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Chico State

Soccer Heroes—On and Off the Field

Three men's soccer players embrace in celebration after a game-winning goal.
Photo by Skip Reager

Senior midfielder Justin Saul (middle) is congratulated by teammates after his game-winning goal against CSU, Monterey Bay. Robyn Prime attends every home game, bringing cookies for the Wildcat who scores the winning goal.

What do tradition, family, and the TV show Happy Days have in common? Each is part of the unique relationship that connects one Chico family—Mike, Robyn, and David “Chachi” Prime—to the Chico State men’s soccer program.

For more than 25 years, University Foundation Chair Mike Prime and his wife Robyn have relied on soccer players to provide respite care for their son, David, who has autism.

The special relationship between the Primes and the players began in 1989, when Robyn was looking to hire an afternoon caregiver. A friend recommended then-Wildcat Ben “Ralph” Pollock for the job.

“We believe that family takes care of family.”
—Robyn Prime, scholarship donor

“We had a very cool relationship,” said Pollock, who spent almost every weekday afternoon with David—helping him with chores Robyn assigned and taking him to the movies, the practice field, and over to friends’ houses.

Photo of David Prime with his friend of 25 years and former caregiver Ben Pollock
David Prime (left) with his friend of 25 years, former-Wildcat Ben Pollock. (Photo provided by Mike Prime)

“’Til this day, if I see David, we still live in the realm of Happy Days—he’s Chachi and I’m Ralph,” Pollock laughed.

Working with David, who must develop social skills one by one, is challenging, Robyn said. She and Mike, along with David’s counselors and teachers, credit the players for helping him advance socially to where he is today.

After Pollock graduated, the tradition continued, as another group of players stepped up to work with David after school, earning their own nicknames.

“And it hasn’t changed since,” said Mike.

The Primes, who are both Idaho State University alumni, have given one-time gifts to support a variety of programs, including the Chico State Autism Clinic, and “have talked about establishing a soccer scholarship forever,” Mike said. But, it wasn’t until they attended the men’s soccer 50th anniversary celebration in May that they decided it couldn’t wait any longer.

“We are so aware that our lives would have been totally different,” Robyn said. “Everything we have ever done, any trip we have ever taken, every time we have gone out to dinner, the soccer guys have been there.”

Robyn and Mike Prime photographed together in the beautiful arch ways of Chico States central campus.
As a thank-you to their Wildcat soccer family, Robyn and Mike Prime established a men’s soccer scholarship. (Photo by Sam Rivera)

“So this is our thank-you to them,” Mike said about the David Prime Soccer Scholarship he and Robyn established—a gift they hope will inspire soccer alums to give back through the scholarship.

It’s been a two-way street, Pollock said, who considers Robyn to be a second mother, not only to him but also to his two children, Ella and Max.

“She has had that impact on a lot of players,” Pollock said. “She’s probably the most caring, generous person that I’ve ever met.”

Not only have the Primes provided jobs for so many players, Robyn also attends every home game and travels across the country to watch them play. And when David turned 40 in October 2014, players and coaches spanning nearly three decades showed up to celebrate.

“She’s done way more for the program than I ever did,” said Pollock, who was inducted into the Chico State Athletics Hall of Fame this year and is still the program’s career leader in goals, assists, and points. “I just scored goals.”

The Primes are part of the soccer family, he said.

“And we believe that family takes care of family,” Robyn said.