Logan Zone

Athletes must 'man up' about education

Posted September 25, 2013

McLendon: Squandered opportunity

T.A. McLendon was a high school superstar in Albemarle, North Carolina. He won a state championship and racked up 9,000-plus yards rushing.

"I didn’t think I would get to go to college. " he told the WRAL Documentary unit in an interview for "College $ports: #MissionorMoney." McLendon's upbringing – dad was "around as much as he could" – and economic situation put college out of reach. Until he started scoring those touchdowns – 178 of them over four years at Albemarle High.

So he got an opportunity that most boys in his hometown and thousands of other small towns across the country do not. He got to go to college. 

And more than that, he got the cheers and the support that your average student doesn't get as he grinds his way to a degree in architecture or engineering or chemistry.

McLendon signed with North Carolina State University. “I know I can’t make it at Duke. I’m not smart enough,” he said.

And he was a star on a whole different level. His 18 touchdowns as a true freshman earned him the ACC Rookie of the Year for 2002 and a nickname. T.A., to Wolfpack fans, stood for Touchdown Anytime.

Where he was not spending any time was on his studies. 

"I wanted to go there and red shirt," McLendon said. "I kind of got thrown into the fire."

You know what comes next. The body takes a beating in football and McLendon missed four games to injury in 2003, as a sophomore.

But he was sure he was going to "The League." That's what all these kids think. Thousands play college football each year. A couple hundred get drafted to the NFL, and even fewer make it as pros.

My question to that top recruit is: What's your backup plan? You've got the opportunity to get an education, so you better take advantage of that.

What's more, so-called student-athletes have access to better academic support than every other student on campus. You've got a team – it's the coaches, counselors and tutors who are committed to seeing you succeed, or at least stay academically eligible. If you sit in those classes, something's got to sink in.

McLendon said he was "the training room man," spending more time in there than anybody on the team.

Where did that get him? Right back to Albemarle 10 years later.

"You want to go to this NFL because it’s so big and it’s so luxurious looking, but you want to do so well on the field yet you lose sight of what you really need to be doing," he said. And that is getting a degree and preparing for the day when the field lights dim.

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  • SuperStuff Sep 26, 12:42 p.m.

    The point is student athletes need to get that degree. If they leave early for the NFL and it doesn't work out they need to get back in the classroom and get that degree. Don't squander your opportunity for an education when it's in front of you.

  • Hammerhead Sep 26, 10:31 a.m.

    That it took me (and numerous others) a while to find a suitable major was never my point, and... View More

    — Posted by Frizz

    I'm a history junkie, can't get enough of it. But for me, sitting through History classes was a chore, and no way I'd even consider majoring in History or making a career out of it. Science is my bag, even a lot of my hobbies are analytical. Math and Physics were actually very intesting and fun for me, but I majored in Biology because it was my real passion, and knew it from the get-go. I write as a (paid) hobby, and much of it is history, so I still have a reason to scratch that itch. Finding a major that you like is worth the trouble. I suspect that you still enjoy engineering and architechture, form and function coupled with a bit of artistic thinking, but the analytical portion isn't for everyone.

  • Frizz Sep 26, 9:37 a.m.

    That it took me (and numerous others) a while to find a suitable major was never my point, and that TA was not your average student was not lost on me either. The point I was trying to make is that Chemistry, Engineering, Architecture, et al. are so difficult and require so much more than the average student is willing to give, rarely if ever do you find an "average" student in those majors.

  • YouGotThatRight Sep 25, 11:14 p.m.

    My roommate in college was not an athlete. He majored in and graduated with a degree in construction management. One day he told me he originally wanted to go to UNC Charlotte and major in architecture but when he saw how detailed the application was he chose construction management instead. My first thought was how the heck were you going to become an architect if you don't like detailed documents? The coaches who recruit these guys, as well as the schools who admit them without the proper educational foundation are more concerned about winning and money than they are people. How bad did Steve Spurrier hurt both times his running back blew out his knees? At the same time, the parents should encourage their kids to read rather than play sports all hours after class.

  • TSKMFs Sep 25, 10:14 p.m.

    Even the bogus "First Year College" program couldn't help TA at NC State. FYC is NOT any... View More

    — Posted by Jewelry-EricLeak

    You realize that AFAM is a major. FYC is for a single year, in which many students take... View More

    — Posted by packfan1752

    Don't waste keystrokes on a DA.

    FYC/ Undeclared/ Undecided...ALL schools have some form of this when entering college. All don't have dr. kangaroo, & fake classes, grades, & cirriculums.(AFAM)

  • Hammerhead Sep 25, 10:11 p.m.

    Logan wrote: "And more than that, he got the cheers and the support that your average student... View More

    — Posted by Frizz

    Maybe you just weren't cut out to be an engineer in the first place.

  • scorekeep Sep 25, 9:34 p.m.

    Players have tons of support while in school. TA did not care enough to take advantage of the help that was available to him. He made the mistakes, no one should feel sorry for him.

  • TB from WF Sep 25, 9:28 p.m.

    Seems to me it's not all the athletes fault.

    Schools fly these kids all over the country to... View More

    — Posted by Dubble EE

    Excellent post, EE! The fans need to own their part in it, too.

  • Alex25 Sep 25, 5:56 p.m.

    Didn't Dean's players graduate at a high rate - but we now know it was a sham - ?? An AFAM-SHAM - even back then ....? Lawrence Taylor went to class .... yea, riiiight.

  • Sauras69 Sep 25, 5:54 p.m.

    Logan wrote: "And more than that, he got the cheers and the support that your average student... View More

    — Posted by Frizz

    Fritz. I respect what you wrote about switching your curricula. Logan told the truth. If you go back you will see that TA wasn't an average student. Sorry, you missed the point. I changed my major 4 times in undergraduate school. I matured and found a few Masters, and a Ed.D. Being poor is no excuse for not being educated. If TA wants it, he will find a way. This is why our schools aren't much compared to the World Country's. Education is the only thing that will keep TA out of poverty for the rest of his life.

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