Celebrating former Black Gopher student-athletes

In recognition of Black History Month this year, the University of Minnesota is “Celebrating Those Who Made Us Great” by interviewing (via surveys) former Black student-athletes. In this month’s “Sports Odds and Ends” we will publish as many of these interviews as space allows. This week: John (JJ) Thompson, Rashida Beal, J.B. Bickerstaff

Rashida Beal Photo courtesy of the U of M

Rashida Beal

Sport(s): Soccer

Years: 2013-17

Hometown: Germantown, Wis.

Occupation: Content Marketing Assistant while pursuing professional soccer.

Twitter Handle: @RashidaBeal

1) What is it you honestly miss most about the university?

There are a lot of things to miss about being a student-athlete at the University of Minnesota. I really miss representing the school. No games in my future will ever be the same as competing for the U. I miss the stadium and fans of ELR and the athletic community as a whole.

2) If you could give the current student-athletes any piece of advice, what would it be? 

I would tell them to focus on meeting their goals in every aspect. You want to look back at your college experience being proud of what you accomplished in sport, but also in the classroom and community.

3) Please share your favorite university or athletic event you’ve attended since you graduated and what made it so special to you.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to attend too many athletic events since graduating last year. I was able to watch Gopher soccer play the Badgers at Wisconsin. It was very special to be able to cheer on my former teammates in the Border Battle.

4) What are you grateful for?

I am grateful for a family that supports me in the unconventional path of pursuing a professional soccer career. I have really enjoyed being able to spend more time with my family in the last few months. I am also grateful for all of the opportunities I have been given in my sport.

5) What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of members of the Black community. It is a time to remember past difficulties Black people have faced and learn more about our history, but also a time to embrace all of the achievements.

6) What occupies your time now?

I still spend a lot of my time working out. I am recovering from an injury, so I spend a lot of time on my training. I also work part time at my dad’s company as a content marketing assistant. Since I no longer have any homework, I keep my mind engaged with reading. I also have been enjoying spending time with my family while I am home.


J.B. Bickerstaff Photo courtesy of the U of M

J.B. Bickerstaff

Sport(s): Men’s Basketball

Years: 1999 – 2001

Hometown: Denver, Colo.

Occupation: NBA Coach

Twitter Handle: N/A

1) What is it you honestly miss most about the university?

The friends, teammates and fans!

2) If you could give the current student-athletes any piece of advice, what would it be? 

Enjoy your time at the “U” and don’t rush the experience.

3) Please share your favorite university or athletic event you’ve attended since you graduated and what made it so special to you?

I went to a Gopher bowl game in Houston. It was special because it was the first Gopher event I was able to take my daughter to.

4) What are you grateful for?

Being a Gopher and all that has meant. The connections have helped me further my career and build lasting relationships.

5) What does Black History Month mean to you?

It’s a celebration of who we are and where we have come from. The steps that we have taken that have put our historical leaders like Martin Luther King’s words into action.

6) What occupies your time now?

My family. I have a wonderful wife and three beautiful kids: Blair (six), Blakely (five), and Blade (four). And work!


John (JJ) Thompson

Sport(s): Football

Years: 1967-70

Hometown: Hickory, N.C.

Occupation: Food Broker and Owner, Thompson’s Fine Foods, Inc.

Twitter Handle: N/A

1) What is it you honestly miss most about the university?

It was an interesting time for me maturing at the university in the late 1960s, coming from a small town, Hickory, N.C. I miss the comradery atmosphere of my teammates and fraternity brothers at Omega Psi Phi.

2) If you could give the current student-athletes any piece of advice, what would it be?

Enjoy your college life and savor it, be a true team player, keep your nose to the grind and watch out for red flags of trouble.

3) Please share your favorite university or athletic event you’ve attended since you graduated and what made it so special to you.

Homecoming, getting together with some of the fellas, celebrating, visiting the M Club, rekindling!

4) What are you grateful for?

My wife Connie, to have the parents I had, hardworking disciplinarians and very loving. The opportunity to attend the university, obtain my degree, and be able to mentor other kids throughout my life, hopefully sharing positive directions and experiences.

5) What does Black History Month mean to you?

Seeing the accomplishments we have gained and not losing sight of the struggles many have endured, both at the university and the community at large.

6) What occupies your time now?

I’m still working, but part time and trying to get accustomed to it. Spending time with family, friends and Facebook!

 

Charles Hallman welcomes readers’ responses to challman@spokeskman-recorder.com.