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Nebraska Players ‘Don’t Want’ Student-Athlete Life NCAA is Pushing

March 30, 2019

Jaron Woodyard’s college life at Nebraska is much different from his junior college life at Arizona Western. In his first season in Lincoln, he played sparingly as he adjusted to life as a student-athlete at a major Division I program. 

There’s a strength and conditioning department dedicated to him, something he didn’t have in junior college. There were nutrition experts building food plans for him and making sure he stuck to them and making sure he ate at regular intervals throughout the day, something he didn’t have in junior college. Everyone has seen “Last Chance U;” while East Mississippi and Independence are probably extremes, the days aren’t as hectic. 

Woodyard even ran track in the fall once football ended. No real offseason. 

Between learning the Huskers’ dense playbook on offense, going to meetings, going to workouts, going to class and keeping up with schoolwork, that first season was a “humbling” experience. So, Woodyard was one of those athletes who saw the NCAA’s new “Day in the Life” commercial during the NCAA Tournament and felt some kind of way. 

The NCAA’s main Twitter account posted the 30-second long clip on March 17, and it’s been airing all throughout the NCAA tournament. It’s from the point of view of one person, if that person strapped a GoPro to the front of their face and walked through a day. 

The student wakes up, goes to class, walks out of class and starts jogging around campus, dances with friends (admittedly this probably fits for Cam Taylor), plays in a basketball game, goes to the library, checks his phone and then goes to bed. There’s a light-hearted song playing in the background and a smile on the student’s face the entire time. As the commercial fades out, a voice-over reads “If you have the talent and dedication to succeed in school, and in sports, we’ll provide the opportunity.” 

It has been absolutely roasted.

Former Wisconsin Badger JJ Watt was upset.

So was former Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara.

And former Texas big man Myles Turner.

And former DePaul volleyball player Caitlyn Coffey.

And former Texas linebacker Sam Acho went so far as to make his own video.

From a Nebraska standpoint, there isn’t really a comparison.

“It doesn’t compare at all,” Woodyard said this week when asked how the NCAA’s portrayal resembled his everyday life at Nebraska. “That doesn’t have anything to do with what we do. And if it does, I wouldn’t want that. I didn’t see him put in any work. He didn’t do anything. He woke up, went to practice, I didn’t see him go to one meeting, no meals.”

Lamar Jackson, Nebraska’s senior corner, knows the man at the center of the video. They went to high school together. His biggest issue with the portrayal is the simple fact the NCAA hired an actor who never even played sports at the high school level.

“Not seriously,” Jackson said. “He’s acting and doing modeling and stuff like that. He’s on a whole different path.”

Hence, the frustration. To those coming into college, it paints an unrealistic expectation of what life is about to be like. For those currently living the day-to-day grind, it feels like a slap in the face. Several players said it feels like the NCAA doesn’t have a clue what their lives are like. At a time where the debate over amateurism is as hot as it has maybe ever been, that’s not a great message for the NCAA to be sending.  

“If that’s what they think we do, it’s not right,” Woodyard said. 

“We were all excited for [the old high school friend],” Jackson said. “But at the same time, I felt where everyone else was coming from. … The fact they didn’t get a real athlete, they got an actor to act like they knew.”

And then Jackson, still breathing heavy after a two-hour practice that began at 8:15 a.m., walked away to get changed and ready for class.

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