Brent Folan, former SGA president who graduated in 2013, met dozens of Olympic athletes and celebrities while volunteering during his three-week stay in Rio.
Folan said he went to Rio for the games and the celebrity experiences was a bonus.
“I love America and I love sports and I figured what better place to share this love than at the Olympics,” Folan said.
Folan’s brush with celebrity began at the opening ceremonies when he unknowingly sat in Buffett’s seats. After snapping a selfie with Buffett, Folan grabbed a front row seat, sparking a number of chance encounters with athletes and celebrities.
Folan snapped shots with some famous athletes and celebrities including runner Vivian Cheruiyot, actor Zac Efron, gymnast Simone Biles, sprinter Allyson Felix, sprinter Usain Bolt and swimmer Michael Phelps.
Folan contacted fellow alum Sarah Scherer, who competed in the Women’s 50m rifle three positions. “She got me a pass to the Olympic village so I got to tour the village and that’s where I ran into the Final Five,” Folan said.
Folan also met Scherer’s roommate, Virginia Thrasher, who won the first gold medal of the games in the Women’s 10m air rifle.
Folan’s chance encounter soon caught the attention of media and he was dubbed the games’ “Forrest Gump,” referencing the Tom Hanks character who stumbled through life meeting historical figures.
Folan, who bought tickets to around half of the events, received free tickets to many events. Budweiser gave him a ticket to Usain Bolt’s 100-meter finals.
“Those tickets to Bolt’s race were a category A ticket that range from $2,000 to $3,000 a ticket so it was just crazy that I got to see him compete,” Folan said.
Folan said the most memorable moment came when he met the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps.
Not only did he snap a picture with the swimmer, but Phelps also invited him to sit with his fiance and new born baby Boomer while at lunch for the same event.
“It was just a surreal experience,” Folan said. “I got to spend about four hours with him and I really got to know him, which was just insane.”
Folan, who works in Fort Worth in supply chain for a global limestone-mining company, said he’s glad to be back, but he has Olympic withdrawals.
He’s already started planning his trip to the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
“I will most likely go to every summer Olympics from here on out just because of this experience,” Folan said.
Brent Folan’s graduation year was incorrect in earlier versions of this post. This story has also been edited to reflect that Folan bought half his event tickets and sat with Phelps at an event.