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The academic challenge of talented NCAA athletes in the revenue producing sports of football and basketball recently was investigated by CNN.
The news report revealed that at least 7 percent of collegiate athletes in the revenue sports leave college reading at or below an eighth-grade level. It is not possible to do college level work with an eighth-grade reading ability.
This column is not about the failures of collegiate football and basketball but rather it highlights an example of collegiate athletics at its best.
The spotlight falls on Teddy Bridgewater, the highly successful quarterback for the University of Louisville Cardinals.
One of the highlights for Teddy Bridgewater is he graduated from University of Louisville after three years of college. He led U of L to bowl wins in the last two seasons when people were doubtful U of L was the better team. Many people project that Bridgewater will be the first pick in the upcoming National Football League draft. Bridgewater earned all of these accomplishments with hard work.
His background also is important. Bridgewater grew up in Miami. His parents were divorced. His passion for academics and football kept him on a straight path. He gladly accepted the opportunity to be a scholarship athlete at U of L. He used the opportunity to improve himself as well as provide significant leadership to the its football program.
His teammates believed in his leadership. They followed his leadership on the field and in preparation off the field. They watched as he bypassed the distractions of college life to focus on academic excellence.
Bridgewater understood the possibilities open to him as a quality football player. He did not let his skill lead him only to focus on football. Rather, he used his passion for football to open the path to academic achievement.
As Bridgewater leaves U of L after three years of competition, he has a bright future as an NFL prospect. His leadership skills and passion for football excellence will serve him well at the next level. Even if injury or other circumstances do not allow him to develop into a top NFL quarterback, he still has his academic skills, which will serve him well.
Not every athlete who enters college to play basketball or football has the clear vision Bridgewater does. Unfortunately, there are many athletes who accepted scholarships to play and yet did not bother to do the academic part of the partnership. They used the system to their benefit and the system used them for its benefit. The tragedy is the number of high-level athletes who leave college without the skills one would expect to learn in a college environment.
It is refreshing to celebrate the good work of Bridgewater. He worked hard to get a football scholarship and used the opportunity to the fullest. He has a bright future as a college graduate entering the National Football League.
Dr. Wilson is the owner of The Wilson Center for Performance with offices in Radcliff and Louisville. He can be reached at TheWilsonCenter7@aol.com.