At a lot of colleges and universities, professors rarely see the work that student-athletes put in away from the classroom, and it’s even rarer for those in academia to publicly recognize those efforts.

At McDaniel College (D-III – MD), that’s not the case for at least one professor. Dr. Gretchen McKay not only serves as a professor to many of the team’s players, but she’s also the faculty academic mentor for the Green Terror football team.

Professor McKay watched the McDaniel players and staff lose a hard-fought battle this past Saturday against conference foe Franklin & Marshall. It was their first loss of the young season, but McKay left that game inspired to share a few things about the student athletes that her work has brought her so close with via her blog, where she lists herself as a Higher Education Learning Consultant.

Here’s what she shared:

For those who do not know, I have the distinct privilege of being the faculty mentor to McDaniel College’s Green Terror Football Team. In addition to that role, I am also privileged to teach these young men, many of whom sign up for my classes. This past Saturday I watched them fight a dogged battle against a conference foe. And come up a wee bit short. Like three points short. But short is short. I get that.

So this post is for them.

I have watched football all my life. I understand (most of) the rules and the plays. But I have never really understood football until now. And I am only starting to understand it: what it takes to get up play after play after you have been banged around. Or what it takes to play with your whole heart and come up short, and yet get on the bus, go back to campus, and get ready for the next opponent the next week. And I freely admit that I still have a lot to learn.

As I watched the team yesterday, I was thinking about how there is a theme running through higher education circles currently about instilling more grit and resilience in college students. Some feel that this generation’s students are too weak and anxious; they need to toughen up!

Well, there are 125 or so young men on a college football team in Westminster, Maryland who are pretty danged tough. They show grit and resilience every Saturday afternoon. They showed it in abundance this past Saturday, in a tough, hard loss. But they never gave up until the very last second. Every single one of them was attuned to what was happening. They were a group of gritty and resilient souls.

I am the luckiest professor in the conference to be this close to these champions, these student athletes who show so much grit and resilience on the field and in their lives. Because as the mentor, I get to hear about the struggles they have in their lives, too. In their classrooms. At home. With finances. And how they overcome them. I am privileged and blessed (yes, I’m using that word) to get to help them.

For those administrators and faculty out there in higher education who want to cultivate more grit and resilience among their student body: look to your student athletes.

Because if they are anything like the Green Terror Football team, they’ve got grit and resilience in spades.

Instead of athletics clashing against academics, it’s nice to see a professor recognize the grit and resiliency of the student athletes that she mentors off the field. There aren’t many professors out there doing that, and I’m sure it’s appreciated greatly by both the players, and the coaches who are trying to instill those values daily in their guys.

Read more from Professor’s McKay’s blog here.

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Content manager - Doug took the reins in 2011 and the website has been better ever since. A former college player and small college coach, Doug now serves as the head coach at Ravenna HS (MI).