College athletes smarter than they get credit


Listening to and reading about Pac-12 media preview this week, I have to admit I was impressed with many of the athletes and coaches. They were bright, engaging and clearly goal-oriented.

American culture worships athletes for their skills. But there’s also an undercurrent of thought that were it not for the genes that make them tall, strong and fast, they would all be failures. I’m going to say that’s not the case. If you heard UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Utah’s Dres Anderson or Washington State’s Connor Halliday in interviews this week, you probably came to the same conclusion I did: These people are not “dumb athletes.”

They’re highly motivated, smart and goal-oriented.

In other words, people who will succeed inside or outside football.

I’ve had a number of athletes in college classes I’ve taught, and nearly all of them were bright, inquisitive and serious about their studies. Only one athlete in the last decade tried to talk me into a grade that wasn’t earned. I’ve had baseball players, gymnasts, track athletes and football players on my class rolls.

Some of the smartest athletes I’ve interviewed over the years were offensive linemen. The perception that they are slow-witted behemoths just doesn’t usually apply. More often, in my experience, they were clever, committed and humble.

It’s true that college football is rapidly moving toward professionalism. But I have to say that in my experience, I still see a lot of student-athletes out there, not just athletes. There are more of them than you think.

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