Sam Renner and Jared Weyler aren’t your typical college students.
Throughout the week, they crunch numbers. They are enrolled in the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, pursuing their master’s degrees in accountancy.
On the weekend, they crunch opponents’ bodies. Renner is a defensive tackle who rotates in for the Gophers, while Weyler is a third-year starting center. Both are focusing on football, while setting themselves up for life.
On a youth-filled Gophers team that is starting upward of eight freshmen, Renner and Weyler are two of eight players who already have their undergraduate degrees and are taking grad school classes.
“We want them to take their academics incredibly seriously,” coach P.J. Fleck said of his players.
That’s certainly the case with Renner and Weyler. Renner, a redshirt junior from Maple Grove, was named a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar for the 2017-18 school year, and Weyler, a fifth-year senior from Dayton, Ohio, is a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, given to the top scholar-athlete in college football by the National Football Foundation.
While pursuing their master’s, they’ve become masters in time management. Renner, who is taking 12 graduate credits this fall, typically wakes up at 6 a.m., goes to the football facility to work out, followed by practice that runs from 9:45 to about 11, watches film after practice and attends class from 2 to 6 p.m. “I’ll come back and eat, then watch a little more film and end my day around 8, and then get ready for the next day,” Renner said. “It’s a pretty busy day, but prioritizing life is the key in making sure I set myself up for the future.”
Fleck’s practice schedule is a change from his predecessor, Tracy Claeys, who had the team practice in the afternoon. Weyler likes the move.
“Having practice in the morning has been a huge help,” he said. “You have all the afternoon to do academics, then come back and get some film in.”
Juggling football and grad school could be stressful, but Renner doesn’t see it that way.
“Pressure is something you can control, and stress is something you can’t. I viewed it more as pressure because it was self-paced,” said Renner, who received his bachelor’s degree in applied economics this summer. “I totally controlled how I did in the classes, and it was at my own pace. As long as I kept to a tight schedule, I was able to finish.”
Added Weyler, who double-majored in accounting and entrepreneurial management: “The support services they provide here is amazing. Whenever you need a tutor, you can get a tutor. It’s been challenging, but they help you a lot with it.”
Both linemen aren’t only excelling in the classroom, they’re contributing on the field, too. Weyler was graded the fourth-best offensive lineman in the Big Ten through the first five weeks by Pro Football Focus’ college evaluators. Renner made six tackles against Iowa. “I tell you what, Sam Renner showed up,” defensive coordinator Robb Smith said. “He was one of the big reasons our front seven had success.”
Weyler plans on entering a career in public accounting and wants to work for one of the Big Four firms in the tax field. Renner said he plans on passing the CPA exam, then likely go into finance after he finishes his master’s in December 2019. Football, however, isn’t done yet.
“Obviously, you want to push football as far as you can, but football ends for everybody at some point, some longer than others,” Renner said.
Randy Johnson covers college football for the Star Tribune. Twitter: @RJStrib. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org