When I interviewed Greg Van Roten for a story last week, one thing he said really stuck out to me — that no matter what, one should stick to what he called ‘Plan A’ and forget all about ‘Plan B.’
Because if you think about your fallback, the Packers offensive lineman said, you won’t fully commit to your dream. And if you don’t fully commit, it won’t happen.
His statement fairly accurately sums up the post-graduate success of several former Penn athletes, all of whom graduated last year: Vince Voiro (baseball), Zack Rosen (basketball), Adrienne Lerner (women’s soccer), Christian Barreiro (men’s soccer), Brendan McHugh (swimming) and Van Roten (football).
All of these athletes had stellar senior seasons and were recognized and rewarded highly for their efforts. Voiro was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 15th round of the MLB draft; Rosen signed a one-year contract with an Israeli team; Lerner won a McKay Scholarship for a sports broadcasting master’s program; Barreiro recently signed with the Puerto Rico Islanders of the North American Soccer League; McHugh excelled in the Olympic Trials, though he ultimately fell short of making the team; and Van Roten inked a deal with the Green Bay Packers’ practice squad.
Ask any of them, and they’ll tell you the road to get where they are wasn’t easy. Both Voiro and Van Roten, for instance, were not heavily recruited out of high school, and both felt they had something to prove when they got to Penn.
Many of us who have ever played a sport have had that dream of what it must be like to play at the highest level, whether it’s a professional league or the Olympics, or even just being paid to play, if only for one game. That’s why “The Replacements” is one of my favorite sports movies (I know, Keanu Reeves), because it’s the story of a group of guys who are given a chance to be great when the rest of the world had already written them off.
Maybe I’m finding all of this — Penn’s 2012 success stories — inspiring because it’s the beginning of the year and I’m always optimistic in September. But I think this is fundamentally why I love sports, and why I love writing about sports, too.
We get to see greatness in sports. We get to see people achieve their potential, to do things now that were believed to be impossible 50 years ago. 5,476 passing yards in a season. A 100-meter dash in 9.58 seconds.
At Penn, we realize we’re not watching SEC football on Saturdays. Our athletes may not go in the first round of the draft (or in the draft at all). But they excel on the fields, tracks and courts, and we get to watch it happen.
This isn’t a call to go to more games and support our teams (though we all should), but it is perhaps some small attempt to draw your attention to the fact that we’re surrounded by people doing amazing things — athletics included — at this university of ours. All the time. You could be one of them.
ANNA STRONG is a senior English major from Haverford, Pa., and is former sports editor of The Summer Pennsylvanian. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.