The Student-Athlete Experience at Radford University

Sam Farrell '22

Radford student-athletes show their passion on the field, court or track every time they don the Highlander colors.

The Radford University student-athlete experience provides the opportunity to excel in the classroom and earn valuable experience while competing at a high level in the sport they love. They are learning meaningful lessons that will catapult their career trajectory and set them on a clear path to lifelong success. While not always easy, the journey of a student-athlete is undoubtedly rewarding.

Sam Farrell '22, Abby Morrow '18 and David Smith '85, M.S. '87, are at different points on their career paths. And, while their athletic and educational pursuits may differ, they share a common bond as Radford student-athletes with a combined  competitive spirit and aspiration for excellence.   

Sam Farrell '22

Farrell, from Severna Park, Maryland, is a sophomore goalkeeper on the Radford Men’s Soccer team, who is double majoring in programs through the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and the Department of Economics.

One of the 26 Radford student-athletes who posted a 4.0 GPA in 2018-19, Farrell is fully invested in his opportunity as a Radford University student-athlete and recognizes its value to fulfilling a bright future.

“Obviously, there is a lot more work for me to do. But, the busy schedule is very similar to what I think it will be like living in the real world where I am going to have to juggle many more things,” said Farrell, who is adding fraternity membership to a schedule that includes membership in the Honors College, assisting faculty with research in mathematics and statistics and economics though the Accelerated Research Opportunities Program and competing for the starting goalkeeper’s position for the Highlander Men’s Soccer team.

“Traveling with the team and practicing every day is time-consuming, and learning to manage my time is where I can’t let loose,” said Farrell, who sees another synergy between being a student-athlete and being successful after graduation.

“In whatever jobs I have after graduation, I will be part of a team. I am learning to function with a group of teammates from Spain, Senegal, Mexico and all over the world and developing chemistry with them to do well. It is awesome. My people skills are getting better, and I am making friends,” Ferrell said.

Farrell is immersed now in the student-athlete experience where work ethic and competitiveness are core values.

Abby Morrow ’18

Abby Morrow '18

Morrow, a pitcher for five years for the Radford Women’s Softball team, is now a consumer demand supervisor for Kings Dominion.

“When I pitched, I felt confident,” said Morrow, who appeared in 173 games for the Highlanders and posted a 74-58 record during her career that culminated in 2018 when she went 23-12 and earned All Big South Conference and All-Tournament honors among other post-season accolades.  “I didn’t feel pressure, because I felt like I did what I needed to do in practice. I prepared.”

Now, in the professional world, Morrow is part of a team that drives sales of season passes and individual tickets at the popular regional amusement park located in Doswell, Virginia.

“We are constantly communicating. There is always something to be excited about, and it is cool to be part of someone’s happiness,” Morrow said about her current field that she describes as being every bit as competitive as the softball diamond.

“We are constantly evaluating what we are doing – every plan, every event, every season. We are looking at our competition regionally and looking at new attractions,” Morrow said.

Balancing the daily workload of two academic majors and a 55-game season, not to mention the off-season workouts, conditioning and travel, challenged Morrow and sustains the confidence she is building upon as her career advances.

“It is super busy,” Morrow said. “Every day, we are learning and doing something different.”

Confidence, the key to on-field success and career achievement, often requires overcoming adversity.  Morrow suffered a season-ending injury in 2015 after being named to the Big South All-Freshman team in 2014.

“Radford was a place to grow,” Morrow said. “In both of my major areas, I met amazing professors, who really invested in me as a person and wanted me to succeed.”

David Smith ’85, M.S. ’87

David Smith '85, M.S. '87

Smith, currently territory sales manager with Altria Group Distribution Company and a member of the Radford University Board of Visitors, was a student-athlete who became a Hall of Fame basketball player at Radford University.

Smith earned his undergraduate degree in communication and his graduate degree in counseling, connected the dots between the on-court and in-class challenges of Radford’s rigorous student-athlete experience: “Radford represents a perfect place to develop the ability to manage workouts, practices and games while not compromising classes, projects and the work that needs to be done … I think that correlates perfectly to the world we are in now.”

To Smith, being a student-athlete meant managing time, prioritizing, juggling multiple tasks, working with people, fitting into a team concept, pulling one’s self up after being knocked down and figuring things out.  In 1987, Smith relied upon those values as he stepped from Radford’s campus into a job as a management trainee in the freight business with Roadway. Life’s pace quickened for Smith as he graduated, got married, relocated and launched his career in rapid succession.  

My Radford experience prepared me well.

David Smith '85, M.S.'87

A tradition of student-athlete excellence

To augment Radford University’s renowned commitment to student success, the Radford Athletics Department cultivates the habits and traits maximizing its student-athletes’ experiences through the Student-Athlete Support Services program, led by Assistant Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Support Services Alix Guynn.

Data reflecting Radford University and the Athletics Department’s commitment to helping each student succeed in the classroom and beyond is evident in the work and success of our student-athletes.

  • More than 70% of Radford student-athletes earned Big South Conference Presidential Honor Roll status for their work in the classroom in 2018-19.
  • Radford had 26 student-athletes earn the 2018-19 Big South Commissioner's Award with a perfect 4.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).
  • Fifteen out of 16 programs earned a 3.0 GPA or better, led by the women's cross-country team which boasted an outstanding 3.80 GPA, the highest grade point average of any team in the nation.
  • In the Spring 2019 semester, 183, or 74% of all Highlander student-athletes, earned GPAs over 3.0 or better and 40 earned a perfect 4.0 GPA. 

In addition to many widespread accomplishments across all of Radford University athletics, Jessica Wollmann ’18, a stalwart on the 2018 Big South Conference Champion Women’s Soccer team was chosen as the Big South's conference-level selection for the prestigious 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year. This prestigious recognition caps an outstanding student-athlete experience for Wollmann, whose collegiate career included a 4.0 GPA with a Bachelor of Science in anthropological sciences, being named the 2019 Virginia Collegiate Honors Council Scholar of the Year, the Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year for women's soccer, a College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-America First Team member, the Big South Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year and the Big South Woman of the Year.

Whether it is between the pipes on the soccer pitch eyeing an opposing shooter as Farrell does now, or as Morrow did when she stared down a hitter on the softball diamond, or as Smith did when standing alone at the free throw line, each Highlander student-athlete chooses a challenging, but rewarding, way to pursue their passions and achieve success while on campus and well into their careers.

Sep 19, 2019
Don Bowman
(540) 831-5182