Do you rush home from school so you can get your homework done before basketball practice? Is it too out there to think that the best and brightest minds are the biggest and fastest athletes? Do you think thousands of people would fill a stadium to watch a debate or a spelling bee every Sunday? What about Stephen Strasburg vs. Toby Gerhart in a chess match? Does that sound worthy of Super Bowl hype? The golden answer is no.
According to the St. Petersburg Times in Florida, approximately 46% of NFL players and coaches have a four-year college degree. In the MLB, it's only about 3% for all players and managers. It makes me wonder if there should be more athletes with college degrees. What I do know is that doing well on and off the field is difficult to balance. Whatever the statistics I am more impressed with those athletes who can do both consistently.
Toby Gerhart of the Minnesota Vikings established a reputation on the field as a complete running back with the strength of a freight train and thrilling speed. In his first NFL season, he was able to back that up with solid stats (322 yards on 82 carries). What we don’t all know is that Gerhart had a 4.0 GPA at Stanford.
Similarly, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is going deep on the field emotionally and physically. This year Tebow made his mark by posting an 82.1 passer rating and 11 touchdowns for Denver. Tebow also went deep in academic achievements. Prior to his pro career, among his many memorable moments from the University of Florida were a Heisman Trophy, two national championships and finishing college with a 3.66 GPA.
Obviously being able to throw a 100 MPH fastball wasn’t enough for Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg. In his first MLB start he recorded a stunning 14 strikeouts. He also clocked a 3.9 GPA at San Diego State, which will no doubt give him options as he recovers from his injury. There’s probably a good chance his ERA will be less than his GPA.
New Orleans Hornets big man Emeka Okafor has had an impressive NBA career path. He earned Rookie of the year honors in 2005, and a spot on the 2004 USA Olympic basketball team. At one point in his career, Okafor started 92 straight games, a Charlotte Bobcats franchise record. More impressive is that he graduated from the University of Connecticut in three years with a 3.8 GPA.
Other Notable Smart Guys: Grant Hill in the NBA, Craig Breslow in MLB, Myron Rolle in the NFL, and George Paros in the NHL.
The debate on college education in professional sports will continue. Until we resolve it, athletes like the ones above are my new role models. Could scouting the state spelling bee or math tournament mean you’re watching the next NFL Hall of Famer? If so the possibilities are endless. What do you think?