Two Waynesburg student-athletes among the 123 Division III football players pursuing additional degrees this season

“Student-athletes have excellent time management skills because they have to,” said Jennifer Roy, Assistant Professor of Business Administration and NCAA Faculty Athletic Representative (FAR) for Waynesburg.

Student-athletes have a lot on their plate and must balance a plethora of factors. Whether it is studying, practicing, or lifting, it can become a heavy load. 

Imagine adding a graduate program on top of all those components. 

The National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame recently announced that 3,113 student-athletes who have already received an undergraduate degree will play football this season. 

According to the NCAA, 123 of those students compete on the Division III level, two of which attend Waynesburg. Due to the pandemic, student-athletes playing during the midst of the virus were granted a sixth year of eligibility.

Sixth-year defensive lineman Caleb Stephens is pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree in Integrated Marketing, following his undergraduate degree in Sports Management. When choosing Waynesburg, finding an institution with a graduate program was a key factor for Stephens. 

Stephens’ schedule has increased in rigor, as he finds himself working in the office at Allstate in the morning after team lifts, with more practice in the afternoon and school on his own time. 

“COVID did not have an impact on my decision to come back for another year,” Stephens said. “When you come in you don’t expect to get a redshirt year, or a virus comes and gives you another year of eligibility. It worked out in my favor that COVID came and gave me another year of being able to play football and not just attend the university.”

Sixth-year quarterback Tyler Raines took a different path in his athletic journey, transferring into the Swarm as a Junior from Towson University. 

Raines is pursuing an MBA with a focus on Project Management. Raines has served as a huge asset to the Yellow Jackets. While having the longest pass play in program history, Raines has also sat on the PAC Academic Honor Roll.  The eligibility he received from COVID had a significant impact on his decision to come back.

“COVID was essentially the whole reason that brought me back to school to be able to pursue continuing my athletic career,” Raines said. “If it wasn’t for COVID, I would have graduated from my previous institution and begun working.”

Defensive Backs Coach and Graduate Assistant Luke Sheridan took on a similar path as the two graduate student-athletes. 

Sheridan played Division I football at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. He achieved his first master’s while playing at Ohio and is pursuing his second master’s degree through Waynesburg, alongside being a coach. 

Through playing college football, Sheridan was able to build his platform and network, landing him the job he has today. Sheridan believes more Division III athletes will gravitate towards completing secondary degrees.

 “The quality of education at the Division III level particularly is so good,” Sheridan said. 

Roy recommends that student-athletes should consider taking a path of continuing education, as she believes having additional academic credentials will make students more valuable in the workplace.

 “I think that we’re going to be seeing more student-athletes continue on not only to further their education, but to continue their athletic career as well,” Roy said. “A lot of schools in Division III are now adding more programs, graduate programs that are available to athletes.” 

Graduate student-athletes will continue to strive for excellence on and off the field. 

“I think everyone that wants to continue their education should be able to, no matter what division level they are,” Stephens said. “As an African-American in the United States, one big thing that sets me apart from anybody else is the amount of education I have received.”