Everyone at Penn takes a different path, and for these three football players, graduation is no exception.
Sam Philippi, Nick Robinson, and Drew Brennan are three Penn football seniors who will be graduating at the end of the fall semester. Both Philippi and Robinson are using their extra semester of athletic eligibility, and Brennan will have completed his academic requirements by the end of the season.
Safety Sam Philippi is currently in his fifth year at Penn after sustaining a season-ending injury at the beginning of last season. The NCAA rules state that if a player competes in no more than three contests or dates of competition before sustaining a season-ending injury, he or she may still qualify for another year of athletic eligibility.
“I got hurt in the first game, so I sat out all year, and that way I was able to get a medical redshirt and get one more year of athletic eligibility," Philippi said.
Technically, the Ivy League does not allow redshirts, but a “hardship waiver” may be granted by the NCAA and processed by the Ivy League in order to grant an athlete the extra season. The term “redshirt” or “medical redshirt” is still used conversationally by many Ivy athletes because it is commonly understood. Other NCAA teams use redshirting similarly, but without the injury or illness requirement. Instead, a freshman might not compete in his or her first year and take on another season after senior year.
By the end of his fourth academic year, Philippi had completed 35 of the 36 credits required for the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics major. This fall, he is enrolled in one class on top of his football schedule.
In his free time, Philippi is taking an LSAT prep course for four hours, twice a week.
“That’s kind of brutal, that takes up a lot of my time outside of my film photography class, which I really love because that’s one of my hobbies,” Philippi said. “I didn’t realize how much time football takes up until you have nothing to do except football."
Quarterback Nick Robinson’s path started alongside Philippi’s in Trabuco Canyon, Calif. His road has taken him in many different directions, but incredibly, he’ll walk the finish line in the exact same place as Philippi.
After graduating from JSerra Catholic High School with Philippi, Robinson attended Georgia. There, he redshirted his freshman year and played as a scout team quarterback. Because Robinson’s redshirt year was before he transferred into the Ivy League, the year did not count toward his four years of eligibility. However, an athlete must complete four seasons in five calendar years in the NCAA. Because the clock started running in 2015 when he played at Georgia, this is Robinson’s fifth and final year of football.
Transferring credits from other schools can be complicated, but Robinson will have obtained the full 36 credits needed for a PPE major by the end of this fall.
“Let’s say [if] all my credits transferred, I still would’ve found a way to be able to be here for another season,” Robinson said.
This last season may be Robinson's best one, as he won the role of starting quarterback and has spearheaded the Quakers' offense thus far.
Punter Drew Brennan, instead of graduating after an extra semester, will be graduating a semester early.
Brennan’s Economics major requires 32 courses to graduate. His course count was supplemented by Penn’s Pre-College Summer program, as well as a course-heavy freshman year. Therefore, Brennan does not need the typical eighth semester to complete his degree requirements.
“It’s pretty expensive to go here obviously, so I’m just trying to save some money and hopefully do some things that I haven’t been able to do because of football,” Brennan said.
Brennan plans on pursuing passions like skiing — possibly in Japan — and traveling to Europe.
This path was one that Brennan had his sights set on from early in his time at Penn.
“I did have [graduating early] in mind because I understood that you can’t go abroad because of football,” Brennan said. “During the summers I wanted to do internships, so I couldn’t really go abroad. I felt that now would be a perfect time to go see Europe, see different places in the world that I wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.”
Brennan will come back to Penn to walk in the spring graduation ceremony with his friends and football teammates. In the meantime, he’ll have the spring semester to pursue any interests that weren’t possible because of school and football.
Different means, same end — these three athletes will be walking away with a football career and Penn degree in hand.