Matthew Stagg - UA Football and Science

I am a senior at the University of Arizona. I currently play on the UA’s football team, a sport I fell in love with nearly a decade ago, and I will wrap up my final season this year. I am also a transfer student-athlete from the University of Georgia in Athens; as a result, I have spent most of the last year finding a niche for myself in the science departments and student services around my new campus.
 
I am fortunate enough to be involved with research in Dr. John Jewett’s lab. Our primary focus is cell entry mechanisms of dengue virus. In particular, I spend my time in lab assisting Mr. Mehrdad Shadmehr by performing various experiments or diagnostics. The practice is exactly what I imagined the “fun” part of chemistry to be as a child, so you could say I enjoy that part of my degree quite a bit. I will admit the humbling aspect of the experience; gone are the days of playing in Organic Chemistry labs after being handed precise instructions.
 
My aforementioned degree is a B.S. in biochemistry. However, in my sophomore year at UGA I picked up a minor in English to further enjoy writing, and upon arrival in Tucson as a junior, I entered into a dual-degree of biochemistry and molecular & cellular biology. Since my freshman year, I had also been a part of the Honors program at UGA, something I intend to accomplish here upon graduation in 2017. This combination of degrees both satisfies my personal interests as well as supports my goal of entering medicine.
 
This combination of science, research, and service at the university is a bit alienating as a football player; an already rigorous schedule compounded with (what I hope to be) elite academic accomplishments certainly forces me to grow every semester, correct many mistakes, and focus on several targets at once. People often ask me what the point is, a question I don’t really understand. Call it obsession or call it dedication, but I like to describe it with what a coach once told me: never get comfortable, never be satisfied, and always stay hungry. Maybe if people heard that side of football more often, they would realize being an athlete and being a student aren’t quite so different.