Recruiting is heating up with the weather, Camp Rantoul is right around the corner and TCR is undergoing some staff changes, so I figured I'd interview a fellow alum whose career is taking off.
A couple months ago, I saw a college friend of mine posting pictures on Facebook of himself wearing a goofy looking bow tie with a number of NFL players and other famous athletes. Last I knew, he was a big shot on the corporate side of our fraternity, so I was intrigued.
I dug a little deeper and came to find that he was now the CEO of The Brandon Marshall Foundation. How cool is that? So, I figured this would be an awesome opportunity to write an alumni spotlight piece. He was kind enough to take some time out of his busy day to answer some of my questions.
So without further adieu, meet Louie Correa.
Louie graduated from Illinois in 2002. He and I met through our fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon. He actually heavily influenced my decision to join. Louie was on campus for the Lon Kruger to Bill Self transition. He watched the Peoria Manual boys and Corey Bradford take Illini hoops to another level. For football, Louie saw the Illini go to the Micron PC Bowl in 1999 and win the Big Ten and play in the Sugar Bowl in 2001. Now, he's the CEO of a great foundation, The Brandon Marshall Foundation. The foundation is relentless in its pursuit to spread awareness for mental health.
On to the interview.
Let's get right to it, what is your favorite memory from your time in Champaign?
"Memory" and "Time in Champaign" seem a bit oxymoronic, but I'll share an Illini hoops-related story since that's your wheelhouse. My friend Todd used to house-sit for Lon Kruger. When Coach was away, he'd have a few of us over to play hoops (Kruger had a court literally in his home). One time we were at his place and found a stack of Atlanta Hawks polos. It was devastating for five minutes until Bill Self was hired and charmed the pants off of everyone in the state of Illinois. I ran into Coach on a plane a few years ago and told him about that. He seemed okay with it, so I think it's okay to print.
TCR takes no responsibility for any of your future lawsuits. I think you'll be fine. Back in your U of I days, did you ever expect to be where you are now?
No, back then I wanted to be a teacher. I always loved athletics, and after school I developed a real passion for fundraising and nonprofit work and got a Masters in Philanthropic Studies (full disclosure, it was from Indiana University, but it should be noted, I have not hung that diploma). It's amazing to get the opportunity to combine my passions. It's pretty unique. I suppose the only other job like that would be an athletic director. That would be a cool job, all you have to do is raise money, hire good coaches and schedule more than 6 home football games.
It takes a real man to admit he went to IU. Normally, I would insert a Tom Crean GIF here, but this is about you. Actually, this next question is about me. Could you guys have picked a worse pledge name for me than "Goldie Locks?"
They can't all be gems. We had a guy we called "Sh!tty Pants" ("Sh!tty" for short), we still call him that. In fact, we call his wife "Mrs. Pants" and his son "Little Sh!t". I literally struggle to remember his real name, so yeah, it could have been worse. Mine was Sugar Ray, based on the short lived Mark McGrath led band and the fact I had bleached my hair (which is directly responsible for my current hair loss). All of this to say, we were much worse at giving nicknames than I remember.
To be fair, I had long curly hair and was working at Hollister back then. I guess it did make sense. Let's get into The Brandon Marshall Foundation. How did you become CEO?
Actually, our buddy Neal saw a tweet Brandon sent out where he was looking for help with his foundation and sent it to me. I've been in nonprofit work since graduating from U of I so I figured I'd reach out to him. 2 hours later I was sitting with Brandon in the lobby of the Trump talking about how we could take The Foundation to another level. 2 months later I quit my job at an amazing consulting firm to help the Marshalls build the foundation from the ground up.
I hope Neal received a nice bottle of Lagavulin or at least a signed Brandon Marshall football for his tweetiness. I made that word up. So, explain what The Brandon Marshall Foundation is all about.
The way that people think about mental health is crazy. That's why our mission is to end the stigma attached to mental illness, advocate for unprecedented awareness, connect those suffering to resources and paint the world lime green (the official color of mental health awareness).
That would explain the lime green bow tie. Great look for you, by the way. What goes on during a typical day for you at the foundation?
We don't take meetings before 10 AM. That may sound lazy, but it's by design. We think we should be examples of what it means to have positive mental health. Mental health is tied to physical health. So we spend the time between 8-10 am working out (I chose crossfit because it's the thing that makes me feel less inadequate next to our extremely athletic founders) and doing meditation. 50 percent or more of the day is spent meeting with donor prospects, grantees and developing strategic partnerships. 25 percent of the day is spent planning, and the rest is trying unsuccessfully to keep up with the calls and emails we receive.
You get paid to exercise and hang with Brandon Marshall? Are you hiring? What is it like being CEO of The Brandon Marshall Foundation?
It's indescribable. It's like sprinting up a mountain, except every time we reach the peak, we find a taller mountain to climb. I think we have quickly established ourselves as leaders in the mental health community and Brandon as the face of mental health. I think we have helped change the perception of what mental health is. It was a taboo topic and is becoming an every day conversation. Next we will be working toward making mental health and wellness sexy. We have been able to create so much awareness through lime green cleats during a primetime game, lighting the Chicago skyline lime green, countless interviews and speaking engagements, going on The View, a feature story in the latest ESPN The Magazine (on new stands now) and much more. One day we will look back in pride with what we've been able to accomplish, but for now, we have to keep climbing.
What number is Brandon thinking of right now?
That was quick. Speaking of Brandon, what is he like?
If you can imagine the stereotypical diva athlete and then think of the opposite of that, you have Brandon Marshall. He is fun to be around, genuine, thoughtful, smart and super ambitious.
What super hero duo would Brandon and you be?
Let's take this a step further: our team is like the X-Men. Brandon is Beast (because he's a beast), Michi is Storm (because her hair is always very bold), Fred, our CMO, is Nightcrawler (because he is basically nocturnal), Erica, our intern, is Rouge (because she picks up skills quickly) and I am obviously Wolverine (body hair).
If you look like Wolverine, I think you get a pass on the body hair. But you have to look like Wolverine. What is it like basically being in the spotlight all of the time?
Well, let's be clear, I am never in the spotlight. I can better answer the question, "what is it like to be near the spotlight all of the time?" I'll tell you what that's like: you go to awesome parties where Brandon and Michi walk the red carpet and you stand at the end of the red carpet holding their coats. Or you're walking through Chicago and people stop you and ask if you could take a picture of them and your boss. Or you get to be the short, balding, nerdy white guy walking around a Kendrick Lamar concert with Brandon and Martellus Bennett as they say what's up to their peers like Josh Gordon and Colin Kaepernick who are clearly thinking "who is this awkward little guy". In other words, it's awesome.
Describe your first private jet experience.
I spent the night before not sleeping as I thought there was a 50/50 shot I wasn't going to make it and envisioned headlines about being one of the anonymous guys in the plane that went down carrying Brandon Marshall. Then I felt dumb as I had nothing to worry about. The big take away was those things go fast. We did a trip that takes 2 hours commercial in an hour and fifteen. I decided to use that bonus 45 minutes to answer your questions.
Speaking of going fast (think about it), a hot topic of debate these days is tacos or burritos. Which do you prefer?
Tacos. Burritos make me feel like I got his by a bus afterward, tacos, however, only make me feel like I got hit by one of those short twinkie buses.
Interesting. You went with the effect instead of the cause to make your decision. Since we're getting a bit off topic, Chris Carter used to pee on his hands to help him catch passes. Does Brandon have any weird rituals?
Funny you mention Chris Carter, because Brandon has established a ritual of outpacing Chris Carter's numbers through 8 years. Take that Chris Carter. I texted Brandon to ask him your question, here's a transcript: "Me: My friend is interviewing me for his blog, do you have any weird pre game rituals? Brandon: I take a taxi to home games. Me: That's boring bro. Brandon: Stop stealing my word. Me: Oh, you invented the word "bro" Brandon: lol (translation, this conversation is over, Brandon will only respond to 3 texts maximum).
Listen, bro, don't steal Brandon's words. Not cool. One more Illini question before we wrap this up. Bill Self, Bruce Weber, or John Groce? And why?
Part of me wants to say Bruce because the aforementioned Neal does a spot on Bruce impression which almost compensates for Weber's "watching paint dry" offense, but I'll say Groce. I spoke with Groce for about 10 minutes before I was convinced he was the goods and that was before that awesome speech he gave after that tourney loss to Miami when I think I cried 3 times.
Any words of advice for our readers?
With my BMF CEO hat on, I say join us in helping to end stigma related to mental illness. 1 in 4 people reading this (so 2 people...just kidding Zidow), will suffer from a mental illness in the next year. So this is far more common than cancer or HIV, but still very misunderstood. We could all stand to take our mental health more seriously. So many of us are over programmed and constantly multi-taking, and so few of us take the time to do mental wellness practices like exercise, eating healthy, meditation, yoga, talk therapy, etc. You will be far more productive and live longer, happy lives if you take a few minutes a day to focus on your mental health. Taking the BMF CEO Hat off, I say find your skills and pursue your passions. It's better to fail in pursuit of a life you want than succeed living a life you don't want.
That's all we have time for, Louie. Thank you again for giving me, and The Champaign Room, an inside scoop into The Brandon Marshall Foundation.
You can learn more about The Brandon Marshall Foundation by visiting: TheBrandonMarshall.org and follow @BMFMentalHealth on all social media platforms. Louie can be found at @LouieCorrea on Twitter.