Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hitting the Books Should Be on Par with Hitting the QB

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hitting the Books Should Be on Par with Hitting the QB

Article excerpt

All around the city, all around the state, all around the

country, high schools held news conferences yesterday so star

football players could officially announce where they would

block and tackle next season. In some places, students were let

out of class, assemblies were called and the pep band played.

And TV crews, radio reporters and sports writers showed up en

masse to ask questions such as . . .

"Do you expect to be redshirted next season?"

"Do you think you can make your test score?"

"Do you think you'll turn pro early?"

Just once on national signing day, wouldn't it be wonderful if

somebody held a news conference for a kid such as Chris

O'Connell? A kid who doesn't play football, doesn't play

basketball, has never run a 40-yard dash or lifted a barbell in

his life. A bright kid who just wants to go to college, become a

doctor and save the world.

Chris is a senior at The Bolles School, but does not come from

the affluent background of many of his classmates. He lives with

his mother, three brothers and sisters and is working as a clerk

in a museum gift shop to help defray the costs of a

private-school education.

Chris is president of the National Honor Society, speaks three

languages (English, French and some Japanese) and recently

missed a grand total of one question on the Scholastic

Assessment Test. That's right, he scored 1,590 out of a possible

1,600 -- nearly double the 820 college athletes need to meet the

NCAA's minimum academic requirements.

Funny, though, none of the major institutions of higher earning

is beating a path to the O'Connell house to offer Chris an

all-expenses-paid trip to college. Grown men aren't spending

millions of dollars annually to call Chris on the phone, visit

him, woo him and promise him stardom. No colleges have contacted

him to say, "Hey, Chris, why don't you come down this weekend,

stay in a nice hotel, go out to a nice dinner and take a look

around our campus? And it's on us."

"I think athletes deserve scholarships, too," Chris says. "They

have special skills and have worked hard to get in the position

they're in. …

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