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INTERSECTION

Transplants & Natives

Transplant from Bridgeport, Connecticut: Doug Kavulich

By Nancy Peevy

 

Die-hard Rutgers University football fans reminisce about the 1992 Halloween homecoming upset win over rival Virginia Tech. As part of that team, Doug Kavulich will never forget it.One of the most exciting finishes in the history of Rutgers football, the team was down 49-44 with seven seconds left on the clock. As a senior, Doug was a starter on the offensive line, blocking the opposing team and protecting his quarterback, who was able to throw a Hail Mary pass to win the game 50-49, with no time remaining.

 

Recruited out of Chaminade High School in West Hills, California, Doug chose Rutgers for its academics after receiving full-scholarship offers to play football at four Division I schools. A part of the old Big East Conference, Rutgers’ rivals were powerhouse teams like Syracuse, West Virginia, Penn State and Pittsburgh.

 

Doug played guard or center and says, “Lineman is the only position where you have one unit working together. There’s no other position on the field like that. Five guys have to be in sync. There’s nothing better than when you blow that hole open and the running back goes for 30 yards, or you have good protection and the quarterback throws it.” 

 

Football is the “ultimate team sport,” Doug says, and “the offensive line is the building block of a team. It’s like the production team that you don’t see on the great TV show that you love. The only two people who watch you are your girlfriend and your mom, and you only get notoriety from bad things – like a penalty!” 

 

As big guys, linemen are “perceived as dummies, but they’re typically the smartest guys on the field because they have to juggle a lot with blocking, schemes and movement,” Doug says. “And there’s not much arrogance. They’re workers who put in the time, get the job done and don’t get a lot of notoriety doing it.”

Football gave Doug some great memories and, as “the game of life,” it also left a lasting impact on him.

 

“Everything I’ve experienced in football came up again post-football in life, through personalities, bosses, managers, teammates, setbacks and overcoming them, losing people, gaining people – it’s a microcosm,” he says.

 

“Working with your teammates to come up with a strategy, and then going and executing it, teaches you to deal with different personalities, backgrounds and ethnicities, for the common purpose of winning.” With sports it may be scoring a touchdown, but in Doug’s job now, as senior director of sales for KISS Products, Walmart business, it means growth. 

 

“Playing offensive line, you did the work without getting acclaim and credit. No one person of the five offensive linemen made it go; it was all of them working together.” In business, “it’s everybody rowing in the same direction and the team working together,” Doug says, quoting Rudyard Kipling’s “The strength of the wolf is the pack and the strength of the pack is the wolf.”

 

As husband to Lynn and dad to Rylee and Mason, life for Doug is good in Northwest Arkansas, but his biggest accomplishment from his football days are the lifelong friendships he’s made, including best friend Rich Toland. Every Saturday in the fall, texts from across the country fly back and forth as Doug and his buddies discuss the game and joke around. 

 

Last October Rich and the group threw Doug a surprise 50thbirthday celebration, gathering in Chicago from all over the country to celebrate him and watch Rutgers play Illinois. One buddy told him, “This is really a testament to you and what you mean to everybody to be able to pull this off.” Years of visiting back and forth, late-night phone calls, and being there to listen through joys and hardships, have formed deep bonds. Twenty-six years after taking the field together every Saturday, the friendships endure.

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