Editor’s Note: Kenton Gibbs is the newest member of the SI All Wolfpack staff. He also has the unique perspective of having been a scholarship athlete himself, having been a member of the NC State football team for two seasons until injuries ended his career. Here, in his first contribution to the site, he addresses the current situation surrounding college athletics in the era of COVID-19 and what might be going through the players’ minds as the prepare for a season that might not take place:
Let me start by saying Power Five football players are as layered and varied as any other group that consist of thousands of individuals. However, many of us share the common experience of having our roles in the world largely revolve around the titles that come with our skillset.
Be it All-American, team captain, or pride of (insert school here) we all through various combinations of God-given talent, hard work and opportunity found ourselves at the biggest institutions in America with the same goals. Go to the league, win championships, excel as individuals, and get a degree or two along the way.
Now COVID has jeopardized all those things, except the degree.
It’s devastating as a former ACC football player and sports media member who’s witnessing this. Beating COVID (and by beating I mean containing well enough to have large gatherings again) is a team sport. And America as a team has fallen flat due to a wide multitude of reasons.
It isn’t just one sector or group of people to blame. For those who took this pandemic seriously from the start, you now know what it feels like to execute your job to perfection but still see an unfavorable outcome because your teammates were sleeping on the job. My heart goes out to you along with these athletes.
The Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences have both already postponed all fall sports including football at least until spring. And such a start date would bring its own set of problems. The SEC, ACC, and Big 12 seem to be pressing on toward what seems like an all but inevitable early end to already shortened conference only seasons.
So in this, I’m going to turn back the hands of time on myself and imagine what I’d be thinking through all of this chaos.
The first thing I’d likely experience is anger that this thing has stuck around so long. Anger at everything and everyone that I thought had a hand is taking away the game that is many of our sanctuaries and constructive places to enjoy ourselves.
That anger would eventually give way to more level headed sensible thoughts and at that point the thought is simply where do I go from here?
There’s a constant phrase uttered by coaches and motivational speakers alike; control the controllables/control what you can control. After watching Joe Burrow rise from teams having him as undrafted or third day pick to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft, I would think a similar story was attainable for myself.
The lack of games have destroyed the chance to make that longshot happen. But I can still work my tail off to be in shape and ready for the next time I have an opportunity to strap on my shoulder pads and wreak havoc. Many of the weight rooms are still open and teams are already training.
Even when outbreaks occur on college campuses (trusting tens of thousands of 18-22 year olds to social distance is a fools errand) and lead to a shutdown I’d just ask the head strength coach and my position coach what I need to do to be the best player I can be whenever football does come back.
As rapper Suga Free said in his debut hit single, “If you stay ready, you ain’t gotta get ready”.
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