While most students are groggy or asleep, he sits behind the cramped desk of his 8:50 class, wide-eyed and strangely excited to learn about Balkan Politics. He’s not an SFS geek; he’s actually a college government major who’s trying, just like everybody else, to fit classes in with busy schedules, clubs and internships.

What might surprise you, however, is that he plays on the Georgetown football team.

Yes, I am saying that the football players go to class. So does the track team, the basketball team and the lacrosse team. So do all student athletes: you have to go to class to participate in athletics; it’s a fact.

In addition, this is not just any football player; it’s Drew Crawford – the junior QB who will most likely hold the reins for the Hoyas’ 2003 season.

Just like everybody else, he goes to class – even classes that students half as busy as he is would laugh at the thought of waking up for.

It is here in the classroom, as a teacher lectures about the breakup of Yugoslavia, that student athletes should blend in with their fellow Hoyas. At the same time, it is necessary that they also stand out.

Participating in college athletics demands nearly everything from a student. They have weekends away and long practices that everyone already gives them credit for, but our Hoya athletes also make a lot of sacrifices that are often overlooked.

Many athletes cannot take a full schedule of five classes each semester because their days are crammed with games, interviews and practices. Behind in their required courses, many student athletes are forced to take one or two sessions of summer school every year just to keep up. Not only are these kids year-round athletes, they’re year-round students.

While this may sound like just part of the job, it also takes away time from visiting home and spending time with family and friends. Georgetown’s respected athletics program recruits students from all over the country. With seasons spanning the entire year and classes on top of regular sports commitments, it’s often hard, sometimes impossible, to return home even for holidays. Our basketball team, along with many other teams, has even recruited athletes from overseas, adding not only academic and athletic challenges to new Hoya athletes, but also language barriers and cultural hurdles.

In addition, student athletes must fight the normal stereotypes. You hear it in passing all the time: “The athletes get it easy because they play sports.”

Imagine hearing that if you were an athlete.

You sacrifice your health, your bones, your sweat – all in the name of the blue and gray. These are kids out there on national television and in national championship games who, when the final buzzer sounds, have to wipe off the sweat and crack the books like everyone else.

Yes, undoubtedly, exceptions are made. Paper deadlines are extended, tutors are offered at many universities for athletes – but these are rewards for hard work and dedication.

The criticism sometimes stoops so low that even an athlete’s dedication is in question. The football team often takes a bad rap for its poor (albeit improving) record. Scrawny boys can laugh all they want, but they haven’t seen 45 broad-shouldered men come dripping with sweat into Yates after their second late-summer practice in 100-degree weather. The scrawny boys would no longer be cracking jokes. The football players, despite their dehydration and dragging feet, would still have smiles on their faces.

Unfortunately, the fact that a student is an athlete often overshadows any other personality traits that he or she may have. In a conversation with former Hoya basketball player Victor Samnick last year, we talked about the stereotypes many students have concerning athletes, and also the disadvantages that come with wearing a Hoya jacket around campus.

“[People] don’t really look at me as a person,” Samnick said with candid honesty. “They look at me as a person they can hang out with and say `I’m cool’ ’cause I hang out with these basketball players.”

Recognizing basketball players (or any other team) as nothing more than athletes denies all the other personality traits that these intelligent, driven and dedicated students have.

No, not all athletes are brilliant students, but neither are all nursing students or finance majors or “SFS geeks.”

They are, however, Georgetown students just like everyone else here.

They go to classes, they want to learn and they love Georgetown. They are Hoyas.

So next time you see someone in a warm-up jacket or uniform, don’t assume they’re here just to play sports. Yes, they love sports, but they’re also students at one of the best universities in the world.

Talk to them as fellow Hoyas, respect them as fellow Hoyas and look up to them as fellow Hoyas. They represent our school on the field, as well as in the classroom.

Next time you ask for information about their upcoming schedule or big match, maybe try asking for some advice for your next government exam.

Guess what – they’ll have to study for it too.

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