It’s tough being a student athlete. Balancing school, university level sport, training, social life and potentially a job is a lot to pack in every week. This level of commitment takes a special person to succeed at all of the above and the University of Ottawa football program has produced two exceptional men who have demonstrated success on the field and in the classroom. Rashid Timbilla and Michael Randazzo were four-year football players for the Gee-Gees and have now been accepted to law school. Their hard work and dedication are examples of student athlete success and coach Jamie Barresi is very proud of them.
In an interview with head coach, Jamie Barresi, he spoke about the importance of academics for student athletes:
What do you do with your players to ensure that they perform well in the classroom along with competing on the field?
“Study hall is mandatory. It is used to teach our players study skills. We bring in speakers to talk with the team about how to be good students, how to take notes, how to write papers, how to prepare for exams, how to write an exam and how to schedule time. We have also ran workshops for speed reading. This is all beneficial for our players, especially first year players because they need to learn to be students.”
What do academics mean to you?
“Academics is a very important part of being a student athlete. We want our players to get the full university experience and that includes academics and social life. Selfishly, I need them to be eligible to play in their 3rd and 4th years because that is typically when they’re playing their best football. Also, I want them to be successful in life after university. The success of these players are examples of the achievement that we try to nurture. Mike and Rashid were both disciplined, great leaders, and prime examples of successful student athletes.”
How do you think football has trained both Mike and Rashid to become better students?
“Time management is the biggest lesson for our players. It has taught them that they need to be committed to contributing to school and football in order to achieve success.”
Coach Barresi has always emphasized the importance of academics for his players and he was very excited to hear about Rashid and Mike’s acceptance to the law program here at the University of Ottawa.
Rashid Timbilla, who played on the defensive line for the Gee-Gees, finished his four years with a total of 63 tackles in 29 games and graduated in 2016. He has now made the switch from a football lineman to a law school student. Rashid will be attending the University of Ottawa law program starting in the fall of 2017.
Rashid was asked about how he juggled football and school during his university career:
How did playing football train you to become a better student?
“uOttawa football helped me tremendously. I suffer from a learning disability and before football it was hard for me to learn about new concepts and theories. Through football, I was able to adopt a hands-on approach to learning which helped shape my learning style and increase my understanding of different academic concepts and elements. This allowed me to excel in my academics. Also, my time management was something that improved due to my commitments on-and-off the field. Coach Barresi made it known that as student-athletes we needed to balance our responsibilities effectively.”
How much did good academics mean to Coach Barresi and what did he do to ensure his players did well in the classroom?
“Coach Barresi held – and still holds – a high value on academics. When I called him and told him I got into law school he was so proud because it showed how student athletes could excel on the field and in the classroom. During my time under Coach B he made it known that if you had bad grades there’d be consequences. One year, he banned almost 20+ players from participating in our spring camp because they had bad grades from the semester before. He made them watch, but never allowed them to play. At one point we had half an o-line. I think the central thing to Coach B is that he wants us to be good football players, but more importantly he wants us to be better students.”
What was your path to law school?
“I had no real path to law school. I was always motivated to better myself and continue to progress – academically and physically – and through this, I knew I wanted to do great things and law could help in this endeavor.
During my second year I joined the philanthropic group Project, FLY – Future Leaders in Youth. Through that club, I was able to help the at-risk youth community of Ottawa learn about the value of post-secondary education and the benefits of financial sustainability and education. This experience helped me learn how the criminal justice system could have an immense impact on these impressionable youth. That was the first instance I knew I wanted to do law. The time commitment and leadership I showed in football also helped me with my path to law school. As captain during the 2015-2016 season, I showcased skills that I felt law schools found appealing; leadership, empathy and teamwork were all big things that I highlighted in my applications.”
What is in the future for you after law school?
“I truly haven’t thought that far. I’m going into law school not knowing what I completely want to do yet. Originally, I wanted to become a Crown Attorney because I was fascinated in the law & order side of the justice system and felt that the position could help make my community a better place. To be honest, I’m hoping to leave law school a better person than when I came in – academically, interpersonally and conscientiously - and have the skills necessary to have a positive influence on my community and society in whatever way possible.”
Mike Randazzo is another shining example of what it means to be a student athlete. The Hamilton, Ontario native played for the Gee-Gees from 2011 until 2015 as a defensive back, received his Honours BA in Psychology with a minor in Aboriginal Studies in 2014, completed his MA in Human Kinetics in 2016 and will now begin law school at the University of Ottawa in September. Mike also received an Academic All-Canadian award in 2015 along with the Presidents award during the 2013-14 season for his ability to combine athletics, academics and community involvement on and off campus.
When asked about how football helped him to become a better student, Mike said, “Playing football here helped me become a better student because it taught me the skills needed to succeed. Football taught me time management, resilience, discipline and to ask for help and lean on my teammates.”
Like Rashid, he also spoke about the emphasis that Coach Barresi puts on academics. “I think academics meant just as much as winning to coach B. He always talked about how he was trying to turn us into men, not just football players. His players succeeding after football is what makes him happy. He made us attend seminars on how to become a better student, i.e. speed reading classes and how to take proper notes. The team ran a homework club session twice a week for the team, which was mandatory for first year players and players on academic probation. Coach would also let people participate in winter and spring ball if their grades were acceptable.”
Mike’s path to law school began early in his academic career and although it was not the smoothest road success, he persevered to accomplish his goal. “My drive to attend law school started in high school. I graduated knowing that’s what I wanted to do. Unfortunately, the demands of my sport, consecutive knee surgeries and the passing of my father made my grades slip. I was at an all time low but I realized that feeling sorry for myself wasn't going to change anything, so I refocused and brought my grades up. I secured a master’s degree and have now been accepted to law school.”
As for his plans after law school, Mike is optimistic and hopes that he can make a difference for those who need his help. Mike said, “I don't know what the future holds, all I know is that I'll be practicing law with the hope of lending my voice to people that society tends to undervalue.”
The Gee-Gees would like to congratulate Rashid Timbilla and Mike Randazzo on their acceptance to the University of Ottawa law school. Their accomplishments on and off the football field are examples of student-athlete success that university programs hope to nurture.