Celebrating 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: Ukee Dozier, Dr. Charles Sims and Goaner Deng

 


Ukee Dozier

Sport(s): Football

Years: 2000-04

Hometown: Bradenton, Fla.

Occupation: finance/accounting

Twitter Handle: @UDotDozier

Ukee Dozier (Photos courtesy of U of M)

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

The youthful memories of dorm life. Some of my most memorable, comical and somber memories come from those years at University Village and Roy Wilkins Hall. After a long day of class, weights, practice and study, you could always count on having some kind of comic relief inside the walls of either of those two buildings.

 

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

Learn how to build and foster relationships. Once your time at the U of M ends, the only things that will remain will be your memories, credentials, and newly established network. The latter of those will be the most valuable to you and your career. Don’t be afraid to utilize it.

 

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

September 12, 2009 – First Gopher football game at TCF Bank Stadium vs. Air Force. The anticipation of the first game at the Bank, as well as the excitement of bringing Gopher Football back to campus, was something that I’ll never forget. Despite feeling a sliver of jealousy for not having the opportunity to play at TCF, just being there in that atmosphere along with other Gopher Football brothers from my era, and to witness a Gopher win, was enjoyable.

 

4) What are you grateful for?

I’m grateful for the opportunities the university has provided for me. Coming from where I’m from, to experience the things I’ve experienced through my affiliation with the university is truly a blessing. I wouldn’t trade my experiences for any other.

 

5) What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month means everything to me… It’s a piece of me. I would be remiss to not acknowledge the pioneers who paved the way for my livelihood. Regardless of today’s climate, I can say that I’m here and firmly standing because of the efforts of those before me.

 

6) What occupies your time now?

When I’m not working, my time is spent with my family. I have a wife, seven-month-old daughter, and nine-year-old son who is into playing every sport you can think of. Needless to say, I spend a lot of time cheering on the sidelines for my little athlete. I also just concluded my eighth season of coaching varsity football for Robbinsdale Cooper H.S. this fall.


Dr. Charles Sims

Sport(s): Men’s basketball

Years: 1971-75

Hometown: Barberton, Ohio

Occupation: Retired dentist

Twitter Handle: N/A

Charles Sims (Photos courtesy of U of M)

 

 

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

Aside from the obvious comradery with other players, I was doing what I liked (playing basketball) and having fun doing it. Playing at the University of Minnesota kind of gave you a pep in your step. I was challenged on two fronts; I was playing basketball (Big Ten) and the challenge with school. I was working on my bachelor’s degree in French and trying to get into the School of Dentistry, where I also got my B.S. and DDS. So, the challenges are what I miss.

 

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

Grab hold of the time and make the most of it, because the four or so years you have going to school and playing basketball goes by fast. It doesn’t seem like it, but it does. Take advantage of it. (Carpe diem.)

 

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

Any time we’ve had alumni get-togethers and I am able to see former players and people I don’t get a chance to see every day or as often, then it is special to me. The actual game and athletic event becomes secondary to seeing everyone.

 

4) What are you grateful for?

I am grateful for the people that came before me at the University of Minnesota and universities all over. Persons known and unknown paved the way for me. I was able to earn a scholarship and get my education because someone made a path for me. For that, I am grateful.

 

5) What does Black History Month mean to you?

I always learn some new accomplishment of Black people that I didn’t know before. Again, it means the world to me that people have made a lot of sacrifices in order that my accomplishments may be made easier. And we still got some ways to go.

 

6) What occupies your time now?

I spend a lot of time now watching my young sons play. I am retired as a dentist now. I had six boys and five of them play or played basketball or football in college. So, I fly or drive all over to watch them play.

 


Goaner Deng

Sport(s): Men’s track & field

Years: 2011-16

Hometown: Rosemount, Minn.

Occupation: Supply chain consultant – software sales

Twitter Handle: @gdengxx

Goaner Deng (Photos courtesy of U of M)

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

Aside from the everyday grind that comes with being a student-athlete, I miss my teammates, coaches, and the many other connections I was blessed with over my five years at the U. The people are what made the journey such a great one.

 

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

Enjoy your time and do not be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. Try new things, push yourself beyond athletics, and use these year to really mold and set yourself up for the future. The resources available are second-to-none at Minnesota, so it really is up to you to utilize them.

 

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

Since graduation I have been able to attend a couple football games, among other events, which are always a blast. What makes coming back to campus special is seeing old faces and the progress the athletics department is making as a collective. I am glad to see the Athletes Village finally coming together, too.

 

4) What are you grateful for?

The opportunity to attend the University of Minnesota and be a part of the Gopher family will always stick with me. Not only was the athletic experience wonderful, but I truly was able to grow as a young man in all areas of life upon leaving. For that, I am grateful.

 

5) What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is important to me because without the sacrifices of those who came before me, I could not possibly be where I am today. I believe it is a time to celebrate and recognize the progress we have made a people, but also continue to do our parts individually to ensure the next generation is in better position for success than us.

 

6) What occupies your time now?

These days a lot of my time is allocated to continuing to learn my new profession and grow where I can. Staying in touch with family and friends that are all around the country now is also at the top of the list.