Continuing our ongoing Valentine’s Day edition of Student-Athlete Alumni Spotlight, BelmontBruins.com checks in with Kellie and Adam Mark.
Kellie Walker Mark played volleyball for two seasons from 2002-2004. She played in 46 matches over those two seasons and was an Atlantic Sun All-Academic honoree. Adam Mark played basketball for the Bruins from 2000-2004. He was a three-time Academic All-American, earned All-Atlantic Sun honors twice, and was named Atlantic Sun Student-Athlete of the Year in 2004. In addition, he led the nation in field goal percentage two consecutive years.
Why did you choose Belmont?
Kellie: I came on my visit late in the spring and fell in love with the beautiful campus. I was excited to be part of a growing university. On my visit, the Curb was just a hole in the ground and my senior year, we were the first time to play in there.
Adam: I had three full ride Division I offers (Belmont, Campbell University (North Carolina), Elon (North Carolina). On my official visit to Belmont, Coach Byrd spent almost the entire two days with me, answering questions and showing me around. On my other official visits, the head coaches were not that interested and I only had one meeting with them for 30 minutes.
As we were walking through campus at Belmont, Coach Byrd stopped and picked up some trash that someone had left behind. It’s funny how such a small thing can make such a lasting impression. I remember thinking, “Here is the head coach taking the time to not only be with me, but he is humble enough to be a servant leader and model the way”.
What is your fondest athletic memory at Belmont?
Kellie: Getting to work with such great staff, trainers, and teammates.
Adam: December 30, 2003 (my senior year) – We played at Missouri when they were ranked #23 in the country. When you are growing a Division I program, a lot of times you play games against top-tier teams to help fund the program. Those games can easily become lopsided affairs. We played University of Florida in 2001- 2002 when they were ranked #2 in the country and lost 107-55, but they paid us $40,000 for the game. We played Arizona State in 2000-2001 and lost 92-44. These types of games are referred to as “guaranteed games”.
About a month prior to 12/30/2003, we played on the road at Memphis and had a shot at the buzzer to tie, but missed. We thought that was our best chance to win a “guaranteed game” given that Missouri was ranked as high as pre-season #2 in the country. However, we were able to pull off the upset against Missouri (71-70), and it was Belmont’s first win against a ranked opponent. They paid us $35,000, and we took the “W”, too.
Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Belmont?
Kellie: Heather Copeland, Colette Keyser, and Matt Fairchild. We transitioned to new coaches and at one point we didn’t have a coach. These three stepped in and lead us during that transition period.
Adam: My teammates and coaches. My relationship with my teammates throughout all of the years had the most significant impact upon me. We created an environment where it truly was a brotherhood. Everyone pushing each other and truly caring about the success of the team. As a graduation gift, Coach Byrd gave me the book “Band of Brothers” by Stephen Ambrose, which recounts the stories of the 101st Airborne during World War II, and in it, he wrote how Steve Drabyn and I created a brotherhood at Belmont and for that we would always be remembered.
What is the most valuable thing you gained or learned from your time at Belmont?
Kellie: Meeting Adam.
Adam: Coach Byrd has always said, “It’s amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit”. While I truly believe that statement, I was fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of more credit than I deserved.
Over my four years, I won a lot of awards and received a lot of recognition for my success on the court and in the classroom (led all of Division I in Field Goal Percentage – 2 years, three-time Academic All American, Player of the Week in the A-Sun – 7 times). None of that would have been possible without supportive teammates. I was a product of Coach Byrd’s system. Every time down the floor, the other four guys on the court were trying to pass the ball to me in a position to score.
The time that has elapsed since we lost to Central Florida in the second round of the conference tournament my senior year that ended my basketball career and hopes of an NCAA tournament bid has provided me with perspective. I understand now that my experience at Belmont and with college basketball was atypical. I truly appreciate everything about my experience and I am so grateful to still feel connected to the program. Coach Byrd does an amazing job at making former players still feel like their contributions to the program matter as much today as they did back in college. I am so thankful for the memories, the relationships, and the experiences that I gained while at Belmont.
What advice would you give to current members of the volleyball and basketball teams?
Kellie: Tony (Howell) has built such a great program and has recruited such an elite group of girls that represent the program. I hope that they keep up all their hard work on the court and in the classroom but take time to enjoy the short years they have together. Some of the best memories were the times we spent together as a team, dancing in the locker room, goofing off on the buses, and building a bond off the court.
Adam: Enjoy the ride. There is nothing that will probably ever compare to that invincible feeling of stepping onto the court in a hostile environment and knowing that there isn’t anything anyone in the entire building can do to stop your team from winning. Few people in life get to experience being a part of something truly exceptional. For four years, I had that opportunity.
The other important thing for current members of the basketball team to know is the Belmont Basketball journey, and I hope they maintain the desire to leave the program in a better position than it was when they arrived on campus.
Who was your favorite professor and why?
Kellie: Dr. Julseth. I spent many hours in his Spanish classes and enjoyed studying in Costa Rica over the summer.
Adam: I had several “favorite” professors. I will always remember first semester freshman year having Calculus II with Dr. Otis McCowan. The class was at 8 AM Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Nothing like starting my collegiate academic career with a bang!
I am most thankful for Dr. Jane Finley who plucked me out of my Accounting elective classes and helped pave the way for me to find my career at Deloitte.
My hardest class was Dr. Mark McEntire’s Old Testament class. However, this class will always hold a special place in my heart as it led me to my wife.
Where do you live now?
Kellie and Adam: Brentwood, TN
What is your occupation?
Kellie: I am a stay at home mom, but before we started our family, I taught English as a Second Language in Rutherford County Schools.
Adam: Deloitte & Touche, LLP. I am a Senior Manager in Deloitte’s Advisory practice. My undergraduate degree was in Computer Science and then I got my Master’s in Accountancy from Belmont, and I am a licensed Certified Public Accountant.
My daily job responsibility combines both technical IT and accounting knowledge to understand and address risks to IT environments for large, complex companies with a global footprint. My main clients are Bridgestone Americas, Louisiana-Pacific, and Cracker Barrel.
Tell us about your family.
Kellie and Adam: We have been married for 10 years. We have 3 children: Aubrie-7, Emilie-5, and Kyle-3.
Tell us how you met your spouse at Belmont.
Kellie: I was first friends with Adam’s best friend/roommate Steve Drabyn. I was talking with Steve about how difficult Dr. McEntire’s Old Testament class was and he mentioned that he and his roommate (Adam) took that class. I asked to see their notes. With the help of Steve and some of my teammates, we were finally introduced to each other. Adam was really shy and I was more outgoing. God really placed us in each other’s lives when we really weren’t looking for someone special.
Adam: People always say that they are certain that God led them to their spouse. In our case, God used Dr. Mark McEntire’s Old Testament class to bring us together. It was a very difficult class. One day, Steve Drabyn comes back to our apartment from class and tells me that there was this Volleyball girl that wanted to borrow my notes for Dr. McEntire’s class. Kellie and I started talking about his class and then one thing led to another and we’ve now been married 10 years.
What dating advice would you give to Belmont student-athletes?
Kellie: Find someone that shares your interests, but embraces your shortcomings, someone who makes you laugh. Sense of humor is so important. And look for someone who is following God. He is the only source of true authentic love and brings two people close together.
Adam: Find someone that understands the importance of and aligns with your perspective on the three F’s: Faith, Family, and Forever.
If you are a former Belmont student-athlete and want to particpate in this series, please contact John Langdon at email@example.com.