This Friday and Saturday hundreds of students will celebrate receiving their hard-earned degrees from CSU with commencement ceremonies at Moby Arena and the Lory Student Center Main Ballroom.
Donning a cap and gown, it’ll be the culmination of four to five, and sometimes six years of Scantron tests, research papers and Power Point presentations.
But for a group of the school’s most-recognizable faces, the ceremony will take place in another state, in very different garb.
Dressed in pads and helmets, a significant group of CSU football players will be running with a ball instead of walking with a diploma to cap off their college careers.
It’s just one of the many ways student-athletes live a world very different from us regular student-students.
We’re judged with grades. They’re judged with wins. We spend countless hours in the library. They spend countless hours in the weight room. Granted, there’s definitely some overlap between those two.
But beyond that, how different are they really? Not so much.
With a post-college life looming in the near future, some Rams are less-than-psyched to make a living in the “real world.” And none have yet to grasp the idea the end is actually here.
“It’s kind of surreal,” said running back Kyle Bell, a journalism major who is among the football team’s list of fall graduates. “You always see that light at the end of the tunnel, but you never think it’s gonna get there as fast as it does.”
Bell’s backfield mate, Gartrell Johnson, can relate.
“It flew by fast. I never thought it would go by this fast, but it did,” said Johnson, who is majoring in liberal arts.
Said quarterback Billy Farris, who is also majoring in liberal arts: “It’s a little scary.” That coming from a guy who has faced some of the country’s most frightening defenses this year.
But while these Rams may be suffering from a classic case of college-style senioritis, they’re not in the least bit upset about missing this weekend’s graduation ceremonies. Playing in a bowl game, Farris said, will make him forget all about missing out on commencement.
As Bell said, “Bowl memories last forever.”
And as Johnson put it, “I’d rather be playing football.”
But what about their parents, aren’t they upset they won’t be able to see their sons officially graduate from college? After all, the whole tradition often seems more important to the parents than it does to the kids.
“They’re totally understanding about it,” Bell said.
“I don’t think they care that much about me not walking because we’re going to a bowl game, ya know?” Farris said.
“My dad, he loves football, so he’d rather me be playing too,” Johnson said.
But wait, why are these Rams so stoked, anyway?
Last time I checked, the New Mexico Bowl wasn’t where great teams aspire to be this time of year. Have you seen the trophy they’re playing for? It’s not exactly a symbol of college football excellence.
“We could care less about what (other people) think,” Farris said. “.We do it for each other, as a team, and that’s what makes it fun.”
It goes without saying the Rams would have a lot more fun with a victory Saturday, which would give the program its first winning season since 2003.
As Farris said, “We haven’t had that here in awhile.”
Sports columnist Sean Star can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.