Editor's Note: The UNC Asheville Athletics Communications Office will once again be profiling former Bulldog student-athletes and what they are doing now. If you know of a former student-athlete you would like to be profiled, please email Mike Gore at email@example.com.
When UNC Asheville graduate Andy Herzer decided to get out of college coaching, he decided it was time to give back.
And what a gift he has given to the city of Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Herzer was a talented guard for the UNC Asheville Bulldogs from 1980-84 and helped lead Jerry Green's team to three winning seasons and two 20-win campaigns. Asheville advanced to the NAIA District 26 title game in 1983 and 1984 and posted two upset wins over UNC Charlotte during Herzer's time.
Two years out of college, Andy decided he wanted to come back to his alma mater and work in coaching. The Garrett, Ind., native was an assistant coach for three different Bulldog head coaches - Jerry Green, Don Doucette and Randy Wiel. He left UNC Asheville for Middle Tennessee State in 1996 when Wiel was hired as the Blue Raiders' new head coach.
Andy worked at Middle Tennessee for six years before he decided to get out of coaching in 2002. He then decided to give back. He formed First Shot, which began with basketball camps for youth in the Murfreesboro area.
"We started doing basketball camps for kids who maybe couldn't afford to go to a camp," stated Herzer. "We wanted to teach not only basketball skills but life skills, as well. I wanted to make a difference for some kids who might not get a second chance. We wanted to expose them to a lot of different things."
The camps quickly became popular and other sports have been added as well such as golf and tennis.
"We were fortunate that the camps became so popular that we were able to diversify a little bit," added Herzer. "We've reached a lot of different kids and exposed to them to so many neat things. Our camps have found some kids who had talent in music and now they're talented musicians with an instrument that they didn't know about before coming here.
"I was lucky growing up and many people helped me," Herzer also said. "I was fortunate to get a basketball scholarship at UNC Asheville and get a great education. Later, I became a coach at my alma mater and then here at Middle Tennessee State. Basketball has been very good to me and my family.
"I always told myself when I got out of coaching I wanted to give back to the community I was in," commented Herzer. "I was able to get these camps started and they've grown."
First Shot was so successful that it teamed up with the Murfreesboro City School System and Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Department. The camps provide week-long sessions during Fall Break, Spring Break and three weeks during the summer. These camps are multi-focused and now include basketball, tennis, art, math, reading, football, health and wellness and music.
Herzer employs a lot of student-athletes from Middle Tennessee, including some from the men's basketball team. Former Bulldog assistant coach Monte Towe is an assistant at MTSU and appreciates what Andy is doing.
"It's a real win-win situation," commented Towe. "Andy's group is helping a lot of kids that might not get help anywhere else. Our players love working with these kids and making a difference in their lives. And I believe that our players learn a lot by working with these kids.
"I can't say enough about Andy's organization," added Towe. "We talk about giving back all the time. Andy Herzer has given something back to this community and then some."
"I really like hiring college student-athletes," declared Herzer. "I think they get more out of our camps than the kids sometimes."
Herzer, who earned a degree in 1984 at UNC Asheville, says his degree and time in Asheville has made an impact with this program.
"You better believe my education at UNC Asheville has come in handy with this program," explained Herzer. "Sure I can talk basketball and sports with some of our kids but I can talk about art, math and music with others. The diversity I learned at UNC Asheville has been a huge help with our program. It's taught me how to communicate with different kinds of people.
It's been 16 years since Herzer has been associated with the Bulldogs but once a Bulldog always a Bulldog. When UNC Asheville played Coastal Carolina for the 2011 Big South Conference championship, Andy might have had divided loyalties. His daughter, Barrett, was a manager for the Chanticleers basketball team.
"There were no divided loyalties. I told Barrett that I loved her but I was rooting for the Bulldogs that day and every time they play Coastal Carolina or anybody," stated Herzer. "UNC Asheville means so much to me that I have no choice but to cheer for them."
Herzer has followed the Bulldogs closely the past two seasons with their two Big South Conference championships and trips to the NCAA Tournament. He is especially impressed with head coach Eddie Biedenbach and his coaching staff.
"Eddie and his staff have done a tremendous job at UNC Asheville," declared Herzer. "I watch them every chance I get and was so impressed with how they played the past two years. We're (UNC Asheville) fortunate to have a head coach like Eddie, and I really love the job his assistants do during the game."
With his job and a son playing high school basketball, Andy hasn't gotten back to UNC Asheville in the past few years but he looks forward to getting back soon.
"I can't wait to see Kimmel Arena and the Sherrill Center," admitted Herzer. "The arena looks great on TV and the energy from the crowds has been impressive."