McBrayer transitions from Olympics to UNA

Noel McBrayer takes his Olympic talent to UNA to teach students the game of badminton.

Noel McBrayer grew up in Birmingham and went to Woodlawn High School and later Samford University. In 1972, he accepted a job at UNA to teach. He spent the last 30 years as a full-time instructor at UNA and the last 10 years as an adjunct professor.

He has taught students tennis, pickle ball and various other dueling sports, including badminton, which has earned him a bit of a reputation on campus. McBrayer has competed in badminton at the Senior Olympics five times and placed in all of them.

At the age of 66, he is in great shape and attributes his health to his active lifestyle.

Q: What brought you to UNA?

A: I came up here in 1965 to play in a tennis tournament. All I knew about this area at the time was tornadoes. I did not have a good impression of the school at the time. When I was offered the job, I had to do some deep thinking because I thought it was the armpit of the state. But I had some friends up here and prayed on it and knew in my heart that it was the right place to be.

Q: What got you into badminton?

A: While attending Samford University, I came across indoor badminton. Part of my duties for my scholarship included running and closing up the gym each night. The room that I lived in was in the gym. So at night-once I got the gym locked up-my friends and I would play all night. Eventually, I got good and began playing in the state tournaments. Once I got to UNA, I put together a team, and we started playing around the Southeast. We did well and won numerous tournaments, but eventually the funding from the school for the team went away, and it kind of fizzled out.

Q: There is a rumor that during all of your years at UNA, you have only lost once to a student. Is this true?

A: Well, it’s almost true. I’ve actually lost three times. Once was to a graduate student. And then about three years ago, there was a kid here from Canada. We had to play over at the Rec Center, which is a horrible place to play badminton, but he beat me by one point two different times.

Q: What do you get out of teaching here at UNA?

A: I feel like I’m making a difference for people by teaching them something that they can play for the rest of their lives. Tennis, badminton, volleyball-these are what we call lifetime sports. I’m 66 years old, and I’ll play badminton until the day I drop.

Q: Do you have any other hobbies?

A: I’m a bogey golfer, and I love to fish. I would fish every day if I could. I also help out at my church with children’s activities and with a singing group as well. I travel around and haul the sound equipment around. Basically, I’m their roadie.

Q: What motivates you?

A: I have a peace in my heart that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. The students keep me young and keep me motivated, but knowing each morning when I wake up that I am doing what I feel I was called on to do is my main motivation.