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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Opinion: Best of both worlds

Courtesy Rob Kleifield

Courtesy Rob Kleifield

Homecoming weekend is filled with festivities, ranging from special affairs on campus to events honoring alumni. But not everybody gets to partake in the fun. 

Student-athletes are often the outliers when it comes to participating in certain functions, typically because they have their own set of responsibilities to attend to. For instance, football players’ Homecoming experience is much different than that of most other students. As a freshman on the football team in 2015, I realized that Homecoming weekend was nearly the same as every other. 

Although there was a noticeable increase of energy and bodies around campus, the week of preparation felt no different than any other during the fall semester. I attended classes, workouts, meetings and practice with the same focus and attitude. On game day, I recognized a slight increase in attendance in the stands, but I’d be lying if I said it made any difference. 

Courtesy Rob Kleifield
Courtesy Rob Kleifield

For me, Homecoming weekend was just another excuse for my entire family to travel down to Tucson and catch up with me after the game. I’m sure that they enjoyed the many amenities on campus and around town while I headed to the stadium to wait for my team’s afternoon kickoff versus Washington State, but my own recollection of Homecoming weekend was overshadowed by our team’s narrow defeat. 

Despite not being able to experience any of the festivities that occurred on campus, I suppose there were a few highlights for myself and my fellow teammates that other students weren’t exposed to. 

As a football player, it was exciting to see an influx of Arizona alumni return to their old stomping grounds and pay respects to the program that helped mold them into successful pros, whether they played pro football or had an exciting career elsewhere. 

At the time, I couldn’t expect much more. I was playing the game I loved surrounded by people with a similar passion and we were fortunate enough to take the field with a purpose. For us, Homecoming weekend would be deemed a success or failure based purely on the game’s outcome. And that’s truthfully all anybody could ask for. 

Seeing things from the other side of the spectrum, now that I’m no longer a student-athlete, has certainly opened my eyes to another side of college life , one that honestly isn’t available to football players, or likely any other student-athletes. 

Last fall, which was my first semester back on campus since ending my playing days, I experienced what I presume every other college student is fortunate enough to do during Homecoming weekend. I ate food, guzzled drinks and laughed alongside family, friends and Arizona grads that were in town to do one thing in particular: reminisce on their heydays. 

I won’t say that one experience was better than the other. I wouldn’t trade my time with the football team for anything in the world, but I can admit that each was an entirely different experience. 

That’s what’s unique about being a student-athlete, though. You’re presented with opportunities that really no one else can relate to. And, if you’re a part of a team for the right reasons, then it doesn’t matter what is going on outside of that circle. 

I guess looking back, I’m grateful to have experienced the best of both worlds.

— Rob Kleifield covers and analyzes Arizona football for the Daily Wildcat. 

Follow Rob Kleifield on Twitter

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