By now, pretty much everyone in Missoula knows that the Griz football team will be heading to Texas later this week for Friday night’s FCS semifinal match-up against top-ranked Sam Houston State.

What many people don’t know is that most of those players have a lot more on their minds than X’s and O’s.

Finals week — the end-of-semester marathon of studying, caffeine-loading and bubble-filling — is in full swing at the University of Montana. The tests alone can cause enough stress to make any student chew through an entire box of No. 2 Dixon Ticonderogas. Add to that the hopes and dreams of thousands of Montana Grizzly loyals, and you’ve got a recipe for a nervous breakdown.

When I was a student-athlete, the supposed “special treatment” of athletes was a hot-button issue. People really thought that professors were allowing the campus jocks to skate by in the classroom with minimal effort.

In reality — at least in my experience — this assumption was way, way off the mark. Getting ready for an important athletic competition while simultaneously hitting the books for an important test, paper or project was one of the most taxing challenges of my college career. And let’s be honest — not many people actually pay attention to how well the track team does.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to go into finals week with the weight of a potential national championship berth on my shoulders, not to mention a 20-page organic chemistry exam, a 10-page research paper on the economic climate of post-WWII Europe and a 15-minute presentation on the symbolism in Homer’s Odyssey — all before boarding a flight to Texas on Thursday morning and playing in a nationally televised playoff game Friday night.

So, Griz football players, as you prepare to tackle your finals on a shortened schedule before tackling your opponents in Huntsville, all I can say is, I’m rooting for you. Hopefully you’ll dominate both tests with flying (maroon and silver) colors.


Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross-country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.

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