Monday, April 3, 2006
Ryan Koch had a mission: graduate from SCSU with a degree in computer science, minors in Spanish and math, and a 4.0 grade point average. Mission accomplished.
The student-athlete has had major accomplishments in two sports, football and track and field, and has maintained a 4.0 GPA since his arrival on campus in fall 2001.
People have taken notice of his success both in the classroom and on the playing field. Last fall, Koch was a semi-finalist for one of the most prestigious academic awards in all of college football, the "Draddy Trophy," considered the academic equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. The Draddy is one of college football's most sought-after awards as it recognizes an individual as the absolute best in the country for combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership.
Koch was among 16 Draddy Trophy finalists from all levels of college football, for which he earned an $18,000 scholarship from the National Football Foundation.
"That was one of the best experiences of my life," said Koch in reference to the awards dinner held at New York City's famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel in December. "It was basically a who's who in college football. I'm at a table with 15 other athletes and seven or eight of them are playing in bowl games and a couple of them are in BCS (Bowl Championship Series) games."
Koch has earned many other academic accolades, including 2005 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American Football and Academic All-North Central Conference honors. In spring 2005 he was named the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American of the Year in Track and Field. This spring he will be nominated for an NCAA postgraduate scholarship.
His football accomplishments include being named to the All-North Central Conference first team twice and second team once. In fall 2005 he was named to the D2Football.com All-Northwest Region Second Team and the CollegeSportsReports.com All-Division II Offensive Team. He also was the first junior in Division II to earn the player of the year honor, which usually goes to a senior athlete.
As a track athlete, Koch is a two-time NCAA Division II All-American in the decathlon, ranking fourth in 2004 and sixth in 2005.
Koch learned how to juggle academics, athletics and family long before he enrolled at SCSU. "In high school I had this same sort of schedule. I was trying to be an athlete, be a student, have a social life and have a family life."
Once he got to college the family life changed but not a lot, as he followed an older brother to campus and his younger brother is in his second year at SCSU.
When Koch arrived at SCSU he made the decision that if he was going to spend time at something, he was going to give it his whole mind and energy. "When I'm at practice I'm at practice, when I'm not, I'm studying, and my spare time is what I use for a social life."
Koch's motivation for doing well in the classroom and on the field is simple. "I want to be the best at what I do," he said. "I don't know why I feel I should walk into a class and have to be the best student, but it's just the mentality that I have. What I think it boils down to is I want to be the best because I am spending time on it."
Koch wants to be on the field. He wants to play and he wants to make a difference in the game. The same goes for academics. "Education is what's going to be my future – athletics are important, but I can't put education on the back burner."
Koch is in the process of determining what he'll do next. He finds graduate school appealing, but he'd also like to be in the business world. He tested the business world last summer with an information technology internship at Securian Financial Group in St. Paul. "I used what I'd learned in the classroom. It proved that what I've been doing is useful." The result of the internship was a job offer, but he's made no decision.
Another option is to continue his career in sports, possibly in the Arena Football League. "If I don't play, I definitely want to coach somewhere, even if it's as a volunteer," said Koch. "I like helping people. I love sports and I would love to share what I've learned."
There is no doubt that wherever the future takes him, he will be the best. Once again, it will be "mission accomplished."