MOUNT VERNON — “Buckeyes don’t give up.” That was the main message of a night of music and fun, that was headlined by one of the biggest names in Ohio State Buckeyes’ history.
Former Ohio State and Sacramento Kings basketball player Lawrence Funderburke was the keynote speaker at the Buckeye Spirit Event, held by the Ohio State University Alumni Club of Knox County Tuesday evening at the Ohio Eastern Star Gallagher Centre.
Those in attendance had an opportunity to bid on an interesting collection of Buckeye sports memorabilia, which included autographed jerseys, helmets and framed photos. There was also Buckeye apparel on the auction block, as well as several drawings and prizes. The audience was even serenaded by The Ohio State marching band.
But it was Funderburke who drew the biggest applause. The former NBA forward, who played professionally in Europe and the NBA from 1994 to 2005, earned an undergraduate degree in busuness finance from Ohio State, where he graduated magna cum laude. Determined to make athletics pay dividends, he continued his education, earning a masters, while playing pro basketball.
“I grew up in the projects, on welfare for 18 years,” Funderburke said. “I grew up in an environment of drug dealers, gang bangers, pimps and prostitutes. These were people that I saw, that were normal to me and I wanted more out of life.”
While speaking, Funderburke reached into his pocket and produced a food stamp — something that he keeps with him to remind him of where he came from.
“I keep it because I never want the stench of poverty to leave me,” Funderburke said. “No matter what I’ve achieved in life, I never forget what people treat you like when you’re poor. It hurt a lot.”
Along with his athletic skills, Funderburke had a dream that kept him going and the motto that Buckeyes don’t give up — and he didn’t.
“My dream was to be better than my environment, but not bitter for having gone through that experience,” Funderburke said, to the applause of the crowd. “Whether you are in the city or a rural area or whatever, you play the hand you’re dealt. That’s what being a Buckeye is. It’s not giving up and not quitting.”
Among the dignitaries attending included Mount Vernon graduate Russell Doup, who went on to win a National Championship with the football Buckeyes. Although he has less time in his busy schedule for sports, he does get to attend his share of events.
“Being a financial planner keeps me pretty busy, most of the time,” Doup said. “I do help people with their kicking during the summer. I hang out with some of my buddies in the NFL. I work with the Rotary Club, the Columbus Young Professionals, the Columbus Metropolitan Club and a bunch of other organizations, so I’m keeping myself busy.”
From a walk-on kicker, Doup proved that dogged determination, hard work and seizing opportunities is the key to success. Those qualities are what goes into his dream of building his own business.
“I love competition,” Doup said. “With coach (Luke) Fickell and coach (Jim) Tressel I became the backup. Then, coach (Urban) Meyer came in and put me at defensive back and safety. I had to start packing on the pounds. Then, I had an opportunity to become the long snapper and joined the team’s travel squad the year we won the national championship. I never saw it coming, but I took the opportunity and ran with it.”