By Hollie Huey
UA Media Relations
The demands on the average college student can be overwhelming at times. However, a student-athlete must learn how to balance the demands of the classroom with the demands of their sport.
The University of Alabama has a rich tradition of excellence on the football field, but the tradition does not stop on the gridiron. Tide players carry their excellence into the classroom as well.
Since 1953, the University of Alabama has had nearly 300 football players who have been named first team Academic All-America, first team Academic All-Southeastern Conference, or received other academic awards. And under head coach Mike Shula, Alabama has graduated 67 percent of its football players.
Ten football players were named to the Academic All-SEC list in 2005 including Jeff Aul, Matt Collins, Barrett Earnest,
Bryan Kilpatrick, Drew Lane, Greg McLain, Matt Ryals, DeMeco Ryans, Juwan Simpson and Kenneth Vandervoort.
Jon Dever, Assistant Athletics Director for Student Services, said academic standards are set high for the athletes.
“The academic standards at Alabama have gone way up, and it’s tough on the athletes,” said Dever. “It’s difficult for the kids to stay on top on the field and in the classroom. These student-athletes are not only competing against the best in the nation on the field but they are going against the best students in the nation as well.”
Dever said under Tide head coach Mike Shula, academics have been a priority for his athletes.
“There’s no doubt Coach Shula makes academics a priority for his athletes,” said Dever. “With him being a former athlete, he knows how hard it can be as an athlete to handle football and classes. But, as a graduate of Alabama, he understands the important role academics play in the lives of his players.”
With the assistance of parents, administrative offices, Director of Athletics Mal Moore, the coaches, and staff, Dever said it is easier making sure student-athletes are a success in the classroom, too.
“They all do a remarkable job in helping our athletes,” said Dever.
Matt Collins is one of those athletes that has found a way to balance the books and football. Collins was named to the Academic All-SEC list in 2004 and 2005.
“It feels great to be Academic All-SEC,” said Collins. “It’s just like when you accomplish something, and then you get to see the rewards of that accomplishment. It’s a real honor.”
On the field, his position is linebacker and in the classroom, his major is biology.
“It’s not easy to do both,” said Collins, “but it is definitely doable if you’ve got your head in the right place and keep your priorities - school first, then football. It’s really not difficult, not at all.”
And Collins, like his teammates, realizes football careers can be fleeting while a man can use his degree every day for the rest of his life. “On the field is only going to last for so long, but the classroom will carry you on through the rest of your life. So, excelling in both is super important,” said Collins.
The Clay-Chalkville High graduate credits his determination for his academic success.
“I’ve just always been driven to do the best that I can do at whatever it is,” said Collins. “I just go into every class just trying to give it the best shot I can and give it my all just like I do out here on the field. That way, if I get an A or a B, I don’t feel bad because I knew I gave it everything I had.”
Senior defensive back Bryan Kilpatrick was also named to the Academic All-SEC list twice in 2004 and 2005. He’s hoping for another award in 2006.
“I’m proud to be on the Academic All-SEC team,” said Kilpatrick. “It’s a big honor. There are not a lot of folks who have that privilege.”
Kilpatrick, a Monroeville Academy graduate, said his academics have always been a top priority for him while at UA.
“Well, you just have to stay focused on what you have to do,” said Kilpatrick. “You come here to get your degree. That is your number one priority. Football is second. You have to always keep that in mind.”
Graduating with honors, Kilpatrick received his undergraduate degree in corporate finance in May 2006. Kilpatrick is currently attending graduate school where he his working towards a degree in human and environmental studies. He said he strives to do his best on the field and in the classroom.
“I want to excel at everything I do,” said Kilpatrick. “Whether it is football or academics, I want to go out and do the best I can.”
Dever said he is proud of what the athletes, like Collins and Kilpatrick, achieve while attending the University.
“There are so many good things that come from our student-athletes that many don’t get to see,” Dever said. “Not only are they having to master the skills on the field and study for classes, they are involved in a lot of community service. Just because you don¹t read their names in the paper for making the big play on the field, they are achieving in more ways than one.”