Student-athletes combine brain with brawn


Senior quarterback Nick Mullens attempts a pass during practice on August 14.

It is rumored that Vince Lombardi once said, “If you are five minutes early, you are already ten minutes late.” But, how important is school tardiness to a student-athlete?

After all, a student-athlete has to focus on fighting for a starting position, maintaining a physically healthy body, being able to dissect their playbook and last but not least – go to class.

“Basically just scheduling your time and your day wisely,” said senior defensive linemen Dylan Bradley. “I see football as just like school, because you have to be sharp. You have to rest.”

Two highly-touted freshmen, Jacques Turner and Lorenzo Dantzler, have been taken under Bradley’s wing. As a senior, Bradley has already had first days back to school after a summer filled with football workouts. With his last one possibly behind him, he can only tell the younger guys the importance of making the grades to stay on the field.

“I tell them every day to go to class,” Bradley said. “You’re not here just to play football – you’re actually here to get a degree. When football is done, you can always depend on that degree. Football never lasts forever. That’s what I tell them.”

Bradley is one leader on the team and another leader is senior quarterback Nick Mullens. The
star gunslinger was named to the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll in 2014 and 2015. Combined with his success on the field, Mullens feels as if he has found a combination in brains and brawn.

“Take care of your business,” Mullens said. “You see so many guys that are good enough to be real – real contributors – and for whatever reason they don’t take care of their business.”

The success of these two athletes is directly correlated to the repetition of doing the same thing year after year. As seniors, these players have seen others around them fall by the wayside if they cannot focus on both school and football.

With repetitions, these two have found a nice rhythm balancing the ball and life.

“It’s nice to get back in the swing of things,” Mullens said. “To be able to get back in a rhythm when school gets in session – it’s really kind of the start of the season. It’s almost game week, so that’s my mindset.”

Only a week out from taking the field in Lexington against the Wildcats, school can intrude the momentum that these players have built up over the summer break.

Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said he has seen the transition returning to the classroom can be a rough one, especially on the first week of classes.

“I’ve never been anywhere where this day was a good practice day, because there are just so many distractions,” Dawson said. “Not that it was terrible, but it wasn’t great. Typically, that’s been the case the first day of school.”

When asked to fast-forward to a time where academics can take a backseat to NFL aspirations and life beyond Southern Miss, Bradley said he is very near-sighted with his goals.

“It’s always in the back of my mind,” Bradley said. “But right now, my focus is to beat Kentucky – to help my team beat an SEC team for the first time since 16 years ago.”

With academics and football as the primary focuses on the first day of school and onward, these two seniors will try to lead the team to a finish line beyond a 9 – 5 record and a high team grade point average.