Donald Strickland has chosen to be prepared in all aspects of his life, and that began with his choice of school to attend and degree to achieve.
Strickland is a California native and had a choice of colleges. He was offered athletic scholarships to both CU Boulder and UCLA, a school that was much closer to home, and one where he had family connections. Even though UCLA might have been an easier choice to prepare for with family nearby, he chose to play football for CU Boulder because of the college of engineering.
"I chose CU because they allowed me to declare engineering right away. I'd favored math and science when I was younger and it seemed like a natural fit," he said. "There were times when I had to miss practices because of class or labs and the coaches were lenient enough with me to do both."
After graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2003, he was a third round NFL draft pick, and spent nine years playing professional football as a cornerback.
During his time in the NFL, Strickland played for several teams, but struggled with injuries. He had considered retiring when he was approached with an offer he couldn't pass up, the opportunity to play for his hometown team, the San Francisco 49ers.
"I grew up in the shadow of Candlestick Park, literally. My first game with the 49ers I walked from the house I grew up in to the stadium," he said.
Strickland's degree in ME prepared him for his retirement from the NFL in 2011. He has been involved in business and charity organizations. He is the founder and CEO of Visionary Moments, a digital scrapbooking company, and is also an investor in Bay Area real estate, an area where he's been able to put his engineering skills to good use.
"At CU, I found a passion in CAD, and I've become my own architect and designer, in a way, working on homes," he said.
Strickland's charitable endeavors began during his time as a professional athlete, and continue today. This includes a non-profit he started to help student-athletes, at-risk youth, and children and families with disabilities.
"We put on camps for kids with physical and mental disabilities, and I've worked as an advocate to see kids with disabilities are welcomed and included in sports and society," he said.
Strickland has also stayed involved with CU Boulder, and was recently asked to join the Mechanical Engineering Strategic Advisory Board. He said the university's focus on real-world learning is critical for current students to prepare them for their future.
"Students have to go beyond the books and get hands-on," he said.