As soon as the practice horn sounds, Casey Cline is quick to jolt his 6-foot-3, 240-pound frame onto the practice field. For Cline, tardiness is not an option.
“Time management” has become Cline’s crutch since coming to Illinois State. Without it, he wouldn’t have garnered a partial scholarship, a feat that almost seemed unattainable back in 2007 when Cline entered the Redbird football team as a walk-on. Despite a stellar prep career in high school, Cline has had to work his way from the ground up athletically, while balancing academics on the side. Try and find Gibson City, Ill., on a map. The rural town helped shape a dedicated student-athlete. However, Cline will be the first to note: high school and Division I-AA football are not comparable, by any means. Here’s a look at this small-town workhorse in the classroom and on the gridiron.
SG: What is your daily routine like as a student-athlete?
CC: I usually wake up at about 7:30 a.m. and lift weights for an hour. Then, I hurry up and go to class from 9 a.m. until 1p.m. After that, we have meetings at 2 p.m., before we get ready for practice at 3:15 p.m. It’s a pretty long day.
SG: What’s the secret ... daily planner?
CC: Yes, I have a planner. It really helps keeping things organized and remembering what I have to do for the week because if you don’t have something like that, you can really get behind really fast.
SG: What is it like juggling football with school work?
CC: It’s hard. Time management is definitely a big issue, making sure that you’re devoting enough time to your school work and studying. Some guys slip up but it’s important to make sure that you’re staying on top of things so you can get out of here and get a degree That’s the most important thing.
SG: How important is eating healthy as a student-athlete?
CC: If you don’t get the proper nutrients and eat the right things, you can really tell the difference with your energy level in your strength. If you don’t put the right stuff in your body, you can tell.
SG: What are the main differences as a college student-athlete
compared to high school?
CC: It’s a lot more difficult in college. In high school, everyday you go to school and practice after school for a couple of hours. Now, it’s like having a job because it’s pretty much seven days out of the week. I’ve talked to guys that have played before and they said if you can get through school while playing football, once you get in the real world, it just makes everything seem easier.
SG: What’s the most difficult part of being a student-athlete?
CC: I would say from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. because you’re really not at home the entire day. It’s really about a 12-hour period where you’re going non-stop so it takes a toll on you mentally and physically. When you step out here on the field, the coaches expect you to be intense and upbeat and practice as hard as you can no matter what. They don’t really care if you had a bad day at class. You have a job to do and you need to do it.