The Long RunAward: Chuck
Most Hopkins students will agree that the academic life here
is a rigorous challenge by itself. For student-athletes the
challenge becomes even more complex.
Classes must be chosen and taken around early morning workouts and late afternoon practices. Studying is sandwiched between getting up for game days and coming down after a win or a loss.
Senior Chuck Wotkowicz is one of those student-athletes who has worked hard to achieve success both as a pre-med student and as a football stand-out. And now this 22-year-old native of the farmland community of Adams, Mass., has something to show for his efforts beyond his name in the Blue Jay record books and on a diploma.
Last Saturday, the Burger King Corp. presented to Wotkowicz the Burger King College Football Scholar Athlete Award, a $10,000 scholarship made in his name and given to the university's general fund. Wotkowicz received a plaque during the half-time ceremonies on Saturday.
The scholarship program, in its second year, recognizes athletes who stand out among their peers. Burger King will donate $1 million to 100 general scholarship funds nationwide in the names of these scholar-athletes who, like Wotkowicz, are chosen from schools representing each of the four college football divisions. Recipients must be actively involved in their community and have a grade point average of 3.0.
"Athletics has helped me with my academics," says Wotkowicz, who carries a 3.1 GPA. "It's great to know that I am getting national recognition and recognition for a place like Hopkins, since it is like an Ivy League school."
The 5-foot-9-inch, 200-pound senior began his football career when he was only 9 years old. He had no reason to expect that he would play a vital role on a successful football team at a prestigious university.
In fact, he never even heard of Hopkins until the head coach made a trip to his hometown while he was playing high school ball. Unlike most freshmen, he started five games in his first season as a fullback. By his senior year, he was named a team captain.
"During my freshman year I broke a record in yards rushing. After that I knew that I was going to play a role on the team," he says, recalling his first game as a freshman when he scored three touchdowns and gained 347 yards (the sixth best in Division III). He proved to himself then that he could run with the big boys.
"I knew I had it in me. I began to realize that college football is more complex than high school football. But if I worked hard I could do well. I knew that the coach had faith in me and trusted that I would get the job done."
This season Wotkowicz played as a running back. He started all nine games, carrying the ball 66 times for 213 yards with 16 receptions for 80 yards and one touchdown. He also has returned two kickoffs for 39 yards. He ends his Hopkins career with 337 carries for 1,538 total yards, placing him among the top 10 running backs in Hopkins history.
Not all of Wotkowicz's activity has been on the football field. A member of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, he has been a contributor to the Hopkins community, volunteering at a local soup kitchen and in the Meals on Wheels program. Wotkowicz has also found time to tutor at a local elementary school. He has already received the Seward Scholarship and has been a four-time member of the Maryland Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Honor Roll.
With all this recognition and hard work one would think that this star student-athlete already has enough on his plate. But Wotkowicz has been balancing his studies and his athletics with raising 3-year-old twin daughters Jordanne and Taylor and 6-month-old son Connor, sharing parenting long distance with his fiancee, Holly, his high school sweetheart whom he plans to marry after graduation.
"I love being a father," Wotkowicz says. "While most of my friends go home and hang out with their friends, I go home every other weekend to hang out with my kids. I'm very fortunate to have my family and my fiancee's family's support. Sometimes I see them in the stadium at games and I get distracted. I just can't believe how amazing they are," he says.
While being a young father has been rewarding, he has faced some tough times along the way. During his sophomore year Taylor developed a serious medical problem.
"The doctors weren't sure whether she was going to make it or not," he says. "I used to call home every night to check up on her. I felt bad that I couldn't be there with her. Being seven hours away from my children and family has been hard for me because I have missed a lot. I didn't get to see my girls walk or hear them when they first started talking. So whenever I go home I just want to be alone with them and enjoy them.
"I don't regret becoming a father nor do I think of it as a big mistake that I made in my past," he says.
Neither does he take for granted that he has been very fortunate to complete his studies and compete athletically at the university of his choice. "I know some guys in my situation drop out of school or give up the opportunity to attend college. But I'm grateful for the experience and the opportunities I've had at Hopkins.
"With [the Burger King] award I feel a sense of satisfaction in knowing that all my hard work has paid off. I know that I have had to practice and study a little longer than most other people here at Hopkins. But it's nice to know that people appreciate your hard work."
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