Nov. 15, 2013
By Katie Dodge
Jordan Davis aspires to one day own his own production company. Adhem Elsawi is fascinated by the human brain. Kyle Tudor is entertaining the idea of going to law school. Reese Wiggins hopes to run a youth recreational center in the future.
So what do these four people have in common?
Besides being East Carolina football players, Davis, Elsawi, Tudor, and Wiggins have all earned an undergraduate degree and are currently pursuing a second.
If they already have undergraduate degrees, that means they have already graduated, correct? If they already graduated, how are they still playing football at ECU?
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has a four-year limit for competition eligibility, but a five-year overall window for program participation. One of the most common uses for that "extra" season is for a player to be redshirted. This allows a player to attend university classes and practice with their respective team, though not compete in games, while still having four more years of athletic eligibility after the redshirt year.
This is the case for Davis, Tudor and Wiggins.
Elsawi was also redshirted, but as a sophomore after transferring into the Pirate program from Campbell University in 2010.
Unfortunately too often there is a negative connotation, usually laziness, attached to anyone who spends more than four years in college. This is especially true for student-athletes, who perhaps are already inaccurately perceived as lazy, and therefore judged more harshly from the beginning.
Ironically, they just might have the toughest jobs of the student population as a whole.
"It's more of a job than a sport nowadays," Tudor said in regards to pursuing his first degree. "When I go home I really just want to relax. I wish I had more discipline, I wish I would have taken that a little more seriously, but there's nothing I can do about it now."
Wiggins admitted that putting in all of the hours required for meetings, lifting, practicing and games is a lot, and can at times, get overwhelming.
Elsawi agreed, recalling late nights trying to finish work at 3 or 4 a.m. and still get a little sleep before he had to go off to practice.
However, all four agree that now they have a better grip on managing their priorities and getting their work done.
"Time management is really key," Davis explained. "When you're done with practice you gotta go hit the books."
Although a redshirt season is the main reason ECU fans have had the chance to see this quartet of Pirates on the field this year, underlying reasons vary among them.
For Davis, the opportunity just seemed to present itself.
"It just kind of happened that way," Davis said. "What I wanted to pursue, they didn't have it here, as far as a master's degree." He indicated he'd rather get a second degree than pursue a master's in something he didn't enjoy.
If Elsawi didn't have this year of football eligibility, he wouldn't be pursuing another undergraduate degree. He chose a second degree as a way to keep him well-rounded for the sole reason it was "something to keep me sharp and intellectually in it while I was playing football."
After this season of football is over, Elsawi plans to refocus his goals and decide if he wants to continue to pursue the full degrees he is working toward, or enter a graduate program.
For Tudor, playing football has everything to do with pursuing a second degree. "I probably wouldn't be doing these classes right now if it wasn't for that (NCAA eligibility)," he admitted. "Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the classes, but it's just that I've done it for five years straight so a break would be nice."
Wiggins wanted to play football but also hopes earning a second degree will help give him an advantage when applying for jobs in the future.
"I wanted to play football obviously for my final year, and then I also wanted to get something out of it too as far as the academic side," Wiggins said. "I know having a degree gives you a lot of power in this world today. It's how you find jobs and having a second degree kind of gives me a little bit of an advantage of finding a job and not making it more of a struggle as it typically is for any college graduate. That played a big part in there."
He views the opportunity to pursue multiple options and play his final year of football as a blessing.
As far as schedules go, things haven't changed much for these Pirates. They still have to carry at least a 12-hour credit load in order to be eligible to play by NCAA standards. They attend classes early in the day because they have to be done by the time meetings and practice starts in the afternoon.
"It's pretty much like everyone else," Davis said. "You have your classes and everybody is pretty much done, I believe, at 2 p.m. because that's when we start." Tudor said his schedule is a bit more relaxed now, and he's even allowed to take an online class, which he attributes to having more trust bestowed in him. He thanks his advisor for helping him out and not getting him into any classes that are too early. Wiggins enjoys a more relaxed schedule as well. "I have Tuesdays and Thursdays off so that's kind of fun," he quipped.
Elsawi is taking only 12 hours this semester, and says that is a first. However, two of his classes are writing intensive courses and are on the same day. He made light of this, saying "so even though I'm in 12 hours, I still found a way to make my schedule a little challenging."
After this last year of football and finishing their second undergraduate degrees, these four ambitious Pirates have some big plans for their futures. Davis thinks he will be able to finish his degree in three semesters. After that, he's not quite sure what he wants to do, but is looking somewhere along the lines of working behind the scenes at ESPN.
"I definitely want to own my own production company one day," he added.
Elsawi's fascination with the human brain is his impetus for a career in the medical field if his first dream of playing in the NFL doesn't pan out.
"There're so many other areas," Elsawi explained. "I'd be interested in being a sports doctor. There was one sports doctor I had growing up that really made a big impression on me. Just having so much specific knowledge on injuries and how they affect your ability to play your sport, I really appreciated that, and that's something I think would be interesting having been an athlete."
Elsawi tips his hat to student-athletes in general because he's been down that road and knows it is challenging.
"It is very tough to do what we do, and do well in the classroom, so my hat's off to people who really grind through and get their degree," he said.
Tudor is still undecided when it comes to his future, but has high hopes nonetheless with a possible career in law, restaurant or apparel management.
He also has a message for collegiate athletes. He wants them to know that it is crucial to take their studies seriously because in the long run, most don't wind up as professional athletes.
"Our jobs and our degrees are what really matters," Tudor summed up.
Wiggins is looking forward to a future of helping others. He credits his parents and the Boys and Girls Club with keeping him involved as a kid and helping him to develop and mature. He wants to be able to do the same for other kids.
"I want to help out others and run a youth recreation center that helps them develop as young men and young women and try to give them an outlet from the streets and things like that," Wiggins said.
Davis, Elsawi, Tudor and Wiggins will be joined by 17 other members of their "senior" class this afternoon to close just one of many chapters in their lives. It's been a journey that has included a Conference USA championship and four bowl games for some and treasured memories for all.