Growing up, many athletes dream of becoming professional athletes, and the student-athletes at the University of Indianapolis are no exception. Every person playing a sport at one point or another wants to be a professional athlete, according to Football Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line Coach Brad Wilson.
“If you’re a basketball player, baseball player, football player, the goal at some point [is to go pro],” Wilson said.
Head Men’s Basketball Coach Paul Corsaro said that professional sports influence college athletes because athletes at a professional level are student-athletes’ idols. Student-athletes watch the pros on TV and try to emulate them, he said.
“Everybody has those figures or people in their life that they look up to, and that’s who the professional sports athletes are for our student-athletes,” Corsaro said.
Head Baseball Coach Al Ready said that college players definitely pay attention to what is going on in professional sports. Several of Ready’s players watched the shortened MLB season this year and Ready said that he saw the players having many good conversations about the games on the team’s GroupMe, which is a messaging app for the purpose of group communication..
“I think they definitely look up to professional athletes and they try the best they can to be like them on the field,” Ready said. “But I think also when you had issues like the NBA shutting down this past summer because of what was going on in the world, and then Major League Baseball followed suit at the time …. I think those were all important issues that the players paid attention to and they want to do their part too.”
Ready said that as a former career minor league and independent player himself, he always watched and paid attention to what was going on with baseball at the time, and what the professional athletes did. He said he watched what they were wearing and how they trained. If someone wants to be a professional baseball player or a professional athlete, they have to do what the professionals are doing, he said.
“It’s something that you really got to focus on, and you got to find out what these guys are doing,” Ready said. “The media obviously plays a big part in that …. I can definitely relate myself, even though you’re going back 20-something years, things have definitely changed in the last 20 years, but the one constant is you got to hang out with the people you want to be like. I’m a big believer in that.”
Football has student-athletes on their roster that aspire for a chance to play at the next level, Wilson said. He said that he thought the players understand the level of commitment and success — both academically and athletically — that it takes to be able to go to the highest level in the NFL. UIndy Football has already had some success with their alumni getting opportunities at the next level.
“You’ve got players like Reece Horn and Ruben Holcomb who within the last two years have gotten opportunities in camps and things like that in the NFL,” Wilson said. “Reece had success in the defunct, now it’s back, XFL …. We’ve got guys on this roster right now that have the ability to potentially play at the next level.”
Ready said that while he cannot speak for other sports, both his players and players on the women’s side of all sports have aspirations for playing professionally. Most of his players have aspirations to become the best they can be and climb the ladder to the highest level they can go, whether that be professional baseball or a minor league, he said.
“We had one get to the major leagues in 2012, Andrew Werner, a 2009 grad from UIndy and left-handed pitcher, so it’s very possible,” Ready said. “These guys [UIndy Baseball] pay attention to what’s going on. I think the social media platforms too, as well, that professional athletes are using are a great way to get their message out. Whether it’s training-type things or just their views on anything, I think [it is] having an effect on the college guys and they pay attention [to that]. They really do.”
The most important thing when playing in collegiate athletics is for student-athletes to get a degree because that cannot be taken away, according to Wilson. Opportunities such as the NFL and XFL can go away, so having a strong academic foundation is important, he said.
“If you come to UIndy, you put on good tape out there, and the scouts will notice that,” Wilson said. It’s an excellent opportunity for our guys to chase their goals [be]cause you only get to go through this life one time. You got to take advantage of every opportunity you can and work your butt off, both in the classroom and on the field and in the weight room, and our guys do a really nice job of that. So continuing that work ethic will help them not only in school and in football, but in life.”
Corsaro said he does not have many thoughts on how professional sports have influenced college athletes because it is the way it always has been and will continue to be.
“As a former athlete, I looked up to pro athletes, and I think that’s going to be the way it always is, and I think it’s the way it should be because they’re the pinnacle of their sport and what other athletes aspire to be,” Corsaro said.