Kevin Plank noticed the cotton T-shirts that he and his teammates on the University of Maryland football team wore under their pads would become drenched with sweat. This would make them heavy, uncomfortable and hinder their performance.
Plank, who walked on at Maryland and later became a team captain, set out on a quest to develop a lightweight, sweat-wicking synthetic T-shirt. Upon graduating from Maryland in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, he found a fabric used in women’s undergarments. Since then, his dogged energy has propelled Under Armour, Inc. from a T-shirt maker with $17,000 in revenue in 1996 to a multisport-apparel company that surpassed the $2 billion mark this year.
The 41-year-old Plank, founder, CEO and chairman of Under Armour, earned the United States Sport Academy’s 2012 Theodore Roosevelt Meritorious Achievement Award for his contributions to sport that have revolutionized athletes’ experience on the playing field. Plank received the Academy’s award Tuesday, April 23 at the company’s headquarters in Baltimore, from Joesph Szlavik, the Academy’s Board of Visitors chairman. Also attending the presentation was Vincent Vanni, senior director of marketing at Washington Sports & Entertainment.
Plank said that he was “flattered that the U.S. Sports Academy chose me for this honor, and humbled to be put in such distinguished company, as the previous recipients of the Roosevelt Award include heads of state, members of Congress, and ambassadors, as well as leading sports figures of the 20th century.”
During the presentation, Plank brought out a crystal plaque that was inscribed with President Roosevelt’s famous poetic speech about being “in the arena” and striving valiantly, which Plank says he greatly admires.
The Academy’s Theodore Roosevelt Meritorious Achievement Award is presented annually to an individual in any amateur or professional sport, past or present, who has excelled as a contributor to both sport and society over at least a decade.
Recognized as one of the most powerful CEOs in the United States, Plank also serves on the Board of Directors of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, Inc. and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Maryland College Park Foundation.
The sports-apparel giant based in Baltimore, Md., started in a basement in Georgetown. Plank’s first big sale came with the Georgia Tech football team in 1996 and led to more schools signing on. Eventually, the company grew when it was picked up by retailers, added more products and signed athletes to endorse the brand, such as Baltimore native Michael Phelps, professional skier Lindsey Vonn and New England quarterback Tom Brady.