By Kyle Standing - SHS class of 2019
In today’s world, stereotypes are used often to describe our peers. Whether it be race, religion, height, weight, or many others, many are naturally inclined to make assumptions based off of these classifications. High school students can even be judged by their involvement in sports or activities. “Jock” and “meathead” are nouns that are often used to describe athletes and particularly football players. Fortunately, the same world where stereotypes are used is the same world where those very assumptions are proven wrong, with a perfect example being the Summit High School Football team. Regardless of the words that are thrown around about them, the performances of Summit High’s football players both on and off the field show the community that a better phrase to describe them would be “student athlete.” Specific examples of this come in the form of four members of the graduating class who have all decided to take their talent on and off the gridiron to universities of high integrity and class. These four being Wide Receiver, Max Hayford (committed to The College of New Jersey), Lineman Joe Shepard (committed to Cornell University), Free Safety Luca Curran (committed to University Of Pennsylvania) and Center Kevin Cahill (committed to Penn State University). These four, along with many alumni and current players, are debunking these unjustified stereotypes on a daily basis.
These four extraordinary kids will tell you that the “dumb jock” stereotype is very much alive in the world, but is not so much alive within our community with the program holding high standards for its players on both the football field and in the classroom and, while they were true standouts in between the lines, they point more toward their academic success as the reason for their commitments. Luca Curran went on to say, “Football players definitely get a bad reputation of being dumb jocks. I think at least in Summit that stereotype is being knocked down though. Most of the kids that get recruited and go on to play college football out of Summit actually get that opportunity because of our status as excellent students.” He later says “I would believe that Summit is a town where the student athlete is flourishing. I don’t think that I am viewed by my peers as a jock which is excellent.” Similarly, teammate and classmate Kevin Cahill, when asked how he felt about the “jock” stereotype in Summit, stated,”I do not think football players are seen as jocks at Summit High School because academics is very important to every kid and being a student athlete is the goal when you are playing for Summit.” It is clear to see that these kids are not only held to high standards by coaches and teachers, but by themselves. They make it their primary goal to succeed in the classroom before handling business every weekend on the field.
Some may ask how they do this as there is a load of work that goes into being exceptional students but a whole other load that is added on both in season and in the off season that leads to their success on the field. The answer, according to these men, is simple. It all comes down to scheduling and organizing one’s time. As Max Hayford puts it, “football brought out a hardworking trait in me that allowed me to push myself on the field and off. It was hard adjusting to High School but I eventually found a routine where I would be able to manage all of my school work along with competing in sports. Joe Shepard had a very different beginning to his career but a very similar ending to his fellow Seniors, claiming, “Sophomore year was my first year playing football so having freshman year to adjust academically to high school definitely helped.” He would then talk about his struggles between two sizeable commitments but came to the same conclusion by the end of his career.” It really helped me find a schedule and a way to manage my time after practice and during study hall.” With possibly the two largest commitments you can obtain as a student at Summit High, these men were able to work themselves into a system that worked for them that would allow for them to succeed in both of those elements of their lives and are now very prepared for the next level where they will look to continue that same success.
These four are only continuing the path to success that has been set by alumni before them, with many kids from past Hilltopper squads thriving at the next level at exceptional schools. They, at the same time, have set an excellent example for student athletes that will come after them and this very example is something that can eliminate the “jock” stereotype in the community all together. Hayford, when asked about the difficulties of balancing his commitments, said it perfectly. “You’re a student first, then an athlete and I think most people follow that phrase and strive to be student athletes.”
When asked his opinion of the success his players have had on the field and in the classroom, Head Football Coach Kevin Kostibos had this to say, "The colleges that our players are continuing their athletic careers at are just so impressive. This may be the one thing I'm most proud of. We emphasize with our players that we want guys who understand that the academic and athletic worlds are very similar. Just as we prepare for a game on the field, they must prepare for a test in the classroom. That includes studying game film just as they should study notes and classwork. It's a mental toughness that must be stressed as early as possible. Look at the list of where kids have gone on to play; Harvard, Hopkins, UPenn, Cornell, Middlebury, Brown, just to name a few. We look for our players to dominate seven days a week, not just gameday. The scholar-athlete is very much alive and well in our football family here in Summit."
Check out HilltopperU to view all past Scholar Athletes and where they have played.