By now, we all know that one of the unique things about the University of Richmond is the accessibility of the athletes on campus. How many other colleges honestly provide their "normal" students with as much opportunity to fraternize with D-I athletes?
They don't have their own special dorms. They don't have their own special dining hall. They literally live among us. For me, this was an unexpected surprise when I first got to campus, this being my freshman year, and it was a bit intimidating.
Being a Roadmap student, I had the "privilege" of moving into my dorm a few days before everybody else. Little did I know, the football players also received that privilege, having been on campus training for the coming season.
As it turns out, my room (a triple) is right in the middle of five football players, all at least twice my size. Remembering that both of my roommates were also bigger than me (guesstimates based on Facebook photos), I was immediately scared that, at 6-foot-1-inch, I would be the smallest guy in the hall. Naturally, I proceeded to spend the next couple days until everyone else moved in avoiding eye contact, staying out of their way and trying my best not to do anything that would get me beat up. This was all under the assumption that college football players have their own lives that are way more awesome than anything I could imagine and love beating up smaller kids that try to befriend them.
Eventually, the rest of the hall moved in and orientation started (I thankfully found out I wasn't the smallest guy in the hall) and, of course, all my football neighbors were in my group. To start, having them in my orientation group only increased my suspicions that there would be a big disconnect between us. They were rarely at the activities because of football practices and meetings and when they were there, they tended to make inside jokes among themselves.
The height of my fear came during the game "Where the Wind Blows." Basically, the game is meant as an icebreaker as one person stands in the middle of a circle of everybody else and says "where the wind blows" and then a characteristic that describes them. For the surrounding people in the circle, they must move through the middle and try to find another spot in the circle if that characteristic describes them also. The last person left in the middle starts the next round.
During one of the rounds, one of the especially large players said, "Where the wind blows ... football players." Getting over my tendency to try to suck up to them and trying to break the ice a little, I jokingly entered the circle (to be fair, I did play linebacker for one year at my single-A private high school when we went 2-8). Expecting at the very least a chuckle, I got glares from all five while my roommates cracked up at my failure.
As orientation ended and real school/football season started, I found out my neighbors weren't just football players, they were all redshirts. The significance of this fact is that redshirts are around the dorm a lot more, still working hard, but not traveling with the team for away games or playing in any games in order to keep their four years of eligibility alive. Over time, I got over them not laughing at my hilarious joke and started to realize that they were all pretty chill guys. It started out with some small talk every now and then ("Yo, how was football?" "Sucked, we lost another three QBs today, coach is thinking about trying out the water boy next 'cause it worked well in the movie.")
In time, though, we bonded over the one activity every guy, big or small, can't live without: video games. Super Smash Bros on N-64 to be precise. The only difference I found is that D-I athletes, tend to be more competitive than the typical gamer. Our next door neighbor, future starting linebacker, devout Christian and hardcore Pikachu user, has been known to wake up the whole hall screaming at our 17-inch screen because a hammer unfairly took his last life.
Overall, I've found out that D-I athletes are no different than me. Whether they are hall-of-fame-in-the-making tight ends and Samus enthusiasts or injury-riddled defensive ends obsessed with Fox McCloud, college guys are college guys (especially freshman year) and no amount of Muscle Milk is going to change that.
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