During the recruiting process, Mendenhall attended one of Snowden’s basketball games, then went out to dinner with his family. The coach was blown away.
“He’s the product of amazing parents,” the Cavalier coach said of Charles and Terri Snowden. “They’ve raised him to have a global lens.”
Mendenhall said Snowden had only been on Grounds a short while when teammates started calling him “The Prez” – a distinction previously earned by at least one other high-profile Cavalier, former basketball star Malcom Brogdon, also known for his off-the-court community service.
“They viewed him as a possible president of the United States because of his lens of more than football – meaning he was interested in politics, interested in humanitarian work, interested in service,” Mendenhall said.
“Before we even knew it, he was doing [service] on his own – outreach stuff outside of our football program.”
Teammate Bryce Hall said the nickname also had to do with the way Snowden talked.
“He has that voice of an educator,” Hall said. “He sounds like he should be in some sort of political field, where he’s like educating people.
“He wants to educate people to be the best versions of themselves.”
A modest Snowden grins when asked about the nickname. The government major said his own education is a work in progress, and lights up when asked about some of his UVA courses.
“The classes I love are the ones where it’s not as much lecturing and just more talking,” Snowden said. “I love hearing other people’s ideas.”
Snowden said a political theory course he took over the summer and a gender studies course last spring were two such experiences.
“I feel like a lot of times now, when you have a political discussion with someone, it almost always turns into an argument,” he said. “But in the classroom here, people are more respectful of other people’s ideas, rather than just barking at each other without any real listening. I’ve just really learned a lot and have grown as a person in hearing other people’s experiences.”
Snowden said that when his playing days end – perhaps after an NFL career – he’d like to work at a D.C. think tank and advocate for social justice issues.
“I think he’ll be a catalyst of any community in which he settles,” Mendenhall said. “He’s already done that here.”