FORT COLLINS, Colo. — After a 2020 season to forget for the 1-3 Colorado State football team, life is pretty good in Ram Country right now.
"It's amazing to me already how much different of a team we are in a positive way, in such a short amount of time," head coach Steve Addazio said.
All it took was a little work, some trust, and a big change in perspective.
They call it RAM Life: Real and Meaningful Life.
"It's an opportunity for us to help our players with life beyond football," explained the RAM Life Director, Ricky Santo.
RAM Life is a holistic approach to developing well-rounded student athletes. The program teaches specific hard-skills like budgeting, interviewing, and even dressing for success. The team brings in outside professionals in fields related to the players' majors to help teach them skills and network for their futures.
"We want to develop the whole player, the whole person, so to us, we want to have a program that develops you and all of your skills necessary to not just have a degree, but to have a job when you leave CSU and have the skills necessary to get that job."
RAM Life was developed in late 2020, but with the pandemic shutting down most of the team's interactions, it never fully took off. In February 2021, Addazio named Santo his latest Director of RAM Life.
"Ricky [Santo] is a give-back guy. Ricky is a guy that has a lot of energy, he loves players, and he's a give-back guy. He's gone through his own experiences in his life and every day is a gift," he said. "He wants to bring that to our program and to our players."
Santo was an offensive graduate assistant for the Rams from 2013-15, during which he received his masters in Adult Education. He continued to serve as Offensive Quality Control through 2019, until stepping down to receive treatment for two different cancers.
"Experiences in my life have made me realize that family, my immediate family, is number one in my life. But really, my football family is my second," he said. "I went through a crazy journey of three years of battling cancer, and guess who was there for me the entire way: Colorado State University and the football team. In that journey, I get chills thinking about how amazing these young men were in supporting me and me trying to give as much back to them as possible."
Through his journey to give back, he developed a deep relationship with redshirt senior defensive lineman Toby McBride.
"He's just one of the greatest friends, one of the greatest mentors, he drives you, always lightens up the room, always encourages you, makes sure you have a smile on your face, and keep pushing for your dreams."
McBride's dreams, outside of football, are related to construction management. Through Santo and his RAM Life seminars, McBride earned an interview, and subsequently a job, with Journey Homes.
"My current employer now, he ended up hiring me on after he saw my work ethic, so right now I actually have a current job from RAM Life," McBride said.
As a coach, that's the type of result that makes Addazio smile.
"What an opportunity for an interview, so to speak," he said. "He's working in the company, he does a phenomenal job, there's more than likely going to be an opportunity when football's over for him to go into one of the fastest-growing companies in Colorado, and have a leg-up and go in and be able to start a career."
Addazio and Santo have done their homework with the CSU Alumni. After less than a year of RAM Life, the Alumni Association has already donated full suits for each student-athlete to wear on business trips and to keep for after they graduate.
"People want to invest in young people who are willing to sacrifice, and work real hard, and what we all got into this for, and I just think it's part of that CSU Ram pride," he said.
Pride that translates into preparation to face any obstacle that may come their way.
"It's just the final piece of the puzzle, where we have it all now," McBride said. "All of the coaches are driving us, pushing us to be great on and off of the field, and this is just another great example of how the coaches have made that improvement with our off the field life, in order to make that smooth transition."
While football is the reason they all showed up, Addazio is certain it won't be the reason they keep coming back.
"You're a Colorado State Ram for life," he said. "We are investing in you, you're investing in us, and I want you to feel that you got something far greater than football out of our program."
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