk from the football stadium to the center of campus, and I’m like, Whoa, and I can hear my sister in my head, you idiot. You, you knucklehead? You were wrong. Right? I could hear her saying all those things to me. And I’m like, okay, she was right. Then I made my first temporary roommate. Because the campus was overcrowded, more freshmen showed up than they anticipated. They didn’t have enough room, right. So they had to clear out office buildings and put temporary beds end in so kids can have a place to sleep. So my first Tipperary roommate, Shane, Bo, Dad was one of the assistant baseball coaches. And he and I got along great. He walked me around campus showed me around, right. So that was a positive experience. Right? It didn’t hurt to his nickname was Shane Bo, his first name was Brian but his Shea melon Bo D, right? So we and he was, you know, he looked like an athlete like I did. He was tall like me built like me. You know, we have two tall guys. One white, one black, no big deal. He shows me around campus, we have a great time. And then a couple of days go by doing freshman orientation. And I still don’t see a black person. I’m like, wow. And then eventually I meet a black kid black student, I was going to the bookstore to pick up some books. He was coming out of the bookstore and we meet we you know, we make eye contact, and we go Okay, first, like I see. And so I probably hounded him, he introduced himself, I introduce myself, and boom, there was so I started to feel a little bit more relaxed, right? And he was able to take me to his dorm room, that same dorm room where I visited a few months earlier, and I was able to meet other black athletes and other black students. And then it was like, Okay, I’m not the only one on this campus, right? I knew I wouldn’t be I was at a party. Right? So I therefore I got a chance to meet a teammate, a potential teammate, a guy trying out for the team like me, Nate book night from Norse town. But the guy I met coming out of the library, Buzz buzz bass, his name took me back to his dorm, a meet folks that are hanging out in his room. He seemed to be the center of everything in terms of everybody like this guy. So people you know that guy that everybody likes to hang out in his room. He was that guy. So I get back to his room. I meet Nate book night. They grew up together. Nate played football at Liberty. And Nate saw an opportunity like me to come back for Nate. He was coming back home to play for a local team because maybe he was unhappy with was playing at Liberty. So he was kind of in the same boat I was transferring from another school. So when I found out he was a defensive player, oh, we hit it off great. I’m a defensive back. He’s a defensive back. He’s a strong safety, I can play strong safety, but fine, I can play free safety too. So we decided I’m a traveler, strong safety, he, I mean, free safety, he’s going to try out for strong, we made that decision. That was our plan going into the locker room. A few days later, we go to the locker room for our first meeting. And you’re right, I walk into the locker room. And there’s only five black guys in the locker room. I’m one of them. The other was Nate. The next guy was Kevin, who was a defensive back a defensive player who I unfortunately don’t remember his name, but he was a defensive lineman. And then there was only one black offensive player and he was running back, Frankie Baltimore from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. That was in so I was like, Whoa, this is I never seen anything like this. I didn’t even see anything like this on TV. Right? on TV, you would see at least 5050 or 4060 in terms of ratio, or black and white guys. I never saw anything like this. So well. I did see it in high school. Let me let me. Let me retract that. Yeah. In high school Make sense? We had if we played on all white school, I saw it. Right. Yeah. But in terms of me personally, being involved on a team like that, it was it was definitely new to me. And as you said, one black coach. And then what are the chances that that one black coach would end up being my coach? The ratio was slim to none. Yeah. So he wasn’t, and he wasn’t.
Clint Murphy 1:01:42
And, you know, fast forward a bit. Because up until this point, you had always been that player who had potential maybe maybe you’ll be good. You got something, but it’s not showing yet. And Coach Ferraro pulled you aside at one point, and he said, You were a good athlete, not just an athlete with potential. And I got chills when I read that part. Because you could tell, you know, it’s ever since you were young, and you tried out for basketball, and you weren’t allowed. You’d been wanting to show well, wait a second. It’s not just my big brother as an athlete. I’m an athlete, too. And you’ve got that validation from Coach Ferrara. Well, what did that conversation mean to you?
Bo-Dean Sanders 1:02:26
Oh, it meant everything. Not only that, I need it because of the examples you just talked about. Not being able to allow to play as a kid playing pickup basketball with other peers growing up and not being as good as them at basketball. Having to prove myself right getting switched from defense to offense, right? It’s not just getting switched in me being disappointed. It’s your peers. What are your peers think? Oh, well, he got moved from defense to offense because he ain’t good enough where the coaches are saying, No, no, no, you’re good enough. But you’re so good. We need you here. To protect our quarterback. I got moved to left tackle. I was protecting the blind side of my quarterback. That’s how valuable I was. Did. Right. Did it mean that much to me as a kid or in high school? I didn’t know. Right, the movie blindside. You’ve seen it? Right. Did we know how important left tackles were until recently? Right. So I had no idea that that’s what the coaches are thinking. We need the toughest kid on the team to protect our quarterback. So I didn’t know that. So when you have all those experiences, Clint, you know, deniability, feeling rejected, not playing the position you you should post the play, having all those experiences have a white coach, the first way coach who I was struggling to, I was struggling to allow him to help me and make me a better player. Right. I was struggling with that because of his coaching style. So here’s a great example. I had all black man coaches my whole entire career, which is not a long career, right? But I had all black man coaches, I had black man coaches yell at me. I had black man coaches, grab my facemask and pull me in to get to prove a point or to get a point across, right. That’s the way coaches coach back then. I never had a white coach pull my face mask and yell at me. That was the difference. So I had to get used to that. Right? Of course.
Clint Murphy 1:04:42
Yeah. Because you Bo-Dean like you don’t know, right? Like, is he pulling me in and yelling in my face? Because I’m a football player. Is he pulling me in and yelling in my face? Because I’m a black football player
Bo-Dean Sanders 1:04:54
or you don’t like me?
Clint Murphy 1:04:55
Yeah, yeah. Right. And does it have any? Yeah. And does it have anything to do with that right?
Bo-Dean Sanders 1:05:00
So how did I overcome that? Clint? My immediate teammates and what I mean by my immediate teammates, my defensive back teammates, because when you think about groups, you have your defensive back group, you have your linebacker group, you have your defensive line group. So my group of defensive backs cornerback safeties, three safeties, right, we all hung together more than any other group. They helped me overcome those issues like matebook. Mike would say, Bo, he’s coaching you up the same way. A black coach will coach you up, and then I’d have a white teammate Jay Kersey, oh or Bobby Rosato, say, Hey, he’s a player’s coach, Bo, I know players coaches, from a salesman, right? There’s a difference between a player’s coach and a coach, people consider a salesman, right. So I was getting all this reinforcement from my immediate teammates. So what I had to do was give the same level of respect to my white hit my white position coach, as I did to my black position coaches. And once I was able to give him the same level of respect, that meant I was allowing him to coach me to make me better. And that conversation that he and I had helped me get to that point, along with my teammate, and along with him showing personal interest in me, because you know, you’ve heard it, if a coach is on you, that means he likes you, and He wants you to be better. If a coach thinks you can help, they don’t care, they’re not gonna even be bothered with you. I heard that also growing up. So I just had to get past the lack of diversity. Its meaning jakers CEO, Bobby risotto, my white teammates, and matebook night all had black coaches, coach them and white coaches coach them. So they had experience in diversity. I was the one lacking in it. So by them helping me allowed me to mature and evolve faster.
Clint Murphy 1:07:14
We sometimes when we’re talking about stuff like that at work, we call it you’re effectively they had the experience coming in Where is you’re trying to build the airplane while you’re flying? Right, you’re you’re right in red at Ground Zero on it.
Bo-Dean Sanders 1:07:29
Clint Murphy 1:07:30
Thank you for joining Bo-Dean and me for part one of our conversation, come back and join us for part two, where we tackle the remaining time for bodeen at Villanova. And then we talk about race, diversity and inclusion, I learned a tremendous amount. In the meantime, you can find bodeen at the links coming up next. So we’ll have a link to the book in our show notes. How else can our listeners find your voting?
Bo-Dean Sanders 1:08:04
it’s pretty easy. They can go to my website bodeen sanders.com. And if you Google it, it’s pretty easy. Bo Bo, hyphen, Dean, d a n sanders.com. That’s my website. All the information is on my website. And, you know, they can find the book at their favorite online retailer and be at Barnes and Noble Amazon, whoever. And yeah, and and if they want to send me an email, they can go to my website and send me an email. I try to do my best to return emails because believe in a lot of people have questions. A lot of people notice things. A lot of people need some help sometimes when I pivot to a different topic, because it’s seven chapters 42 topics, and those topics are relatable, and they can find out something they didn’t know as well.
Clint Murphy 1:09:07
Thank you for being on the pursuit of learning. I really appreciate it. Thank you for joining us on the pursuit of learning, make sure to hit the subscribe button and head over to our website, thepursuitoflearning.com where you will find our show notes, transcripts and more. If you like what you see, sign up for our mailing list. Until next time, your host in learning Clint Murphy