Tarheel #13 Cameron Johnson plays the game very well…
Not just for being a member of the defending national champion UNC hoops squad, but for being well on his way to earning a graduate degree while still on scholarship. Like Dallas Cowboy quarterback Dac Prescott, who earned his graduate and undergraduate degree while on a football scholarship at Mississippi State University, Johnson joins a growing number of college athletes in all sports who are leaving school with a master’s degree, too.
Andrew Weidinger walked on to the football team at William & Mary and left as the starting fullback with not just a BA and MA in accounting, but also a CPA soon thereafter added to his list of letters.
“In the recruiting process, William & Mary made the point that I could leave with both a BA and MA in Accounting,” recalls Weidinger, who is now with the accounting firm PwC. “They pointed out that I would most likely be a redshirt and should use that extra year to earn a graduate degree.”
This support for and direction to a graduate degree continued over the course of his letterman career at William & Mary.
So well did it work that Weidinger was the nominee for the William V. Campbell Trophy. Called the “Academic Heisman,” it is awarded annually by the National Football Foundation for academics, community service, and on-field performance. The athletic program at William & Mary worked well for others, too.
Tight end Eric Hensley, another walk-on, used his varsity career to earn two masters from William & Mary, the first player ever to graduate with a total of three degrees! This was a product of a dedicated athletic department as Weidinger notes that, “There were weekly meetings with academic advisers to discuss social education along with other topics. We had mandatory study halls with our work continually monitored by the staff.”
“The coaching staff at William & Mary constantly emphasized that you are here to earn a degree from one of the best schools in the country. We will try to help you realize your NFL dream, they would say, but school comes first,” he remembers.
According to the National Football Foundation, 954 players took the field this season after earning their undergraduate degree.
These student-athletes evince how an athletic scholarship to an American school, even without the graduate degree kicker, is the best deal in the history of college sports for players. It can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. According to an article in Forbes, future earnings can be $2 million higher than for those without a degree. By every measure, college athletes perform better than others. Those like Weidinger, Hensley and the 954 football players this year are further proof of the success of athletic directors and programs in graduating scholar-athletes, with more and more now earning advanced degrees to enhance their career prospects.
The most important part of a college athletic scholarship is the academic opportunity and, with it, the unparalleled support for the student-athlete to maximize their career potential.
Few college athletes will go on to play professional sports. But all receive tremendous institutional support in finishing their college degree if they are responsible. For those who listen and perform, there is a graduate degree to top off their career as a student-athlete!