“The Comebacks.” “The Waterboy.” “Blue Mountain State.” Films and television shows such as these often paint college football players in a less-than-intelligent light. Society is extremely influenced by the media it consumes; judging by comments from a member of the football team at Chapman University, these stereotypes may have seeped into the thought process of their peers.
“I think they look at us as just a bunch of goofballs,” said Dillon Keefe, a junior outside linebacker on the Chapman football team. Fellow linebacker Duncan Heger shrugged off the notion that fighting against classic stereotypes of football players was particularly difficult, but acknowledged that perception does exist.
“There’s a stigma being a football player, but I think there’s a stigma with whatever you’re necessarily involved in,” Heger said. “I don’t think I’m a victim in any way, but the stereotypical Hollywood thing is ‘Oh, it’s just a jock,’ and you have to prove to people that you’re more than that, but I don’t think it’s that hard.”
The Panther spoke to 10 Chapman students about their perception of the football team. Generally, students consistently responded that this trope of players being less intelligent carried no weight. However, junior television writing and production major David Zalasin did admit that for him, making fun of players was a sort of defense mechanism to boost his own self-confidence.
“I’ll be perfectly honest, my first thought when I see a football player is, ‘Wow, you’re in great shape. Good for you, that’s impressive,’” Zalasin said. “I then usually console myself by saying, ‘They’re probably pretty stupid.’ Grant Oliphint, also a junior television writing and production major, provided some perspective that this judgment of football players wasn’t simply contained within Chapman’s campus.
Oliphint played football for 13 years and was a wide receiver on his high school’s team in Richardson, Texas. He said he felt support from students during his playing career, but that teachers were biased in their perception of players.
“If he’s not paying attention one time (in class), they might think, ‘Oh, this guy is stupid,’” Oliphint said.
Oliphint mentioned that Chapman students may have a misconception about the football team, given that athletes aren’t playing in a Division I environment – which can lead to a dismissal of the program.
“People here might get the wrong idea about Division III football; it’s still college football. They’re still working out and they’re still insanely good athletes, otherwise they wouldn’t be out there,” Oliphint said. “At a school like this, where the arts are super encouraged, (students) don’t take sports as seriously.”
Despite intense physical training, players in the football program aren’t only focused on athletics, said Keefe. An emphasis on academics comes from within the program, a culture fostered by head coach Bob Owens.
“Coach focuses not just on your talent football wise, but it’s more your personal life – your personal goals, what you want to do in your life outside or off the field,” Keefe said. Keefe is the captain of the football team.
He’s racked up over 100 total tackles in his Chapman career and with only four games under his belt this season, has as of Oct. 13 twice been awarded Defensive Athlete of the Week for the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Yet despite his accomplishments, he doesn’t want to be known on Chapman’s campus as solely a football player.
“It’s a thing that I do – it’s something that I love to do – but I’m the same as everybody else in a lot of other aspects,” Keefe said. “We don’t think of ourselves as higher than anybody else. We just want to go to school and get good grades.”