Use Your Athletic Ability to Get the Best College Education
The great thing about being a high school athlete is you can use your athletic ability to get a college education! Being able to play at the next level will help get you offers, scholarship money but also a great education. So, use this opportunity to play at the next level, earn your degree and learn as much as you can while you enjoy playing the sport you love.
In his book ‘The Next Level: A Prep’s Guide to College Recruiting,” former University of Kansas football player Joe Hornback shares how he earned his undergraduate and masters degree while playing for the Jayhawks. He made it a point to learn as much as he could while on scholarship. In his book he says: “Some athletes go into it thinking this will last forever; I encourage you to look at it like a race against time. Picture the sand falling through an hourglass while you are pursuing your degree or degrees; your goal should be to get all the education you can before the sand runs out.”
Far too many athletes, especially at the high level of D1, settle on majors that are not challenging. They are sometimes subtly encouraged to take class loads that will keep them eligible. In the long run, that hurts them.
The window to play your sport lasts only so long, especially if you are blessed to make it to the pro level. Rocky McIntosh was a 2006 Redskins 2nd round NFL Draft pick out of the University of Miami. In his sixth season with the ‘Skins, they found a player they liked better so they had no more use for him and did not attempt to re-sign him as a free agent.
McIntosh knew there would be a day when high level competitive sports would be over for him, so he focused on using his athletic ability to get as much education as possible while in college. Rick Maese of The Washington Post shared how in an article on McIntosh:
McIntosh left Miami with degrees in criminology and English. He was just a few credits short of a third degree in African-American studies.
“I had to get as much as I could out of there because they were going to get as much as they could out of me,” McIntosh said.
In college, he interned for two summers at a prominent Miami law office. On the Wonderlic Personnel Test, an intelligence assessment given each year to NFL prospects, he scored a 29, a number usually reserved for quarterbacks and offensive tackles.
Even after entering the league, he’s kept his nose in the books. McIntosh has completed two sessions of classes at the Wharton business school at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Business School in an NFL-sponsored program.
Star quarterback Peyton Manning graduated in just three years with a 3.61 GPA in speech communications at the University of Tennessee. He started graduate school during his last year of eligibility. Many athletes, especially at the D1 level, are encouraged to go to summer school for conditioning and informal workouts. What Manning and other goal-oriented athletes did was utilize that summer school time to finish their undergrad degree in three years.
The Sporting News created a list of the 20 smartest athletes. The list includes:
Craig Breslow of the Boston Red Sox: At Yale, he had a 3.5 GPA in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. He was accepted to NYU’s med school. He scored a 1420 on the SAT and 34 on the ACT.
Myron Rolle of the Pittsburgh Steelers: At Florida State he carried a 3.75 GPA in exercise science (premed). He graduated in 2½ years, then received a master’s in medical anthropology after earning a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford.
Sean Bedford, center for Georgia Tech football, earned a 3.8 GPA while majoring in Aerospace engineering and public policy (minor in law science and technology)
Alex Smith, who led the 49ers to the NFC championship game in the 2011 NFC championship game, earned his undergrad degree at the University of Utah in just two years. The quarterback had a 3.74 GPA in Economics. He told The Sporting News that to this day he constantly reads and in one off season alone he traveled to the Dominican Republic, London, France, Italy, and Prague.
Don’t settle to be an exceptional athlete that earns a scholarship. Strive to be that outstanding student-athlete that excels academically, athletically and in character and community service. Never lose sight that being a true college student-athlete will impact the next 40 years of your life, and it will enable you to become an athleader in society.
I encourage you, no matter if you are a 12th grader now or still in middle school, to set a goal that when you do finish playing your sport at the college level, you are known as one of the top true student-athletes in the history of that college!