By Zach Sparks
This is the second installment in a series of local celebrity success stories about people who were either raised in Severna Park or Arnold, or people who moved to the area and continued to achieve lofty goals. The first story featured “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak.
Jamie Bragg doesn’t like to boast. If he did, he’d have plenty to brag about as a former University of Maryland football player who later joined another team, Under Armour, and helped bring it to global relevance under the leadership of CEO Kevin Plank.
Bragg attributes that success, and most of his accomplishments, to hard work and positive attitude, two traits instilled in him by his mom and grandmother.
“I was lucky to have a great mother and grandmother,” Bragg said. “I had to rake leaves and cut grass. And I couldn’t play until my chores were done.”
He grew up in the Manhattan Beach community, spending much of his free time fishing and crabbing on the Magothy River. As he aged, sports captured his attention.
“I forged my mom’s signature to play football,” Bragg said with a laugh. “She thought it was too dangerous. When she found out, I was lucky she let me do it.”
While Bragg was lucky his mom allowed him to play football, his opponents were not as fortunate.
“When I put him in at defensive end, he was an impact player right away,” said Andy Borland, who coached football at Severna Park High School from 1973 to 1997. “He was tough to handle.”
Bragg also enjoyed baseball and basketball, but at 235 pounds, the All-County defensive end knew football was his best chance to play college athletics. The University of Maryland recruited him to play outside linebacker. Then the 17-year-old Severna Park High School graduate had a growth spurt. At 6-foot-1-inches, 270-pounds, Bragg played nose guard at the University of Maryland for two years until the school changed coaches and the new staff moved him to center.
Bragg earned praise for his versatility and was a team captain his senior year. After a two-year stint playing arena football and after a long-term substitute gig teaching algebra at Meade High School, Bragg moved to the next phase of his life as a sales rep for GE Lighting.
One day, he stopped to see a former teammate, Kevin Plank, and jokingly told him to call if any positions became available within Plank’s new start-up business. That enterprise, Under Armour, made moisture-wicking T-shirts designed to keep athletes cool, dry and light in sweltering conditions. A few weeks later, the call came from Plank.
“His pitch to me was, ‘I can pay you $30,000 a year, take away your company car and your benefits, but I can give you the opportunity to turn something small into something big,’” Bragg said.
Bragg was hired to do sales in 1999, but from his first day on the job, he worked in the warehouse doing everything from cutting fabric to picking orders.
“We were learning things from the ground up, and we learned to never make the same mistake twice,” Bragg said. “You had to have a tremendous amount of work ethic. There were days where we could pay ourselves or use the money to run an ad in ESPN The Magazine. You have to put your personal needs aside sometimes.”
Under Armour ascended the chain of sports apparel, trailing only Nike and Adidas consistently in sportswear brand sales in the United States. By 2010, the company surpassed $1 billion in annual revenue.
“You have to believe in the product,” Bragg said. “People say you can’t be bigger than Nike or Adidas, but you have to worry about what you can control.”
Under Armour gained prominence with endorsements from superstar athletes: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry, professional golfer Jordan Spieth and others.
As the brand grew, Bragg got “burnt out” in supply chain — traveling, sourcing and planning. Plank offered Bragg a new role that fit his passion: vice president of team sports.
“When you see Under Armour on Severna Park High School uniforms, that’s my group,” Bragg said.
The role has also brought him closer to his community. In 2016, Bragg and his wife, Helena, a three-time national champion lacrosse player and one-time national champion assistant coach at the University of Maryland, were honorees at the annual Severna Park Community Center gala. The Braggs often would often take their children — daughter Theresa, now 14, and twins, Folger McKinsey students Koby and Maria — to the community center, and Helena served on the gala committee multiple times.
“I was very honored to be able to support the center,” Bragg said. “We wanted to inject some youth into SPCC to let people know what a gem our community has, and it’s not just Severna Park. It serves people from Annapolis, Glen Burnie and all over the county.”
Since 2016, Bragg has served on the board of directors alongside Borland, who has been on the board since 1998. “He came from humble beginnings and he knows how to give back,” Borland said of Bragg.
While he doesn’t boast about his success, Bragg does have advice for anyone who will listen. Attitude and effort can take you far in life. Believe in what you’re doing.
Those are the philosophies he adheres to nearly 20 years after joining Under Armour.
“I understood the basis of the product and the need for it, and it got me around sport,” Bragg said. “Being able to see your product on ‘Monday Night Football’ or see someone wearing it at the gym, I’ve been part of a great American story.”