When the FGCU Basketball Band is playing the Eagle fight song or “We’re Not Gonna Take It” or “Dancing Queen” or any other lively tune designed to energize the fans, there’s no mistaking the deep, pulsating honks of the tuba holding down the bass line.
In most cases, the person behind that pulse is Ricky Cassell, fourth-year pep band member, senior and biology major whom band director Brandon Robertson describes as “one of my energetic members from day one. He brings such a positive attitude every game we perform. Ricky is cheerful, giving, and is a team player. The entire brass section looks up to him and they always turn to him when it comes to receiving directions.
“I can always count on him to get the brass energetic and ready to play when the time comes for the band to perform. He is truly a great leader in his own right.”
The senior from Grass Lake, Mich., grew up with parents who listened to songs from the ‘70s and ‘80s, so, “I know all the songs. I can groove to them,” Cassell says.
He feels the beat and starts to dance, despite the 25-plus-pound instrument that’s wrapped around his torso. It’s a far cry from the clarinet he began playing in fifth grade. But when he got into high school, the band director said they needed more tuba players. When he was a sophomore, Cassell says, “the tuba chose me.”
He played it for three years in high school and four in college. The college years have been great fun, he says.
“It’s kind of cool to see the evolution of the pep band,” Cassell says. “Professor Robertson brought the energy.”
Cassell seemed destined for FGCU. Friends of his mother’s moved to Florida from Michigan, so his family has been visiting regularly for years. They first visited FGCU some years back when looking for a college for his older sister. But it was smaller then, and she decided to go elsewhere.
When his time came, however, he thought Florida and FGCU sounded appealing.
“I liked being near the Everglades and all the nature trails on campus,” Cassell says.
They came for a tour and he was impressed with all the sustainable initiatives and how eco-friendly the campus was. He loved the solar compacting trash cans.
Cassell has majored in biology and served as president of the Wildlife Club, which helps get students excited and educated about the local environment. He also headed up the university chapter of Habitat for Humanity. This summer, he’s secured an internship at Cayo Costa State Park, an island off the Lee County coast, where he will monitor sea turtle nests from May through October.
And he hopes to be able to continue to play his tuba as well. “I’m thinking I’d like to play at Oktoberfest this fall,” Cassell says.
What makes FGCU basketball so great?
Sure, it’s the players, but it’s more than that. It’s the coaches and the cheerleaders. It’s Azul and his hip moves. It’s the pep band and the Dancing E’Gals and, of course, the shouting, stamping, screaming, leaping Dirty Birds who ramp up the energy in the Nest. This is part a series of profiles of some of those who put their hearts and souls into making Eagles basketball the force it has become.