Scholar/athletes: Outstanding Students Disprove the Myth That Brains and Brawn Don't Mix

By Poinsett, Alex | Ebony, April 1990 | Go to article overview

Scholar/athletes: Outstanding Students Disprove the Myth That Brains and Brawn Don't Mix


Poinsett, Alex, Ebony


Scholar/Athletes

JOKESTERS tell the story of a college football coach who was asked about his players' academic progress. "They're making straight-A's," he reported with some pride. "But their B's are a little wobbly."

If, as the joke goes, college athletes actually struggle in writing ABC's, it ignores scholar/athletes like 22-year-old Morehouse College quarterback, Jimmy L. Davis. The 6-foot, 180-pound senior is an "Athlete of the Year" in the NCAA's Hall of Fame (Division II) and recipient of numerous other football awards. He also has a 3.7 (out of a possible 4.0) grade point average (GPA) despite an extraordinary difficult triple major in mathematics, physics and electrical engineering. Because of his high grades, the Miami native is a Phi Beta Kappa society member. Although Davis missed winning a Rhodes scholarship to England's Oxford University last year, his nomination, along with only 11 other Georgia candidates, further debunked the "dumb jock" stereotype.

"During the season, I look forward to football practice to work off the stress of classes and science labs," Davis says. His Maroon Tigers' program, which consumes about 20 hours a week of his time compared with the 70 hours typically required for Division I football players, allows Davis to keep focused on his books. "I've been blessed with ability," he says. "I could never accept anything less than the best in my studies."

Like Davis, sophomore Tracy Kendall, 19, the 6-foot, 175-pound quarter-back at Alabama A & M University, was encouraged by his parents to excel academically. A straight-A valedictorian of his 362-member graduating class at Atlanta's D. M. Therrell High School, he made the GTE Academic All-America first team. As a college freshman, he had a 3.91 GPA in electrical engineering. Second in the nation in total offense with 3,079 yards in 11 games, Kendall says: "To succeed on the field and in the classroom, a person must be dedicated and disciplined, and I've tried to live by this rule."

The same thing can be said about Elsie Dillard, 22, a senior starting forward in women's basketball at Grambling State University and a computer science major with a 3.32 GPA. "If I wasn't playing basketball, I'd be a straight-A student," she insists. "Constantly traveling to games means I can't always find a computer terminal to run my programs." Despite her busy schedule of basketball and books, Dillard always finds time to date her boyfriend of three-years.

Donzel Leggett, 21, Purdue University's 6-foot-5, 245-pound, senior defensive end, spends about five hours daily on football during the season, yet he has been an Academic All-Big Ten for three years. A GTE Academic All-America second team member, he has a 5.3 GPA (out of a possible 6.0) in industrial technology. "Sometimes the football coaches get angry when I don't show up for practice," he says. "But if I have an important exam coming up, I put my foot down and study."

"It's very difficult being a student and playing football," admits University of Michigan senior Tim Williams, 21, a 6-foot-4, 237-pound linebacker with a 3.4 GPA in business administration. …

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