As many college students know, balancing both academics and athletics can be extremely challenging. This is a challenge Senior Biology Major T.J. Ridley knows well. In fact, he has managed to balance playing two demanding sports, all while earning and maintaining a high grade point average.
T.J., a pre-med student from Edina, MN, has always had a passion for sports and academics. He chose Gustavus because it is one of the few schools at which an athlete can play two sports—he plays both hockey and football— and because of its high academic reputation.
“What makes Gustavus special is the fact that an extremely large number of students here participate in groups, clubs and organizations outside the realm of academics,” T.J. said.
His success as a safety on the Gustie Football team and in academics has earned him recognition from several prestigious institutions. In 2008, he was named to the ESPN Magazine Academic All-District V College Division Teams by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). T.J. received this honor because of his achievements both in the classroom—he has a 3.95 GPA—and on the field.
“T.J. is a person of self discipline, character and courage who is not afraid to stand up for what he believes in. T.J. will be a success in whatever he chooses to do because of who he is,” Football Defensive Coordinator Brian Bergstrom said.
This year T.J. was also named a semifinalist for the 2009 National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame National Scholar-Athlete Awards. Ridley was nominated by Gustavus because of his high grade point average, athletic ability and leadership skills. He is also in the running to receive one of the 2009 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships. These 174 awards are given out to students who stand out in athletics, academics and campus involvement.
“Commitment is [T.J.’s] strong suit. If he sets his mind he never gives up. He also has more will power than any man should,” Senior Management Major and Football teammate Joe Welch said.
T.J. also participates in several organizations on campus. He is a member of the Tau Psi Omega fraternity (Reds), Student Athlete Volunteer Educators (SAVE) and is also a Biology T.A. He can most often be found at his favorite spot on campus: the Market Place. He enjoys hanging out with friends and having breakfast during Chapel Break every day.
“I love Gustavus because of its tight-knit community … [It] allows us to form strong, close relationships, and [the] extracurricular activities really bring us all together,” T.J. said.
As for his future plans, T.J. has already applied to ten medical schools, including Northwestern, the University of Minnesota and Boston University. He said that while he would like to stay in Minnesota, it would be fun to experience a new place.
T.J. said that he looks forward to enjoying his last year here at Gustavus as much as possible.
T.J. has some advice for fellow Gusties. He insists that time management is essential in achieving success. “It’s all about not wasting time. Finding that extra 10-15 minutes adds up.” He also urges students to take advantage of on-campus resources, such as the Writing Center and tutors.
There is no doubt that T.J.’s hard work and dedication at Gustavus, both in athletics and in academics, will translate to success for him in both his future career and in his life.
“His positive attitude and humble spirit are two reasons that he is so highly respected by his coaches and his peers,” Head Football Coach Peter Haugen said. “T.J. is dependable, a player you can count on to be prepared and ready to do whatever is asked of him.”