Transcript of the speech delivered at the UH Athletics Senior Breakfast after recieving the Grainger Service Award.
By Robert Grilli
A Houston Cougar. When I Googled the meaning behind the mascot, the animal, the nickname that our university represents it came up with the definition of a “large American wild cat with a plain tawny to grayish coat”. Although I understand that this is depicting the animal and its coat, this definition somewhat frustrated me, as the word plain has no business being in the same sentence as Cougar, let alone a Houston Cougar. Before looking at this I had always thought this animal was defined as an intelligent, unique and powerful cat much more akin to the one our university represents. However, what no definition, no webpage search can speak to is what it truly means to be a Houston cougar until you have lived it.
A Houston Cougar embodies a number of things but if I were to choose one word it would be CULTURE:
When I say culture I’m not talking strictly from a wins and losses standpoint-don’t get me wrong, we win a lot around here and will continue to do so; but what I’m referencing about culture is the members and attitude that form the very being that it is. The sense of community, support and open lines of communication truly separates UH. I don’t know if it’s a written rule somewhere but each coach, professor and employee seems to abide by an open door policy, a smile followed by a how are you and y’all doing, a hold the door when they see you’re a few feet away. What makes this even more special is in athletics it can be a very cutthroat industry but here at UH this openness, this sense of community is truly what separates and allows for unprecedented growth and continued success. This success is not only seen in each athletes respective sport but the very reason we are gathered here today is because of the success we’ve found in the classroom. The professors here at UH are special in their own right for their constant support and willingness to work with the unique schedules us student athletes face. Take for instance, Dr.Bott, who I believe is in attendance today and if I were a betting man he’s wearing red. His tremendous passion, hard work love and support for the university and athletics is a microcosm for what this university is about. And he is just one of the many examples of fine professors this great university has. For this, I would like to extend a thank you to every athletic department staff, to each coach, each trainer and each professor who has empowered and enabled each of us to get to where we are today.
Furthermore, this culture here at UH is a family. As an athlete many of the individuals in this room are living away from what society would deem their “immediate family”. When you attend UH as a student athlete you’re constantly surrounded by your new family who quickly turn into your “immediate family”. This family extends through various sports teams and I know that without this family we would not be here today. When a prospective student athlete is in the recruiting process and mulling over the decision of whether to attend a school one of the biggest questions is whether it works financially. In the world of sports many deem that something’s worth is determined by the number of zeros associated with an opportunity. At Uh the true value lies in being a Cougar. Over the years you see those who get weeded out but the individuals sitting here today are entering a new chapter in their life with the values and traits that embody a Cougar; accountability, excellence, loyalty, inclusivity and integrity.
Today we gather as brothers and sisters to celebrate and reflect on the end of one of the many journeys that we will take in our lifetime. Each and every single person in this room has authored their own story, which has allowed for them to take a path enabling them to get to this day. This path has been ripe with trials and tribulations inherent to being a student athlete both on and off the field. Some have been roaming this athletic alumni center for 2 years others for 4 or 5 but no matter the case this month or in the next few months will mark a historic achievement in our lives. Some of the individuals in this room will be the first time college graduates in their family and others will be following in ones footsteps and become a legacy here at the University of Houston. No matter where we came from, no matter what walk of life we will embark on, we are here today to celebrate something that we will forever have in common. Something that I am honored to share with each and everyone of you and that is the honor of graduating as a Student Athlete from The University of Houston as a Cougar and as a Champion for Life. Go Coogs. (Applause)