In light of current events, including the Jordan Johnson trial and recent high-profile comments made by one of our regents about student athletes, it would be easy as students to get swept up in negativity.
After all, we have experienced some troubling issues in our community and on our campus over the last year relating to sexual assault and the conduct of an isolated few student athletes. But all too often, our culture gets caught up with problems rather than solutions. We highlight people who are doing things wrong in our community, and too often miss the chance to recognize those who do things right.
We write as student leadership to take a stand in support of our student athletes at the University of Montana.
The actions of a few will not marginalize our perspective on the group as whole. Every day, there are people doing things in this community that would make us all proud, if only we all heard about them. And a surprising number of these people are student athletes.
For example, we have both taken classes with Jordan Tripp, UM football’s All-American linebacker. Tripp is a celebrity of sorts on campus, and we see him consistently going out of his way to treat his professors, classmates and fans with gratitude and respect. That is excellence from a student athlete.
Brock Coyle, another Grizzlies linebacker, is a second prime example. Coyle has been the man of his house since he was in middle school, a loving and supportive son to his single mother and a wonderful big brother. We have absolutely no doubt that, someday after college football, he will be an incredible husband and father. We look up to Brock for the great guy he is.
Josh Denard is yet another football player who takes great pride in representing our university the right way — with humility, dignity, and hard work. Between the weight room, the playing field and the classroom, these are some of the most dedicated, hardworking and upstanding people we have ever met.
UM student athletes frequently visit classrooms and interact with kids in our community, inspiring them to work hard in both the classroom and on the playing field. And they practice what they preach. Our student athletes consistently lead the Big Sky Conference in graduation rates and average GPA. From our perspective, these absolutely are people to look up to, and we are proud that they represent us in the community.
As students, we share this place with some incredibly talented, intelligent and hardworking peers. Many of these peers are football players, track athletes, volleyball players or basketball players. These fine individuals are students first, and their ability to juggle academics, community service and athletic competition at the Division I level is commendable.
So let’s take a collective step back and remember to recognize excellence, instead of only pointing at negative behavior from a select few individuals and making generalizations. Our UM student athletes aren’t “thugs” —they are our brothers and sisters, friends and classmates who carry the name and reputation of our fine institution on their back every day.
As fellow students, we are behind them 100 percent. Go Griz!
Zach Brown and Bryn Hagfors Associated Students of the University of Montana