Q&A with Laurier football alum Brad Katsuyama

While Brad Katsuyama (BBA 2001) continues to get a lot of time in the spotlight, it’s the moments spent under stadium floodlights that provide some of his most cherished memories.

Since being featured in Michael Lewis’ bestselling book “Flash Boys” and co-founding IEX (a US stock market dedicated to investor protection), Katsuyama has been in high demand. Fortunately for the Laurier community, he made a return visit to Waterloo on May 5th to share his story. He was also honoured with the “Alumnus of the Year Award” by the Wilfrid Laurier University Alumni Association.

In between, he reflected on his career wearing the purple and gold on the football field.

What is the most important lesson learned as a student-athlete that you use the most in your work/life today?
I think there are two main lessons that I took away from playing Football at Laurier. First is developing a strong work ethic. It takes a huge amount of effort to be a student-athlete and to balance a full academic schedule, the commitments of playing football, and maintaining some type of social life. But student-athletes manage to pull it off, and it’s impressive.

I think it would surprise many people how much work ethic can separate regular employees from superstars in the business world as well. I wasn’t the most connected or smartest person on Wall Street, but I worked hard, always put the company first and tirelessly looked for ways to improve and it has provided me with some unique opportunities.

Second is humility. I think team sports show you how to win and lose with grace. I find that student-athletes are incredibly competitive, but the best ones are also humble which makes them great team players. When I’m interviewing and hiring student-athletes, I always look for this attribute. It’s important to remember that being a great football player doesn’t ensure success in the business world. But this experience does give you the tools to be successful if you use them in the right way and humility is a great attribute to make that transition.

What motivates you to stay engaged with the university?
I have developed a good relationship with Dean Kelly and President Blouw. Both are superb leaders for the school. With three young kids and a growing company, it’s hard to find the time to get to Waterloo. On this trip, I had a chance to sit down with Coach Faulds and I was extremely impressed. I think he brings an exciting energy and charisma to the football program. He cares about performance, both on the field and in the classroom and I think he has a great vision for the Laurier Football program. After meeting with him, I’m excited to help him in any way I can.

What is one piece of advice you would share to the current roster?
First is to enjoy the moment. Playing football at Laurier is an incredible privilege that you can always cherish. There are few moments you will have in the rest of your life that will match the experience of playing competitive sports.

Second, is to focus on the lessons that football has taught you; hard work, discipline, respect, integrity, team work and so many more. These are things that should not go away once you hang-up your cleats, but should serve as building blocks for the rest of your life.

You should always be making decisions and acting in a way that will make your coach, your team and your family proud. This is no different when you join the working world. These are incredibly valuable lessons that few people get to experience. Soak them all up.

How did playing a team sport like football help you with your team of employees today?
I was lucky enough to be the main character in a Michael Lewis book, “Flash Boys”.  Michael told me that I have a unique ability to lead – and I think a lot of that comes from an appreciation for the different skills and roles that people at IEX play.

Much like a football coach, you have to look at your organization, put the right players in the right roles and motivate everyone to work as hard for for their teammates and the organization as they do for themselves.

I love the motto “Play for the person next to you”. Great teams sacrifice the self for the greater good, and so do great companies. I always feel like good leaders and coaches can create something bigger than the sum of their parts. I try to do that at IEX and I am sure Coach Faulds tries to do that at Laurier as well.

What is your fondest memory of playing football here at Laurier?
I was lucky enough to dress every game as a true freshman. My most vivid memory was our second game of that season at Western and I was returning kickoffs. Somehow, I was given jersey #1 (which I definitely didn’t choose!) and a 5’7″ freshman definitely should not be wearing that number.

The Western fans also knew this and heckled me like crazy all game. I would love to say I took the first kickoff to the end zone to silence the crowd, but it was something closer to 20 yards. I can still remember what it was like to see the ball coming towards me in the stadium lights and praying that I didn’t drop it. It’s a great memory.

What is you quintessential Laurier moment? 
I had a ton of fun coaching Powder Puff football and we won two championships. We ran a version of my high school offense and were a speed based team with a lot of women’s soccer players.

Our offensive line was tough as nails and, most importantly, we all got along famously. Our victory parties (followed by a night at the Turret) are still some of my favorite Laurier moments.

I am still close with my team and fellow coaches and we all met up a few weeks ago for a Laurier reunion.

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