More than National Champs!

Penn Stater’s all over the country have a lot to be proud about today after hockey winning their first Big Ten Championship and the wrestling team racking up a few more national championships this weekend. Penn State now has 76 National Championship teams and 142 individual National Champions (learn more here).

A Higher Standard of Success

Alumni have always taken pride in our athletic success, but for student athletes at Penn State, success means a lot more than hoisting a trophy above their head. It is about taking care of business in the classroom, serving your community, and learning how to succeed in life no matter what challenge comes your way. Like my good friend Lavar Arrington said to me the other day, “it’s about being held to a higher standard.”

Lesson learned later in life

Lavar and I were in study hall our freshman year as all Penn State freshmen are required to do. The same study hall where I began drawing the Nittany Lion. He described perfectly what it really means to be a student athlete.

He said, “when you are being recruited you can sense there is something different, it’s almost military-like. My pride was always high to be a Nittany Lion, but I didn’t realize until I got to the pro’s just how different we were. It was really only then I realized how special we were. I was humbled and appreciative for the way we did things.”

Lavar also talked about how our “coaches always tried to do it the right way, with integrity, and without cutting corners,” and how “our code of conduct was more important than winning. We supported each other and were held to a higher expectation. A lot of the way I live my life was shaped by what I learned through the discipline of being a student athlete.” He is most proud that being a student athlete at Penn State set him up to be successful in life, as a husband, a father, an entrepreneurial business man having created a football training program and performance wear called Xtreme Procision (XP).

Support for Success

Ironically, on Friday I met Milt Morgan, the son of Milton and Lois Morgan whose gift endowed the Morgan Academic Support Center. As an undergrad I spent a lot of time there, mostly because Tammy Leathers had a filing cabinet full of candy and snack, but also because their support was really critical to our success in the classroom. I thanked him and his family for what they did, and expressed how much the resources of the Center helped us balance demanding athletic and academic schedules. This commitment continues to pay off as Penn State student athletes are succeeding well above their peers in the classroom according to a NCAA report.

I’d rather cut down the net!

In full disclosure, the feeling of getting an “A” in class could never come close to the feeling of cutting down a net, or kissing a shiny Championship trophy. However, those memories are snapshots of our success. The discipline that was expected of us on the playing surface and in the classroom set us up for a lifetime of winning snapshots.

Paying it forward

When Lavar asked me why I had chosen to donate 22% of the profits of Always a Lion to women’s sports at Penn State, the answer was easy. I was given opportunities very few college students have, and I was given the mentorship and resources to succeed. I attribute a lot of my success to my coaches and the Penn State way! I hope one day, my efforts will make a difference in the life of a female student athletes, just as others provided opportunities for me.

About the Author: