For most Redbird fans, the option of a Friday night football game this weekend versus a Saturday afternoon kickoff made little to no difference. Teddy Corwin, however, is very glad the team will be on the field under the lights. The scheduling means he will be able to relish two incredible senior moments.
Corwin will be in his #87 uniform and ready to play as a defensive end when the Redbirds take on Richmond during the 6:30 p.m. FCS quarterfinal game Friday at Hancock Stadium.
Less than 12 hours after the game ends, Corwin will move over a few yards to Redbird Arena, where he will trade his helmet for a mortarboard and cross the commencement stage with other College of Arts and Sciences graduates.
“If the game had been Saturday, I would have had to miss graduation,” Corwin said.
Although the need to juggle academics with the responsibilities of being an athlete rarely collide in such an obvious way, the upcoming weekend with dual grand moments from the classroom and playing field does epitomize the split life of a student-athlete.
Corwin found out when he joined the team after graduating from De Smet Jesuit High School in St. Louis that coach Brock Spack expects his players to hit the books as hard as they do any gridiron opponent.
“He puts a big emphasis on the academics. That always comes first,” said Corwin, who majored in political science. “If you fall back or skip a class, you’re going to hear about it and there will be consequences. You’re a student first.”
Corwin credits the Athletics staff and especially those in the Karin L. Bone Athletics Study Center for helping him reach his graduation goal, which required juggling the heavy load of studying and competing.
“That can get difficult, but the study center does a great job. We meet with staff and they keep us organized. I am very thankful for their help,” Corwin said. Faculty made the classes interesting and enjoyable.
He chose to redshirt his first year, allowing him to keep his academic load to 12 hours each semester and add in summer classes during months spent training on campus.
Having now reached the end of five years tackling the equivalent of two full-time jobs as student and athlete, Corwin can say with confidence that he has no regrets.
“ISU was a great decision. I learned a lot,” he said, sharing that he chose the University after recruitment visits to various schools. “It just felt like the right place for me.”
Spack was still early in his Illinois State coaching years when Corwin committed to be a Redbird. Joining the team on offense, he was eager to be part of Spack’s plan to build a winning football program. After his first year, Corwin shifted to defense with no complaints.
“I get the opportunity to make a lot more plays,” he said of his job as defensive end. He also takes a lot of hits in the very physical line of scrimmage, even missing some games this season with a broken foot.
The injury did not detract from his overall stellar performance as a Redbird. Corwin was First-Team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection at defensive end last year. He came into this season with 171 tackles during his Illinois State career.
Now back to full speed, Corwin can’t wait for Friday’s game. The chance to extend the team’s winning streak at Hancock Field while moving one game closer to taking the division trophy is exhilarating. He takes as much pride in the team’s success as he does in completing his degree.
“We knew last year that we had a great team, and we came close to taking it,” Corwin said of the 2015 national championship run. The Redbirds came up just short of the trophy in a 29-27 loss to North Dakota State. He recorded a sack and five tackles in that game, which was tough to lose.
“This year, we will finish the job,” Corwin declared. “We’ve said all year that we don’t want to just get to the championship game but win it.”
With that goal in mind, it’s not surprising that Corwin hasn’t given much thought to commencement yet or what comes after graduation beyond two more playoff games. He plans to continue training after the season ends, with the hope of extending his time on the football field before contemplating job options.
All such thoughts are secondary at the moment, however, as Corwin keeps his eye literally on the ball and Friday night’s high-stakes game. And while he looks forward to a celebratory meal with his parents and extended family following Saturday’s commencement, he won’t linger at the table.
Instead, Corwin plans to watch the North Dakota State game against Northern Iowa. The winner will be at Illinois State for the semifinal game next weekend. He wants to be ready for the next opponent, which means he is still finding that balance between academics and football.
Such is the life of the student-athlete, from start to finish.
Susan Marquardt Blystone can be reached at sjblyst@IllinoisState.edu.