70-year-old badminton guru remains active

UNA professor Don McBrayer smiles as he enjoys a match of badminton in between classes. McBrayer is 70 years old and still enjoys remaining active daily.

As faculty and students walk into Flowers Hall, it is not hard to miss the man in his Under Armour brand sweatpants and matching T-shirt setting up gym equipment for his next class.

Whether he is roaming around Flowers, teaching an outdoor class or volunteering with the UNA athletic program, Don McBrayer is not hard to miss. McBrayer, who is in his 43rd year at UNA, positively influences many people on campus with his presence, whether or not it was his original intention.

“I didn’t want to come to Florence, Alabama,” McBrayer said. “I came here for a tournament a long time ago and just wasn’t impressed at first, but I look back now on the last 42 years and what a ride it’s been. I’m in the right place. UNA means everything to me.”

McBrayer, who is 70 years young and proud of it, said his love for the university is what keeps him from retiring.

“I don’t consider myself an icon, but rather a blessed person that’s fortunate enough to be here (at UNA),” he said. “I’ve had the best job in America for the past 42 years. Whatever is said of me, I just hope it’s that I’m a good person, I treat people right, I love God and I love my family.”

Many recognize McBrayer for his badminton skills, as he earned national honors in the sport, including multiple bronze metals.

Every Tuesday and Thursday at noon, people can find McBrayer on the gym floor with a badminton racket in hand. McBrayer and three others meet twice a week to play. As many students and staff members test his skill, McBrayer shows no signs of rust in his golden age.

“I must have my grandmother’s genes because she lived to be 102,” he said. “I’ve been active since the day I was born. I still play tennis, badminton and other sports with all my classes. I’m just afraid to quit being active because I’ve been pushing it for so long.”

Thomas Coates, the chair of the Health, Physical Education and Recreation department at UNA, said although McBrayer is technically an adjunct professor, he contributes more to the university than some of his full-time peers.

“Adjunct faculty does not usually give that much extra time to what they’re doing like he has,” Coates said. “He is one of our strongest faculty members and a very strong supporter of our curriculum. He is indeed an icon here at the University of North Alabama.”

While faculty members notice McBrayer’s efforts in and out of the classroom, his students experience it firsthand.

Senior Bekah Benson, a nursing major, said although her major does not require physical education courses, she enjoys taking McBrayer’s classes for fun.

“He’s a vital part of the staff at UNA and in the HPER department,” said senior Bekah Benson. “He’s in the pressbox to help with stat books. He’s at school early to make sure his students have the best facilities. He’s definitely an icon.”

Junior Aubrey Champion said McBrayer’s energy encourages him to stay active.

“You can’t even tell he’s 70 years old,” Champion said. “He walks in with his athletic clothes like he’s ready to go to work. He’s so energetic, and it motivates me to be energetic.”

When asked about his secret to staying active, McBrayer provided a simple answer.

“Back in my day, I would stay outside from daylight until dark,” he said. “We didn’t have cell phones back then. We were always doing something active in our neighborhood, whether it’s playing football in the yard or riding bicycles.

“I knew from day one that I would be one to stay active. I had a love for sports and for being active, I stayed involved and here I am.”