Pigskin memories, gridiron lessons and name recognition are among the rewards college football teams get when they make it to a bowl game. But the sponsors of those bowl games also get a return.
This year, a South Alabama development company was able to experience that firsthand at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile.
68 Ventures has been responsible for billions of dollars in investments in the Gulf Coast region. The latest investment into the community was in the form of a southern tradition for Chairman Nathan Cox.
Cox said sponsoring the 68 Ventures Bowl in his hometown was an honor and a privilege.
"There are only 40 bowl games, so that's only 40 chances," Cox told 1819 News. "I can't tell you how much fun I've had having college friends reach out to me. It's been really cool. We redid our website ahead of it and made some commercials showing people what's important to us."
In the latest commercial, Cox explains how he hopes 68 Ventures inspires the younger South Alabama generations to choose the region for their future.
Cox grew up and went to school in Mobile and is now raising his children in Baldwin County. Having roots in South Alabama mixed with football in his blood made sponsoring a bowl game more than an advertising opportunity for Cox.
"This means a great deal to me," he said at a press conference ahead of the bowl game. "This is a sport I have loved my entire life. You know, since I was a child. My dad played at Alabama for Coach Bryant. So, following in his footsteps as a young, southern Alabamian, that's all I ever wanted to do."
The 68 Ventures Bowl between the University of South Alabama and Eastern Michigan ended in a 59-10 victory for the USA Eagles. As a former college football player himself, Cox also walked away with a redemption story.
Cox walked on at the University of Alabama. During his four years, he played under four coaches and never hit the field.
"It was the worst record in the history of the school during a four-year tenure," Cox said. "But it was so much fun. It gave me an extra year of eligibility because I didn't play. So, I told Coach Shula when he asked me if I was coming back for my fifth year that I would rather go to the Marine Corps and be in Iraq than play another year of football. That's how awesome my experience was."
That four years did yield a bowl game for Cox's Bama team. They played the Independence Bowl in Shreveport and took down Iowa State 14-13 on Christmas Day, which happens to be Cox's birthday. He said he was happy to have that experience and is now happy to sponsor that same experience for college students in Mobile.
He said he still benefits from lessons learned in college football. When it comes to the friends he made and learning how to navigate around challenges, Cox believes college athletics are something you can't put a price on.
"To have a chance to be involved in this in a city and an area and a state that I love so much means the absolute world to me," he added. "It really is humbling just to have our company's logo affiliated with such a great thing."
"This has been something that's meant a lot to me for a really long time," he continued. "As I told some of my college football buddies who were a lot better than I was and had distinguished careers, they said, 'What do you get out of a bowl game?' I said, 'I get to one-up all of y'all because none of y'all got a bowl game.'"
68 Ventures, based in Daphne, is the parent company for multiple development and investment businesses along the Gulf Coast. Team members believe that God has a plan for their lives, but it is up to them to do their part.
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email [email protected].
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.