This is the final episode of our SGG special series on football in Wisconsin.
Gunnar Roberge grew up playing multiple sports in Sparta and then Seymour, Wisconsin. Gunnar went on to play football at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was a multi-year contributor. He joined SGG for the final episode of our special series on football in the state. We discussed:
1. Starting football at a young age in Sparta, Wisconsin – and being “a big teddy bear.”
2. The benefits of being on a sports team. “The most valuable piece for me personally was just the sense of family.”
3. “A lot of my childhood, and even now, I’ve tried to seek out positive adult male role models… And luckily I’ve been fortunate that many of my coaches throughout my football career did a good job filling that role.”
4. Seymour football coach Matt Molle: “He’s a family man. He taught me about positive masculinity. He taught me it’s good and ok to be emotional. It’s ok to say ‘I love you’ to other men. It’s ok to talk about your feelings. And he taught us all that while at the same time being a hard-nosed football coach.”
5. His “trust, commit, care” bracelet at Seymour HS – and the powerful story of Coach Molle sharing his own bracelet with Gunnar. “He’ll literally give you the shirt off his back.”
6. Coach Molle being the first person Gunnar called after his brother passed away.
7. “The thing about your teammates is that they become your brothers.”
8. Playing football in “small town America.”
9. How family helped him throughout his sports journey.
10. “The person who has had the biggest influence on my life and on my sports journey is definitely my mother. My mother is my hero.”
11. His mother always ensuring that he got what he needed to be successful in sports. “No matter what was going on, she was always there to support me.”
12. The poem Gunnar shared with the team at one point during the season: The Station by Robert Hastings.
13. Gunnar’s football dreams as a 17-year old…and how some of those dreams did not come to realization.
14. Changing his definition of success in football: Sharing ownership in the team’s success.
15. “The relationships I had with teammates is what mattered most with me.”
16. “Imposter syndrome” in college.
17. Learning to live more in the moment.
18. “I didn’t get the stadiums full of people chanting my name, but I still had to find something to enjoy about that experience.”
19. When his career had just ended … and the moments right after that Rose Bowl defeat.
20. What Gunnar is doing now…and what he aspires to do in the future.
21. Learning to enjoy school during a time when he was injured.
22. Would he do it all again?