By Mr. Michael Maddox (ROTC)January 18, 2017
San Antonio, Texas (Jan. 8, 2017) -- Being a member of a team can be a challenging, yet rewarding experience with lots of lessons to be learned and trials to overcome. Michigan State University Cadet Austin Wolfe has found this out doubly by being a part of two teams simultaneously -- the ROTC program at his school and the college's football team.
Wolfe, who graduates this year, played on the Michigan State football team as a wide receiver and is completing his training to be a newly minted Army officer. Even though that wasn't how the former high school football player planned to complete his education, he said all of the work from being a dual-hatted college attendee has educated him in several ways.
"I went to Michigan State purely on an ROTC scholarship, and I thought that was just going to be it. But once I got there, football was still a passion of mine," he said. "I had played up until my senior year of high school where I thought it was going to be over, but I got a chance to walk-on the team. In my first month I was doing ROTC, academics and football. It's been a challenge but it's been a great challenge that keeps me on my toes and busy."
"I got on the team and I was told by many people that it just couldn't be done -- to do ROTC and football at the same time. But it is something that can be done," added Wolfe. "It's not easy - you wake up every day and you're doing something. It's challenging, but I told myself when I first got there that I wanted to be the best person I could be and graduate in the best standing I could, so I pushed myself."
Capt. Matthew Kabat, Assistant Professor of Military Science at Michigan State, said Wolfe handled that challenge with dedication, planning and the support of both sets of his "coaches."
"He handled it very well - but it was because he worked at it," he said. "We developed an informal contract between Cadet Wolfe and his coaches. This ensured he would be where he needed to be, and both ROTC and the football team were aware of his requirements."
"One of the traits we emphasize here is time management. Cadet Wolfe gravitated to that ideal very well, his schedule even included written in 'study time' which ensured he met all academic standards," added Kabat. "Cadet Wolfe did a great job managing all aspects of his college life, and made it successfully through his academic career because he planned and managed his time very well."
Wolfe's attitude also played a large role in his success, said Kabat.
"His motivation to succeed is what seems to drive his success, and he has been successful by way of getting assessed to active duty in the aviation branch," said Kabat. None of this would have been possible for him without his strong motivation and dedication to the Michigan State AROTC program, as well as his positive attitude."
Playing football and being a future Soldier require two different uniforms, but Wolfe said he's seen they share a lot of the same qualities.
"You kind of have two families in ROTC and football. You're busy and it takes a lot of time management, but that teaches you a lot of awesome values that will help you in the future," he said. "There are so many attributes that you are instilled with as an ROTC Cadet that coexist in football -- teamwork, leadership, discipline -- it's a leadership program just like football. You learn lifelong lessons that will benefit you for years to come."
Wolfe was recently invited to attend the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio Jan. 8 and spent the days leading up to the game sharing his experiences with football players and their parents.
"Surprisingly, I've mainly been speaking to parents who are asking questions and wanting know how I did and what the options are for their child. I've been providing a different perspective for people to understand how I've done both and how you can truly exceed some of your limits," he said.
Wolfe said he also felt fortunate because he was able to spend time with and share his experience with the commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command, Maj. Gen. Chris Hughes.
"To be around someone like that, with that much influence, is really a great learning experience," he said. "I've been trying to be like a sponge and soak up as much as I can from being around all of the leaders in the military I've met."
Wolfe rounded out his visit to the All-American Bowl by getting the opportunity to step onto a football field one more time.
"I was right there on the sidelines as the players were warming up. Just doing that and getting to be on the field of the Alamodome definitely brings back memories," he shared. "I hope they cherish it, because it goes by fast."