Mike Beamish's Column in The Daily Pennsylvanian
PHILADELPHIA - On Wednesday, The Daily Pennsylvanian turned the keys to its sports page over to student-athletes who compete for the Red and Blue. Junior running back Mike Beamish was asked to write a column about what it means to play sprint football for the Quakers. His words are below.
As my football career in high school was wrapping up, I felt it was in my best interest to attend the University of Pittsburgh just for academics, rather than continuing to play football.
That all changed in the January of my senior year, when Bill Wagner, the coach of Penn’s sprint football team, gave me a call. After talking with coach Wagner for a few hours, I was sold on the idea of coming to Penn to play sprint football.
What surprised me most was that he talked about Penn’s academics and alumni connections more than he did about the actual football team. This showed me that he wasn’t just concerned about me as a football player, but also cared about my life after I graduate.
I had not seen this in other coaches. Being able to play football at such a prestigious university under a head coach who truly cared about his players and program was simply an offer I could not refuse.
Penn sprint football has been around for 82 years as a varsity sport and has given countless young men the opportunity to continue playing football while gaining a top-notch education.
I have never been a part of a team as close as the one I belong to now, and I believe this is the reason why alumni are still so connected and generous with the program. In fact, the team is so close that about half of the players decide to live in the DKE house every year — myself included.
Year in and year out, alumni are constantly giving back to the program because they care about the continued success of the sprint football team. Every year, the sprint team plays the alumni game, when alumni throw on the pads and play a live, full-contact scrimmage against our varsity team.
It sounds a bit odd, but it is definitely one of my favorite weekends of the year. Being able to compete against some alumni that I’ve played with like Whit Shaw, Todd Busler, Mike Bagnoli, etc. is an awesome experience. Not to mention the countless ‘old men’ that suit up every year.
The alumni support doesn’t stop there, though. Thanks to Doug Pires, a former sprint player, we have a constant connection with successful alumni that any player can use to help find internships and jobs after graduating.
Our offensive coordinator Jerry McConnell once told us that “the number on your jersey isn’t yours. It belongs to the alumni that once wore that number and helped build this program; you’re just borrowing it. Have pride in wearing your number.”
The backbone of this program has undoubtedly been coach Wagner, a man that has kept the program alive for the past 43 years with his dedication and love for the game. He is the reason I am in my junior year at an Ivy League university right now.
This program has opened a lot of doors for me, and I hope to repay my debts with a championship and my support once I graduate.