As a student athlete in both high school and college who is now the coach of a few dozen student athletes of a new generation, National Student Athlete Day is something I should have previously been familiar with. On the other hand, it's just another one of those fake holidays that fill out the calendar and draw attention to otherwise niche causes, items, or events. However, while I might be a touch biased, why shouldn't we celebrate the hard work that student athletes undergo in both the classroom and in the field.
That delicate balance between keeping up with your studies while simultaneously keeping on top of your athletic game is not something that should ever be taken lightly. Heck, for "bigger" sports and programs, it's comparable to a full-time job. For eight years, I did little more than study and run. Of course, I was a touch socially awkward, but that's not important right now...
So, in honor of the student athlete and the great sacrifices they make for the betterment of their mind and body, here are a few cards of future Cubbies, back when they were still hazily shuffling between the classroom and the training room in college:
University of Notre Dame Fightin' Irish
Longwood University Lancers
University of Texas at Austin Longhorns
Texas A&M University Aggies
McNeese State University Cowboys
University of Miami Hurricanes
University of Connecticut Huskies
Indiana University Hoosiers
Villanova University Wildcats
Oh yea - if you didn't already know, spare outfielder Matt Szczur was a two-sport star during his days as a student athlete, making his balance all the more delicate. In fact, when the Cubs drafted him in 2010, they had to offer the wide receiver a fairly significant signing bonus to keep him out of the NFL draft. All in all, his tale is quite similar to the story of Jeff Samaradzija, at a somewhat lower profile.
Speaking of football, as a bonus, here are a handful of future Chicago Bears from their days as a collegians:
University of Nebraska Cornhuskers
University of Colorado Boulder Buffaloes
University of Oregon Ducks
Western Michigan University Broncos
University of Georgia Bulldogs
Indiana University Hoosiers
Whether or not top-tier NCAA football players actually fulfill the "student" portion of the student athlete moniker is up for some debate, but let's not get into that here.
Lastly, here's the only hockey card that I have the depicts the college days of a future Chicago Blackhawk. I suppose it would be appropriate to tack this on to this particular post, as well:
Michigan State University Spartans
Kip Miller might have been a journeyman in the pros, who only played in 10 games with the Blackhawks during the 1995-96 season, but he was a beast in college. Mr. Miller won the Hobey Baker Award in 1990, which is given annually to the top NCAA men's ice hockey player.
If I had any scanned, this is where I would include some Animal House-era Chicago Bulls, for the sake of covering all of my main collections; however, I have none in the queue nor do I have access to that binder right now. Oh well.
There you have it - a hefty sampling of student athletes who went on to be professional athletes that blew through the Windy City, all in honor of National Student Athlete Day. It may be a "fake" holiday, but if you coach any, know any, or are related to any, today would be a good day to recognize the hard they put into keeping their grades high and their physical fitness up. Like I mentioned earlier, it's a delicate balance that takes great responsibility, hard work, and mental fortitude to maintain.
Today, my student athletes will be celebrating by running practice before hustling off to the Science Fair immediately thereafter. See what I mean?