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Good Sports DePauw contributes to sports – and sports contribute to players

Gold Within

is a regular feature of DePauw Magazine, which is published three times a year.

For former pro quarterback Steve Young, playing sports was about “competing against yourself. It’s about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before.”

For political columnist George F. Will, a baseball aficionado, “sports serve society by providing vivid examples of excellence.”

Whatever the reason – camaraderie or competitiveness, exercise, entertainment or the pursuit of excellence – numerous DePauw students find value in playing on one or more of the university’s 23 Division III sports teams or participating in intramural sports. And, as this issue of DePauw Magazine demonstrates, some go on to work in the sports world.

“What I have found in my entire athletic career, both playing and working adjacent to it, is that sports literally has an overwhelming variety of ways that bring out the best in all of us – and that’s us as a society, as a people,” said Michael Akinbola ’09, a physical therapist for the New England Patriots. 

“In the context of sports, we have people get challenged to be their best selves, to be better than themselves tomorrow than today. … We find a community of people who begin to collaborate and work with each other regardless of their differences. In fact, many times it is celebrating their differences to get the job done.” 

As an individual freestyler and member of the relay team, Nancy Gritter ’88 broke a lot of records. The Carolina Panthers’ lead internist said, “the value of sports is goal setting. It’s that mentality of 1% better every day. … You’re part of a team to make the whole of the team better.”

Tim Cooper ’97, assistant football coach at the University of Indianapolis, said sports provides an opportunity “to work as a team and get along with others to be productive. … We can collaborate together and we can come up with a game plan (and) go through some adversity and battle back.”

For Stevie Baker-Watson, DePauw’s associate vice president for campus wellness and the Theodore Katula director of athletics and recreational sports, sport “allows you on a daily basis to practice skills that you wouldn’t otherwise get to practice, like teamwork, discipline, work ethic, integrity. …

“Sport enables us to practice those intangible things. People can teach knowledge, you can learn content, but it’s hard to teach people to be on time if they’ve never been on time, right? They lacked the discipline. It’s hard to teach resiliency, unless you've actually had to work through it yourself, to understand what you need to do physically and mentally to rebound from something that you've been disappointed on.”

Sport, she said, also provides an environment “in which you are rewarded for great things” but must learn “to understand how to accept that with humility and look at it through an unselfish lens of ‘it's not just me who is the one who did this, but we were able to do this together.’ It is a real-life learning lab for folks.”

DePauw has produced many noteworthy alumni who have found careers or avocations in sports. In addition to those profiled herein, they include these alum:

Brad Stevens ’99, a hall of fame basketball player, has left coaching the NBA’s Boston Celtics to run the team’s front office. Matt Bolero ’08, who played basketball and golf at DePauw, is the director of scouting for the Milwaukee Bucks and Javair Gillett ’01, a baseball player at DePauw, is the vice president of sport science and performance for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Brad Brownell ’91, a member of the only DePauw men’s basketball team to play in a national Division III championship game, is the head basketball coach at Clemson University. ESPN recently ranked him No. 46 out of 68 NCAA tournament coaches as players, with a nod to his play in that 1990 game.

In football, JaMarcus Shephard ’05, a two-time All-American wide receiver who was inducted into DePauw’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018 for his prowess in football and track, is co-offensive coordinator and receivers’ coach at Purdue University. Tim Hreha ’73 played football for DePauw and went on to spend 50 more years at DePauw, retiring as an assistant football coach and assistant track and field coach.

Brad Hauter ’87, DePauw’s soccer goalkeeper for four years, played professional soccer for a decade. He has been DePauw’s head soccer coach since 2008 and is an on-air color analyst for broadcasts of Indy Eleven’s professional soccer matches.

Noah Droddy ’13, a standout on DePauw’s cross country team, keeps chasing his dreams and last year became the fastest-ever marathoner out of Indiana. Despite having his right leg amputated below the knee, John Jessup ’17, played lacrosse in high school and competed in the Paratriathlon National Championships in 2017 and 2018.

Other alums were not athletes at DePauw but have made sports their profession anyway. They include Jill Frederickson ’92, whowas named senior vice president, production and content strategy, at ESPN in January 2020, and David Dietz ’11, the NBA’s social responsibility program director.  

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