This one’s for you athletes

I grew up attending football games in the largest stadium in the country — and it was not an NFL team’s stadium.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with ‘The Big House,” where the University of Michigan football team plays their home games.

To this day, I’m still a die-hard Michigan fan, despite the ugly path Rich Rod has dragged us down. I still believe in him — kind of.

But I’m not here to talk logistics of Michigan football or where the program is headed — I want to address and thank our athletes and note their true mettle compared to those big-time conference athletes, such as the Big Ten’s Michigan.

At U of M, which I am very familiar with from growing up in Ann Arbor ­— the city which is intertwined with the University to the core­ — athletes often are what we call “prima donnas.”

Their fame within the city of upwards of 100k people is unparalleled.

Playing for Michigan, athletes become small-scale celebrities, which in turn creates ego-driven players who act like they are better than the rest of the student body.

I remember being in downtown Ann Arbor one time and seeing Michigan basketball player Brent Petway.

I had seen Petway, a big-time dunker who was nicknamed “Air Georgia,” play in a game in the weekend before and wanted to congratulate him on the team’s win.

I passed by him and said something along the lines of “good game Brent!” His reply — instead of a polite thank you or even a brief chat— was simply a raised eyebrow and snort as he pulled out his cell phone.

U of M athletes blend into the student population as well as stones blend into a Ben and Jerry’s milkshake. The students at the school treat the players like celebrities, thus creating an aura of awe for the athletes that makes them unapproachable.

That is what makes UVM, and covering UVM sports as a journalist, so special.

Athletes at UVM blend in with the rest of the Vermont student body seamlessly.

One might think that the relatively small, cozy population of Burlington would make star athletes stand out even more —especially at UVM because our hockey team is an annual national force.

But that has not been the case for me as a journalist or a student.

The community involvement with athletes at UVM is special because it never crosses the line of treating athletes like Hollywood celebrities, which happens so frequently at power-conference schools.

Both the athletic department, and the coaches themselves, encourage players to be involved and be active role models in the community, not to mention being personable for media pests like me, and the student-athletes at Vermont do a great job of that.

As my time as sports editor for The Cynic winds down, I realize that working with the athletes and those involved in our athletic system is very unique. It always feels like a connected community and there is no separation between athletes, students and employees here.

So as a way of sending myself off as sports editor, I simply have to thank and applaud the UVM student-athletes for representing the University and themselves well, as well as being a pleasure to work with.