Dru Ulloa, 26, is the head boys lacrosse coach at Brookwood. A 2005 Parvkview graduate, Ulloa was a part of the three-straight state championship football teams and began playing recreational lacrosse in Tucker. He played both football and lacrosse at Mars Hill College.
In this installment of "Getting to Know ..." staff writer Ben Beitzel talks with Ulloa about living through the success at Parkview, how pressure washing got him into teaching, forgetting Spanish and how his grandfather swam his way out of Cuba.
BB: Let's start with Parkview, winning those three titles, all those games, had to be amazing to live through and be a part of.
DU: Just the talent there. Jeff Francoeur, Sean Dawkins, Brad Lester, Greg Sudderth, all these guys were very talented. I came over from playing rec ball in the Tucker-Fitzgerald league, I came over to Parkview and I was there for middle school. When I came over they pulled me up after my ninth grade season. I got to play with guys that were phenomenal. All these kids that went to UGA and all these big-name schools. Weight room-wise, you couldn't beat it with those guys.
BB: You went to Mars Hill, was that on scholarship?
DU: I went as a walk-on. I went up to the school because it was the closest one that I could find that was Division II that had football and lacrosse. I didn't want to play just club (lacrosse) and play just football for somebody else, I wanted to play both D-II or if I could get higher, but being 5-6 and 150 pounds soaking wet when I was in high school didn't help me a lot.
I had to walk on the football team. I came to summer tryouts, told them where I came from -- they knew where Parkview was -- told them what position that I played, that I was a starter at middle linebacker and they laughed at me. I walked on and earned my scholarship that year for lacrosse and football. I was the only freshman that got pulled up (to the varsity team) for special teams and some defense. It was one of the best experiences I've ever had, going there and being able to play both sports and being a biology and chemistry major. It was tough managing my time, but I found the time to do it.
BB: I guess lacrosse was just a rec league when you started in high school.
DU: A coach saw me wrestle at like a turkey shootout at, I want to say Grayson when Grayson first got built. We wrestled there and the coach knew me from baseball and when he saw me wrestle he said, "Have you ever thought about lacrosse?" And I said, "What's lacrosse?" I came out for the first Saturday practice and just fell in love. It took me about a year to learn the rules and how to cradle and this kind of stuff. From then on, from 10th grade on, it just flourished.
BB: What was it you fell in love with in lacrosse?
DU: It's a combination of a bunch of sports. You have the physically like football, where you can hit. You have the soccer aspects where you only have so many people on this side of the field and that side of the field. I have always liked defense. That's what drew me over, being able to face off and being able to play defense.
BB: Was the plan to teach while you were majoring in biology and chemistry?
DU: The plan was to be a doctor, pre-med. But after spending, I would go to practice in the morning, go to school all day, go to lab for a little bit, leave lab early, go to practice, go back to lab, try to get some dinner, go watch film if I had to and then start the process all over again in the morning. My morning usually started about 4 o'clock in the morning and I didn't go to be until about 11 p.m. I decided to take a year off. I came down, back home and I took a job with Gwinnett County as a parapro. I worked as a parapro at Crew Middle School for a year, and they gave me the job with a one-on-one special needs kid. I worked with him for the last three years and I came with him to Brookwood High School and a job opened up here, so I applied for it and this is where I am now. I got hired last January.
BB: So you aren't even touching that four-year degree?
DU: No. I always knew I wanted to work with kids, I wanted to be a pediatrician when I was younger, and I guess you can say this is a different road to the same path.
BB: Is it weird teaching at rival Brookwood?
DU: It's never been awkward. I still wear my state championship ring here when we have days where we need to dress up. They give me a hard time every now and then, but nothing too bad. In high school it's two different sides of the world. You can't cross the line. It's one of those great relationships that Parkview and Brookwood have always had.
BB: Do you like coaching?
DU: I love coaching. I knew when I left college that I would have a great opportunity to bring lacrosse down here. My first year teaching here as a parapro, someone saw me wearing my lacrosse shirt and said, 'Oh, we want to start lacrosse. Are you interested?' I said, 'I would love to come out and help coach.' Coaching is just another way for me to transfer what I know to the kids and hoping to build this sport up here, especially in Gwinnett County. I really learned lacrosse fully when I got to college and I started playing with Canada, New York, New Jersey, all those northern states. That's what I want to bring back down here. So everyone can experience what I experienced in college, they can experience in high school and even sooner now with the youth program, the feeder program.
BB: When you took off for North Carolina and college, did you see yourself coming back home?
DU: I fell in love with it up in North Carolina. I am a big outdoors person, I like to fish, I like to hunt, I like the outdoors, period. I was really planning on staying up there, trying to help out the lacrosse program, trying to get an assistant job up there and things just happened where I needed a job. It was hard for me to apply for a Kroger position or CVS, they had so many applicants that applied there.
I came down here and I took a job at Crews as summer help, moving teachers to their rooms, pressure washing the outside of the schools like a custodial/summer help. Whatever they needed, I did. I continue to do (it) every summer. It was what led to me being a parapro. Having to come back down here is what started me on this path to be where I am now.BB: You spell your name differently, what's the story with that?
DU: Dru. D.R.U. It's what I go by. My mother came up with that name in the hospital because my real name is Degbis Rodolfo Ulloa III.
BB: I guess it's a family name. Where's it from?
DU: My grandfather escaped from Cuba and came up here. He swam to a boat and came up here and got his citizenship and went back down and brought my father back. It's a family name, and I go by my initials, Dru, because it's a lot easier. The first day of class every year, when the teacher started staring at the sheet real hard, I'd raise my hand and say, 'My name is Dru.'
BB: Back it up. Your grandfather took a boat here after escaping from Cuba?
DU: In the middle of the night one of his friends came and said, "We're leaving." He got up without telling my grandmother, my dad or (my dad's) two sisters. There were, I think, like seven of them that escaped in the middle of the night. His friend told him there was a boat past the beach way out there, so they started swimming. What they would do was they'd swim and when the spotlight came, they would dive under and look up until the spotlight passed. When it had gone, they'd come up, swim and when the spotlight came back, dive under. They did that repeatedly. Eventually the spotlight caught some of the guys in the back and they sent a patrol boat out to come get them. (My grandfather) made it to the boat, but had to leave one of his friends because his friend told him to leave him because he couldn't carry him anymore. He and two others made it to the boat.