Pride of the Valley Overflows

A refreshed campaign slogan honors tradition and resonates in the Central Valley and beyond

By Eddie Hughes

Juju Hughes takes as much pride in representing the Central Valley as he does in maintaining his pearly-white smile.

Hughes’ commercial-ready grin is so bright it once prompted KMPH Fox 26 to do a story on his brushing regimen and point out that he keeps numerous toothbrushes and tubes of paste at his locker to brush throughout the day.

And that’s not the only oral hygiene trait he’s known for by fans and teammates — he also keeps a toothpick resting in his mouth much of his waking hours, even in class or at practice during non-contact drills.

While quirks like that are a fun part of Hughes’ personality, his ability on the football field is what he’s most known for by the Red Wave.

As a senior defensive back, he’s become one of the nation’s top safeties, earned All-Mountain West honors and serves as a team captain. Last season, his four interceptions were tied for the team and conference lead.

Oh, and the former high-school state champion is a homegrown talent from nearby Hanford.

When Fresno State launched its pride of the Valley campaign this summer, Hughes organically became one of the faces of the movement because of his local roots. He joined Athletics Department personnel at a farmers market event in Hanford before the season and took dozens of photos and signed autographs with fans while “Pride of the Valley” yard signs were handed out.

“People are seeing the love and support I get from my hometown,” Hughes says. “It shows people how much love the Valley really has to offer.”

 

University’s Front Porch

Fresno State athletics is often called the “front porch” of the University, providing family entertainment at the highest level of college athletics and introducing hundreds of thousands of people, from generation to generation, to the University over the years.

University President Joseph I. Castro, himself a Hanford native, recalls watching the Fresno State men’s basketball team win the 1983 NIT championship on his mother’s black-and-white television. “I didn’t know anything about the academics at Fresno State at that time, but I knew about these basketball players who were college students, and I thought, ‘How great is that?’” Castro recalls in a 2014 issue of the magazine.

Fresno State football is the only Football Bowl Subdivision program in the Central Valley, a region spanning from Bakersfield to Sacramento that is roughly the size of the state of Tennessee. And each fall, through festive tailgate parties and football games, the University welcomes as many as 41,000 people to campus per game day while uniting people from cities throughout the Valley behind one, common cause — supporting their home team.

“It’s the Valley, we’re all one,” Hughes says. “Everything just connects here in the Valley, all the way up and down, so it’s a pride thing. Not too many people know about the Valley, so we take pride in that. We’re always the underdogs with a chip on our shoulder so it makes you feel all that pride and want to go a little bit harder.”

 

Defining the Brand

The Pride of the Valley campaign is intended to capture and enhance what makes the Valley special and the role Fresno State plays in representing the region, alumni and fans. The campaign encompasses all 21 sports and includes a variety of marketing elements, community-engagement initiatives and partnerships. Thousands of yard signs have been displayed at homes and businesses for the past several months.

“We had to modernize our brand and recapture the magic of the Green V in ways that connect with today’s consumers, which is largely digital content utilizing creative storytelling and giving fans new ways to engage with our brand,” says Frank Pucher, senior associate athletics director for external relations. “At the end of the day, it’s all about people and the people of the Valley are who make our brand so special and help our programs be successful.”

Valley pride isn’t just felt by locals. Representing the Green V logo, which pays homage to the Valley’s agricultural roots, resonates both with Valley natives and those who have adopted the Valley as home.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who have felt that love and know what it is to be Bulldog born, Bulldog bred,” Hughes says, pointing out teammates Jaron Bryant (of Fort Worth, Texas), Netane Muti (Wahiawa, Hawaii) and Matt Smith (Long Beach).

Fresno State defensive backs coach J.D. Williams, a Huron native and the Bulldogs’ first-ever first-round NFL draft pick in 1990, sees it in the guys he recruits all the time.

“You get someone who moves here, and they don’t realize how nice it is until they get here,” Williams says. “They fall in love with the place, and their pride continues to grow. It’s a special place.”

 

“It’s the Valley, we’re all one. Everything just connects here in the Valley, all the way up and down, so it’s a pride thing. Not too many people know about the Valley, so we take pride in that. We’re always the underdogs with a chip on our shoulder so it makes you feel all that pride and want to go a little bit harder.”

– JUJU HUGHES
Defensive Back

 

 

Since Fresno State’s Pride of the Valley campaign launched this summer, the University’s social media channels have been chock-full of videos, photos and posts capturing the essence of what it means to be part of Fresno State.

From the loyal fans and alumni who make up the Red Wave, to the future leaders who make up the student body, to the talented student-athletes representing the University, that Bulldog spirit unites us all. And from the root of that spirit stems the pride that Fresno State athletics generates for an entire region, the agriculturally-rich Central Valley — the Green V.

More than 450 student-athletes participate in 21 sports at Fresno State — from the Valley, from throughout California and from various states and nations alike. And whether the Valley has always been home, or has become an adopted home, the student-athletes feel proud to represent the people of the Valley who provide so much support.

Fresno State Magazine asked several of these student-athletes what the Pride of the Valley means to them:

McKenzie Wilson (1)

Year: Sophomore
Sport: Softball
Hometown: Long Beach
High School: St. Joseph

“To me Pride of the Valley means community — a place where you always feel at home, a place that is welcoming and people who genuinely care about community and celebrate its members. As someone who has come from outside the Valley, and has been a part of several communities, I believe the Valley community is special and unlike any other.”

Jacob Wright (2)

Year: Sophomore
Sport: Wrestling
Weight class: 157 lbs.
Hometown: Dinuba
High School: Dinuba

“Pride of the Valley means being part of a team the Valley can be proud of. It means not just wanting to succeed for yourself, but for everyone in the Valley, and to show what people who are from here are capable of.”

Zach Presno (3)

Year: Junior
Sport: Baseball
Position: Catcher/first base
Hometown: Clovis
High School: Buchanan

“I would say Pride of the Valley stands for being committed to excellence. Everyone here in the Valley takes pride in everything they do no matter the task. The Valley has become what it is today because of all the hardworking families that take pride in their community.”

Madelyn Halteman (4)

Year: Senior
Sport: Volleyball
Hometown: Turlock
High School: Pitman

“It means so much to me to be able to represent the Valley. The Valley can be a very underappreciated place, but it’s a place that I love to call home. I am beyond grateful to play a part at Fresno State and wear that Green V on my jersey. I can’t imagine playing anywhere else or representing any other team.”

 

What does the pride of the valley mean to you?

Use #PrideOfTheValley today on Twitter or Instagram, and let us know!