Service is an action that comes full circle.
Some of the most inspirational and admirable people are where they are due to a combination of hard work and a helping hand or two along the way.
George Maya ’21 is one of those inspirational and admirable people. Each step he has taken has led him to serve and be served by others. His path included attending UNC Charlotte to major in criminology and joining the 49ers football team. Now he is honoring his country through military service and got to wave the American flag in Jerry Richardson Stadium.
Maya describes being the linebacker for the football team as a dream. It wasn’t an impactful experience merely due to the fame, campus recognition or special privileges, but for the time and effort the athletics team poured into him. Helping him be the best player he could be was one thing; it was another thing for them to dedicate time and energy to every aspect of his life, and that’s precisely what they did.
“The coaches cared about us, and as a team, all of us were dedicated to our success,” said Maya. “From the custodians who ensured that our facilities were spotlessly clean to the equipment managers, who not only provided the very best gear for us but also washed our gear every day.”
Chris Thomasson, executive associate athletic director, is in charge of supervising football, softball and the sports performance department that consists of athletic training, strength and conditioning. He noticed Maya’s potential and provided support. The team cared for Maya’s physical and mental well-being through nutritionists who helped with healthy eating habits and academic advisors who watched over his academic schedule.
“Maya has always been a driven individual,” said Thomasson. “He came to Charlotte as a walk-on football player and worked daily as if on scholarship. He seemed to know what he wanted from college and wasn’t afraid to ask for assistance.”
As much as he loved his time at UNC Charlotte, he knew what he wanted. Service to his country was always on his heart and mind. He was eventually selected to be part of the 75th Ranger Regiment, the United States Army’s premier direct-action raid force responsible for dangerous, complex missions.
“He is extremely proud to be a Charlotte 49er and student-athlete,” noted Thomasson, “It didn’t surprise me when he talked about going into the military. I saw great leadership characteristics in him daily on and off the field.”
His time at UNC Charlotte served him well, learning problem-solving skills, completing complex analysis, rigorous athletic training, balancing tasks and collaborating with people of different walks.
“Football training at Charlotte was very challenging,” said Maya. “It helped me greatly to improve my physical and mental strength, endurance and flexibility — all of which were exactly the right preparation for ranger training and my successful completion of Ranger School.”
Nothing could prepare him for the feeling of carrying both the pride for his country and his school in one moment. Last season, he took the American flag and ran it across Jerry Richardson Stadium before the start of the game. It was a moment that represented a bridge between the end of one season of life and the start of something new.
“Having the American flag from Jerry Richardson Stadium is a great honor for me,” said Maya. “As a ranger, I am not only representing my country but also my alma mater.”
Thomasson and his team worked to do something special for Maya. The same flag Maya waved across the stadium was taken to John Bogdan, retired U.S. Army colonel and associate vice chancellor for safety and security, to fold and send to Maya in his new journey as a ranger. Even though the moment was gone, it could live on with him through the flag.
“Maya is an impressive young man,” said Bogdan. “He truly has a passion for national service and is a model of the qualities that any organization, particularly Charlotte, would desire from its community.”
Currently, Maya is stationed at an undisclosed location and will continue to serve his country and take his Charlotte roots with him. Every step forward and destination in between has led him to where he is today as he continues the circle of service.