I’m only going to say this once. It’s a fact, the one truth that all athletes face. It’s the thing that’s certain to happen to every one of us—from quarterbacks to softball catchers, blue chip recruits to walk-ons.
That certainty is this: No matter who you are, one day you will play your final game. So you need to be prepared for life once your playing days are over.
Listen, I was in your shoes not all that long ago. When I was in high school and going through the recruiting process, I saw a lot of great programs and met with impressive coaches. Through it all, I kept in mind something my own coach had told me: “Take advantage of your opportunities.”
To me, that meant I shouldn’t think just about sports, but about my whole life. I recognized that a student-athlete doesn’t go to school just to play, but to learn. And while it sounds cliché, believe me: The education I received at Penn State was the most valuable asset I gained there—even though I play professionally today.
Why? Because just like you, one day I will play my last game. The things I learned in school set me up to be successful after I walk off the field for the last time.
So what does this all mean to you? While you’re looking at schools, I want you to think of two things besides their athletic programs: “Then” and “now.”
By “then,” I mean: How will this school set you up for your future beyond the playing field? Visit the school’s website and look at its alumni. Examine the jobs people coming out of your degree program are getting. This will help you gauge the opportunities that may be available to you after you graduate.
As for “now,” I mean, when you get to a school, walk the campus and look around. Ask yourself, “Do I feel comfortable here?”
After all, you will be the one who has to wake up there every morning. You will have to go to class, and deal not just with coaches, but other students and teachers. So is it a place where you want to be?
Ultimately, you are responsible for your life. Your sport can create opportunities for you, but it’s up to you to make the most of them.
Photo: Penn State University