An Open Letter to College Athletes: Past, Present, and Future

I don’t know the anxieties that face you. I don’t know what it feels like to balance practice, school, friends, and sleep.

I don’t know what it’s like to stand out when I walk into a classroom. I don’t know what it’s like for thousands of people to know my name. I don’t know what it’s like for a stranger to ask for a picture with me. And I certainly don’t know what it’s like to give someone my autograph.

I don’t know what it feels like to step onto a court or a field and look into stands and see countless faces, all cheering my name, while I could only name a few of theirs. I don’t know the joy of bringing home a victory or the devastation of announcing a loss.

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And I don’t know the ultimate pressure of representing a university, its student body, and its fans.

I do know how a student looks up to an athlete, though. I understand how we see you as heroes and treat you like gods. I know not all sports are seen as equal, and I know we blame you for losses and pressure you for championships. For that I am sorry, but I do think being an athlete makes you special. The student body looks up to you. I realize someone your own age seeing you as a star may be perceived as odd, but just think about it. You’re in the media all the time, you’ve got thousands of twitter followers, and you’re constantly celebrated.

And I do know what it’s like to love a university, to be thankful every day you walk through campus and notice another special slice of a personal paradise we get to call our own. You don’t understand the love for a college until you’re a student there. And I won’t fully know the feeling of pride in my school and its future generations until I’ve graduated. But I do know that as athletes, you are given a power and a responsibility. You have a power to portray your school however you want, but you have a responsibility to represent it well.

So here’s my request: love your school.

To those who are in college: try as hard as you can, make your school proud playing a sport you excel at, and love every minute of it.

To those who are still the dreamers: choose a school you love outside of your sport, pick somewhere that feels like home, and when you decide, be excited and joyful, and be prepared to work for your dreams.

And to those who are no longer college athletes: please continue to love the school. Remember the legacy you left behind and keep your school in your heart so that it may continue to thrive for those to come and follow in your footsteps.

As athletes, you’re like celebrities on campus. And if you’re one of the well-known ones, you’ll have a lot of access to the media. Please remember to love your school. Remember your years there, and consider future students before you speak negatively about a place that offered you an opportunity to live your dream for just a little bit longer.

It takes years to build up a reputation. And it takes one person to ruin it.

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