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In His Cleats: What It’s Like To Be A Penn State Student Athlete

Walking through campus rocking their unmistakable navy zip-ups and Nike kicks, Penn State athletes are impossible to miss. College is a peculiar place, where the same person suffering through a lecture in 100 Thomas on the weekdays could be the same person who’s scoring touchdowns in Beaver Stadium on Saturdays.

There’s more to this story than many students see. Whether you put athletes on a pedestal, crucify them after a subpar performance, or remain completely apathetic, their college experiences are undeniably different than typical undergrad life.

When their highest and lowest moments on the field are on a platform for the world to see, it’s easy to forget that there are thousands of other moments in-between games. Like anything else, being a Division I athlete has its pros and cons.

We sat down with two-time Big Ten champion soccer player, Onward State staff writer, and 90s music enthusiast Drew Klingenberg to figure out what it’s like to juggle school, sports, and life.

Drew Klingenberg, Men's Soccer 2015

Onward State: What are the unexpected drawbacks and advantages that you’ve experienced as a student athlete?
Drew Klingenberg: One drawback is that people think athletes get everything, but what we get is also given back to the university in reference to our time. I love being an athlete, and playing for my school is an honor, but most students don’t understand the time commitment we put into our sports and how much we do in order to uphold Penn State’s athletic prowess. We miss a lot of life events, especially in season. However, I’ve won two Big Ten championships thus far and those are two moments that not many people have the pleasure of experiencing. It was an indescribable feeling.

OS: Given how time consuming it is among other things, do you think NCAA Division I athletes should get paid?
DK: I personally don’t have a strong opinion on it, but would it be awesome? Absolutely, and I think we deserve it. On the other hand, I can see why it would be difficult and unfair.

OS: I once heard someone say that student athletes “get to go to school for free for throwing a ball.” Do you ever feel like people resent you?
DK: Yeah, that actually really bothers me. I usually don’t meet people who share those opinions, most are impressed, but absolutely. I feel like there is a lot of ignorance surrounding college athletics because athletes are not all paid the same, some are on full [scholarships], some are partial, and some none at all. It’s really bothersome when people accuse athletes of being unjustly paid when athletics is like a second job. I mean, our sports are the equivalent of basically normal students working to help support their education and finances.

OS: You said most people are impressed, how do you feel about that? Have you ever felt like someone was just hanging out with you because you’re an athlete?
DK: (laughing) Well, I appreciate it but I don’t see it that way. I’m just a regular student, myself! Luckily I’ve never had someone try to use me for my “status,” maybe once or twice, but it’s pretty detectable.

OS: What’s your favorite part of being a student athlete?
DK: Honestly, playing in the Big Ten at Penn State is one of the coolest things ever. Putting on that jersey with the Nittany Lion on it has been one of the more rewarding things as an athlete. And I can’t lie, the gear we get is pretty awesome too!

OS: What is your major, and do you think sometimes athletes pick majors based on their busy schedules?
DK: I’m a marketing major and yes, some of them do. For example, some transfers were business majors at another school but the business school (at Penn State) won’t accept transfers. Some pick majors with their commitment to the team in mind, as well.

OS: Is there anything that people wouldn’t expect about you at face value? What do you like to do off of the field?
DK: Something that people don’t know about me is that I don’t even look like an athlete. When I’m on the field, I’m competing and trying to put my team in the best position. When I’m off the field, I try to involve myself in as many things as possible because I know I have limited time. I love to write, I’m an English minor. I really enjoy hiking, the outdoors, and traveling. If anyone was looking to make me super happy, they should get me coffee from W.R. Clarke’s in State College.

About the Author

Sara Civian

Sara Civian is one of Onward State's three ridiculously good looking managing editors, a hockey writer at heart, and an Oxford comma Stan. She's a senior majoring in journalism, minoring in history, and living at Bill Pickle's Tap Room. Her favorite pastimes are telling people she's from Boston, watching the Bruins, and meticulously dissecting the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album. She's seen Third Eye Blind live 14 times. If you really hate yourself, you can follow her at @SaraCivian or email her at [email protected]

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