We lost a family member at the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program when our teammate and friend, Mike Redlick, passed on Jan. 12.
Mike had an illustrious career in the sports industry as a senior executive with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Browns, Memphis Grizzlies, San Francisco 49ers and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was a longtime member of the executive committee of the National Sports Forum and had a law degree and a master’s in sports management from Ohio University. As a marketer supreme, he generated income everywhere he worked. Distinguished all the way. He came to UCF in 2013 and served as director of external affairs and partnership relations for the DeVos Sport Business Management Program.
When Mike saw the position at the University of Central Florida he told me he felt a need to “give back” and help the next generation create their paths to success. He especially liked the program’s emphasis on both business and service to the community. He was all in when we took students to post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans each August to rebuild homes in our Hope for Stanley Program. He mentored the students as they organized the 4.9K Rainbow CommUNITY Run on the first and second anniversaries of the PULSE Nightclub shooting. It benefitted the onePULSE Foundation and this year raised nearly $100,000.
In the two weeks after Mike’s passing, I received more than 200 emails, texts and phone calls from alumni showing their affection for him and their gratitude to him for the contributions he made to their lives. Another 100 from industry friends. More than 125 DeVos students and alumni attended the celebration-of-life church service. Also, more than 100 friends flew in from out of town.
The students and alumni talked about his encouraging them, his sense of humor, straightforwardness, the fact that he pushed them to try harder, to not allow their vision of work to be confined to a region of the country. Each talked about the specific thing Mike did for them.
‘The students and alumni talked about his encouraging them, his sense of humor, straightforwardness, the fact that he pushed them to try harder.’
But almost all of them talked about watching Mike be a great father. We all had the blessing of being with his children, Sawyer and Jadyn, as they came to the office when they were not in school. Such amazing children.
They were the main reason Mike left the glamour of the industry and took a huge salary cut to work at UCF. He felt that his moving around was disruptive to his family life and particularly for his children. The combination of his wanting to give back to the next generation and setting up his family in one location for the long-term were the two factors that made the DeVos team the big winner. As the director of the program, I was blessed to work closely with Mike. The students all called him “Red.” Among his responsibilities was to organize our DeVos Speakers Series. For the first speaker who came after he passed, the room was a sea of red shirts as all the students wore red in his honor.
I talked to Mike every day we were in the office together and, without exaggeration, most of the conversation was about Jadyn and Sawyer. It was often talk about the now 11-year-old Sawyer at practice or a game. I do not normally enjoy listening to sports fans talking numbingly about sports statistics. But it was different when Mike talked about Sawyer‘s batting average or on-base percentage. He captured my imagination because I knew I was listening to a proud father talking about his boy. And Mike was his coach for several years.
I have a vivid memory of going with my wife, Ann, Mike and Jadyn to hear Sharon Robinson, the daughter of Jackie Robinson, speak at Rollins College shortly after meeting them. Jaydn was 11 at the time. There were 700 people in the room and when the host called for questions there was silence after the brilliant presentation by Sharon, who is a longtime friend, as is her mother, Rachel.
To this day I cannot remember what she asked, but Jadyn stood up and asked an insightful question regarding race, sports and Jackie Robinson. For an 11-year-old to be the only person to have the courage to stand up and then deliver something so meaningful showed me who Jadyn was. She still impresses me each time I see her. Mike took Jaydn on one of the Hope for Stanley trips to New Orleans. I will always have a picture in my head of them working shoulder-to-shoulder rebuilding someone’s home.
While losing Mike has been devastating to all of us at DeVos, we know that loss pales in comparison to the loss for his family. Mike’s wife, Danielle, organized a viewing and a celebration-of-life church service. Ann and I were at the funeral home early and spent time with Danielle, Jadyn and Sawyer, who were understandably very broken up. Then after 15 minutes, eight boys Sawyer’s age came in. Most were wearing the team jersey as they were all teammates and friends with Sawyer. They sat in a row on the side of the room. Ann said it looked like they were in a dugout. The room changed with uplifted spirits. Once again, a slice of sport brought people together. Then a similar number of Jadyn’s friends arrived, bringing out her beautiful smile.
I could not help but imagine Mike looking down on the room with his own brilliant smile. He always said Jadyn and Sawyer chose good friends. They were there for them that day and hopefully will give them strength in the future.
Mike loved life and living it to the fullest. But he loved his family and children the best.