|Alumnus and former UMD football player, Brandon Culpepper, gave a presentation to students in the Labovitz School of Business and Economics.|
|"I thought Brandon Culpepper was a very humble and passionate man. He truly cares about the kids and wants to see them succeed," said student, Dani Tobroxen (above right).|
As a UMD student, Brandon Culpepper put on his gear and warmed up for games at Malosky Stadium where his fellow Bulldogs cheered him on. He recently came back for cheers of a different kind.
In October 2015, Brandon returned to UMD to interact with students in Professor Stephen Castleberry's sports marketing class at the Labovitz School of Business and Economics. Brandon tours colleges all over the country in order to recruit students to come work for PeppNation, his Sports Leadership Camps organization.
Dani Tobroxen, a senior majoring in marketing, heard Brandon speak. "I was inspired by the goals of PeppNation and seeing a UMD grad do something great for his community."
He has quite a story to tell.
Right after graduation, although Brandon loved football, the marketing world called his name. With his marketing degree under his belt, he packed up and set off for a new beginning in Atlanta as a salesperson for Budweiser.
Brandon was optimistic, but he suffered some setbacks. His marketing position at Budweiser was cut, so he returned to football on the Georgia Mustangs semi-pro team. He had his eye on a National Football League (NFL) spot. Yet something was missing, so Brandon once again changed course.
Brandon began helping students. He established a blog and video series that encouraged aspiring youth to follow their passion. He named these marketing efforts PeppNation. It grew. Brandon was a genius at social media and early on, had over 30,000 hits on his Youtube videos.
A friend lured Brandon into a new sport, rugby, and everything changed. He gave up his dream of playing in the NFL and traded his huddles for scrums. He moved to New York and joined the Connecticut Wildcats semi-pro rugby team.
Young adults continued to reach out to him, asking for his advice. Brandon’s answers inspired many to attend college. However, he did not want to stop with advice.
Taking note that Milwaukee, Wis., is considered one of the worst places for youth in the country, he decided to take the PeppNation brand to the Midwest. As he had grown up in Milwaukee himself, Brandon knew how desperate this city needed change. Milwaukee is one of the most racially and economically segregated places in America. Seeing the hardship and pain in Milwaukee, Brandon felt compelled to help. So he moved his life back to the city that raised him.
By partnering with the Boys and Girls Club of Milwaukee, PeppNation established Sports Leadership Camps to engage inner-city youth through sports. The organization now coaches youth athletes, hosts events, and holds fundraisers in the community. The sport of rugby plays a central role.
PeppNation’s rugby tournaments include kids from different backgrounds. Kids from the city are introduced to kids from the suburbs and learn to play with people who looked nothing like them. “We are changing the world right there in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” Brandon explains.
With the efforts of his team, PeppNation has reached remarkable milestones. Today they serve 200 kids a week, have five locations in Milwaukee, have earned more than $1.3 million in scholarships, and have been able to serve 1,500 kids in the greater Milwaukee area, New York City, and Atlanta. The end goal for PeppNation is to get youth into college.
“My own dream of getting into the NFL has grown into helping young kids achieve their dreams,” Brandon said; and now he's sharing that dream with UMD students.
Learn more about UMD's Marketing Program at https://lsbe.d.umn.edu/marketing/marketing.php.
By Communication intern Hamdi Barre and Cheryl Reitan, November 2015
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