I don’t know what I would have turned out to be had I went anywhere else. I just love what it has taught me here and what the game has brought to my life. Experiences that I can’t even imagine doing outside of this game.
Bud Sasser has always been a dreamer. Growing up in Denton, Texas, a small suburb of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the MizzouMade wide receiver always had lofty aspirations. Despite growing up facing adversities that most never face, Sasser never lost sight of those dreams. His hopes and desires included one day playing in the National Football League. That goal led Sasser to Saturdays at The Zou, hauling in touchdowns and making highlight-reel plays during a productive and superlative-filled career with Mizzou’s Football program.
“I don’t know what I would have turned out to be had I went anywhere else,” Sasser said. “I just love what it has taught me here and what the game has brought to my life. Experiences that I can’t even imagine doing outside of this game.”
His athletic career at Mizzou ended with a senior season during which he hauled in 77 catches for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns. Sasser put up those numbers while playing in the nation’s premier college football league – the Southeastern Conference. Those numbers usually give players a chance to compete at the highest level in the NFL. After hearing his name called in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, he had finally realized his dream of playing professional football.
But life had other plans for Sasser.
Filed to ESPN: Sources: Rams plan to release WR Bud Sasser today after he was unable to get cleared physically because of a heart condition.— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) June 4, 2015
Imagine working your whole life towards a goal, and then having that dream swept out from beneath your feet. That is exactly what happened to Sasser on June 4, 2015. A pre-existing, unidentified heart issue was found during his physical just days after signing with the St. Louis Rams. As adversity reared its ugly head, it was time for Sasser to draw upon lessons he learned while playing with Mizzou Football.
“Mizzou just taught me how to persevere,” Sasser said.
And persevere he did.
“It wasn't the exact thing that I wanted to hear, but once I came to my senses I realized what a great opportunity it was," Sasser said in his press conference with the Rams.
"I think the first three days I didn't really talk much. I just kind of shook my head in disbelief. But you can't really sit and just stay stagnant and dwell on the fact that you're not going to be playing right now. So if I was doing that, I'd probably be sitting in a dark room right now somewhere. But you can't hold your head on something like that. You've got to move on."
Despite being dealt a tough hand, Sasser drew upon lessons he learned while at Mizzou: perseverance, gratitude and selflessness. The Rams humbled Sasser by hiring him as the team’s external football affairs coordinator. It was with that role that he was able to coordinate with Rams Alumni and local youth football organizations, giving him a chance to give back to the community through the game that had given him so much.
“I became this guy who just wants to give even more back to the community,” Sasser said, “and show people that there is purpose beyond just being a player.”
Sasser’s impact on the community did not stop with his position with the Rams. Since that time, he was cleared to play football again, signing with the Saskatchewan Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League in 2016.
But like many former athletes to come through Mizzou’s Athletic Department, the true mark of his character is not limited to what he did on the field. In fact, Sasser is drawing upon all of the things he learned at Mizzou and is now trying to give local kids from his hometown of Denton the same opportunities that Mizzou afforded him.
Sasser wanted to provide a sense of purpose for many youths in his hometown and started SasserNation Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization that aims to enrich the lives of Denton-area youth through academics and athletics. The foundation provides young athletes the opportunity to engage in team sports while also providing scholarship opportunities for high school seniors who were not granted full tuition scholarship opportunities by their future college or university.
Congratulations Jacquelyn on winning our first SNF Scholarship! pic.twitter.com/48v0bBSTuY— SasserNation (@SasserNationFDN) May 20, 2017
In May, Sasser’s foundation awarded Jacquelyn Willis with the initial SNF Scholarship, the first of what he hopes to be many for Denton-area youths. Willis will attend Spellman College next year with aspirations of earning a degree in chemistry.
Last month, Sasser earned Denton’s Juneteenth Hometown Hero Award for the impact that he has made in his hometown community. His impact on his community stems from the experiences he had while enrolled at Mizzou, an opportunity that he hopes he can continue to pay forward.
“Not everyone gets this opportunity (to go to college),” Sasser said. “Not everyone gets to hear their name chanted in the stadium or play in front of thousands of people and walk campus and just have a good time and see the things I have seen on campus.”
When asked if there was one thing that Mizzou made him, Sasser said simply:
”Mizzou made me grateful.”
What does it mean to be #MizzouMade? That moniker has been a staple for Mizzou student-athletes for years. It is often associated with athletes who have excelled at the highest levels of their respective sports, but the true meaning runs much deeper.
While there are certainly examples of former Tigers excelling in professional athletics, there is a much larger contingent of Mizzou student-athletes thriving in today’s fast-paced, competitive work environment. What each of those student-athletes learned at Mizzou has prepared them for life beyond sports.
The mission of Mizzou Athletics remains to prepare champions for life through a personal enhancement model that emphasizes academic and athletic excellence, social responsibility, career development and leadership in order to help each student athlete become a prepared professional in any field upon earning their degree.
#MizzouMade Monday aims to tell those stories of student athletes who are bringing those values and ideals of Mizzou into the real world every day.