Find Your Passion: Engineer/Linebacker Tackles the Heat

Drew Bullard
Bullard sees his senior engineering design project help cool his former teammates.
(Samantha Hernandez)

By Lauren Musselman and Mary Wymer

When most of us think of a University of Alabama football player, we think of long hours, hard work, dedication, a championship team and little free time. The same goes for what most envision as the college career of an engineering student -- lots of time dedicated to studying … and not much else.

Florence, Ala. native Drew Bullard breaks the mold of both stereotypes.

A May 2011 UA graduate, Bullard not only played linebacker on the Crimson Tide football team throughout his college career, but he also maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA in mechanical engineering. He is pursuing a Master of Science in mechanical engineering, in conjunction with a Master of Business Administration. And, his senior mechanical engineering design project made its debut on the football practice fields this summer.

In high school, Bullard was recruited to play football by Ivy League schools, such as Princeton and Columbia, and also Vanderbilt. He also was recruited by UA to play football, and he was eventually asked to walk onto the team as a freshman.

Drew Bullard Time-management skills, Bullard says, were key in helping balance athletics and academics. (Samantha Hernandez)

Bullard was also sought by numerous colleges for his academic achievements and offered multiple scholarships, including one of Auburn University’s most prestigious awards. Ultimately, Bullard chose UA, accepting a full academic scholarship, he says, not only because of the outstanding athletic department and football team, but also for the Capstone’s engineering school.

“It’s funny because both my parents went to Auburn and met each other while in school there, but I’ve always been a lifelong Alabama fan,” Bullard says.

An interest in both engineering and athletics is evidenced through the development of Bullard’s senior design project for his Mechanical Engineering 490 class. Alongside engineering seniors William Angel, Ben Austin, Andrew Cibulas and Rachel Roberts, he developed a mobile cooling unit for UA’s football team.

The mobile cooling unit is, essentially, a mobile pressure washer. It has its own power and water sources, and it can be used to cool down individual football players during practice, instead of having the entire team take frequent breaks. Previously, the athletic department assisted players similarly, but the device used was constrained by an extension cord. The athletic department worked with the Mechanical Engineering 490 class to develop a better solution.

Drew Bullard The former UA linebacker now works on his master’s degrees through UA’s Scholars Program.

Bullard’s mobile cooling unit consists of two primary parts: a suction pump and discharge pump connected to a pressure-washer spray gun. These parts, along with a water tank and generator, are fastened on a trailer and attached to a Gator utility vehicle, allowing the device to move freely around the field.

“We were really excited to try it out at the first UA football camp,” Bullard says. “High-school coaches kept approaching us because they wanted one for their teams. UA’s athletic training department is also really excited because the mobile cooling unit means they will hopefully have less heat-related injuries.

“Currently, the mobile cooling unit is being used only during football practices, but I hope to see it on the field this fall if everything works out,” says Bullard.

So, how was Bullard able to accomplish such innovative engineering feats while playing on UA’s football team? “Time management skills were crucial,” he says. “Luckily, school has always come easily to me. It was adjusting to my football schedule that was the most difficult. When people think of an engineering student or a football player, they assume that they have no life outside of those activities. I did both these things and still had a social life, as well. It was very important to me to make sure I had a full college experience.”

Bullard works on his master’s degrees through UA’s Scholars Program. He says he’s looking forward to life as a full-time graduate student and sitting in the stands for the first time at Bryant-Denny Stadium, cheering on the Crimson Tide.

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Lauren Musselman is an August 2011 graduate with a master’s degree from the advertising and public relations program. She served as a student writer for the College of Engineering during summer 2011.

This story is part of the Find Your Passion feature section of the UA home page. For more stories, please visit Find Your Passion or Crimson Spotlight. To learn more about how you can find your passion at The University of Alabama, please visit UA Undergraduate Admissions.