Under Armour as a company embodies all of the great characteristics of an athlete, and a team. This week I had the privilege of spending some time with Under Armour’s Senior Director of Global Sports Marketing and Business Development, Walker Jones. I wanted to learn about their UNDENIABLE program, and what it takes for a team like Cedar Hill to be considered an UNDENIABLE team. I also wanted to find out what makes one of the greatest sports brands in the world “tic”. After spending some time with Walker I saw quite clearly why Under Armour is…Under Armour. Their competitive spirit and value they place on each and every person in their organization is the magic that makes the brand so uniquely special to athletes.
Of all the things I remember — of all the hits to the head I’ve taken in my years in the NFL — I still recall UA founder Kevin Plank coming to Jacksonville in ’96 or ‘97 and selling shirts to the program.
Years later, we are teaming up with Under Armour to celebrate UNDENIABLE week for this week’s “Game of the Week” between the Cedar Hill Longhorns and the DeSoto Eagles.
A game that is sure to be a barnburner, and will no doubt have huge implications in the TexasHSFootball 6A power rankings.
You’re UA’s Senior Director for Global Sports Marketing, and coincidentally played for one of the first schools to ever wear the UA gear at Ole Miss, you’re playing on the front-line of representing the product. Your role comes with an incredible responsibility to rep-resent what UA means to the athlete. What does UA strive to be for players?
I believe they relate to our story. (Creator) Kevin Plank was a walk-on that worked hard and earned a spot on the team. I think that people sense that in our culture and DNA. We are very authentic to the athlete; we truly care about improving their performance, bettering themselves, and giving them that competitive edge.
Have you ever been to a Texas High School football game?
Yes, I saw Southlake Carroll, it was everything I thought it would be. Football is such an emotional game and its culture is so deeply rooted in the state.
“The passion, the love, the sense of community that these towns have around their high school football teams is so unique and a step above.”
What does it mean to be selected as an “UNDENIABLE” high school football team?
We are very selective. Success on the field and a culture of winning are incredibly important. Strategically, the location of the program matters. We consider what retail opportunities are in that region and how important that region is in terms of our growth strategy. We don’t want too many teams. We want to protect the authenticity and uniqueness of being an Under Armour program.
Where did you play high school football? What position?
I played at Jackson Academy in Jackson, Mississippi. I was a quarterback and safety. I committed to Ole Miss. I went up there thinking I was going to play quarterback, but ended up playing linebacker — started for three years playing defense.
What is your favorite memory from your playing days at the University of Mississippi?
I got there and we were put on probation, probably the worst probation period at the time outside of SMU getting the death penalty. Couldn’t play on TV, couldn’t play a bowl game, lost thirteen scholarships a year. We only had one person from my signing class leave, the rest of us toughed it out for four years. During my senior year, we won eight games and went to a bowl game, restoring the program to solid footing. The thing I get the most pleasure in is that we fought through a very dark time in our program’s history, and were able to weather the storm by finishing the first eligible year nationally ranked and with a bowl game win. Typically after being put on probation it takes a very long time for a program to recover. I think we left a legacy that Ole Miss players could be proud of, and build on.
How do you think playing football has shaped your life?
It’s a large part of who I am as a person. Football is the greatest game in the world because it teaches you so many lessons about life. It’s hard, there’s adversity and you have to work together. You learn teamwork, sacrifice, and perseverance. All of those things you need to be successful in life; you have to do it with a diverse melting pot of people. There are 80-100 guys on the team from all different walks of life, and you have to figure out a way to get everyone go-ing in the same direction. You sit in that huddle with 10 different guys looking at you, and half the time the play call isn’t going to work. You’ll get hit. You’ll get tired. You’ll get frustrated, but you have to get up after every play and get right back into that huddle. Everyone needs to get on the same page to succeed.
“No other sport builds that sort of character and gives you that opportunity to learn how to work with others. In a lot of ways, I am who I am — for better or worse — because of my time playing football.”
How many schools are selected to be “UNDENIABLE” in Texas? The country?
We have selected six teams in Texas. In the US, we represent 62 programs.
What advice would you give teams that want to become an UA “UNDENIABLE” school?
Show a passion and a true desire to be with the brand. We don’t want to just throw them some jerseys and shoes every Friday night. We want it to be a true partnership. We want it to extend off the football field and into the community.
What’s the process of selecting teams that will become an UA “UNDENIABLE” program?
The process starts with scouts and team sports dealers. After we get those leads, we get a look at other programs in that area to see if there are conflicts. We will sit down and have a conversation about expectations concerning what we can and can’t deliver. The moment we feel like we can reach that, we move forward.
Why did UA create “UNDENIABLE”?
We wanted a program that serviced the best of the best. We felt like those programs deserved an extra level of service and product. By identifying those schools, we developed custom products and a higher level of service to help them continue being successful in their region and state. At the same time, it gave us an opportunity to create a unique class of schools that helped promote the stories we wanted to tell. That demographic is very special to us.
“This company was born in football. We wanted to enhance that experience for as many high school football players as we could.”
What are the most important characteristics for a team to have?
We want to be with a program that has a commitment level to be the best, that passion for success. Not just wanting a uniform partnership, but a relationship. An understanding of who we are as a brand.
How is Under Armour “UNDENIABLE”?
That word is synonymous to our characteristics and culture. It’s interwoven in our fabric. I think people know what we stand for. We are firmly committed to our business and being the best sports brand in the world. If you spend anytime around us, those things are undeniable. There is a definite commitment to winning and a commitment to football. People sense that, and see it. That’s why “UNDENIABLE” is so important to us.
Why did you select Cedar Hill to be part of the “UNDENIABLE” program? What specifically stood out to you about HC Joey McGuire and his team?
Leadership. A commitment to winning at the highest level. No fear in scheduling games.
“We love coaches that will play anybody, anywhere, anytime. We look for that attitude. I love that guy that goes, “heck yeah man, let’s do it.”
A lot of those characteristics we saw with Joey and Cedar Hill. They represent our brand the way we want it to be represented.
Lastly, if you were stranded on an island, what three things would you take with you?
If I have my family and friends with me, I’m good. As long as I have the people that love me and I love, we will figure it out.
As you can see Under Armour embodies the competitive spirit of the athlete at every level. Earning the right to be the greatest sports brand on the planet takes determination, dedication and desire. Knowing all of this inside information makes me respect the brand and its mission even more. Perhaps it’s because as an athlete, I just get it.