Growing up in Iowa City, Nate Kaeding dreamed of playing football for the University of Iowa. As a starting kicker all four years of his collegiate career, the two-time All American found a position on an NFL roster for nine straight seasons from 2004-2013. Following his NFL gig, Kaeding is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the Iowa City area. Listen to our podcast as I learn how this hometown hero is striving to give back to his community following his last kick of his football career.
After four long years of intense competition, Nicole Smith, Michael Hart and Erin Erickson are all happy to say their college sports careers at the University of Iowa are complete. Smith, a four-year letter winner on the basketball squad, endured six knee surgeries during her career. Hart, a former distance runner on the track team, is preparing to be a middle school teacher next fall. Erickson, a valuable asset to Iowa’s softball program, is about to graduate in only two short weeks. In both segment one and two of today’s episode, hear how these three athletes continue to utilize the lessons they learned from college in their Life After Division I Sports.
For Nicole Rae, Life After Division I Sports is a dream come true. When Nicole was only four years-old, she fell in love with the sport of golf. Through years of competition she earned a spot on the University of Iowa’s Women’s Golf roster in college. After graduating in 2015, her search for a job in sports reporting was brutal. However, because of her collegiate career in golf, some heavy searching online and a little luck, last November Nicole found the career of a life time with the Golf Channel. Listen here to our two part phone call interview where we discussed Nicole’s exciting Life After Division I Sports and how the game of golf got her there.
On November 12, 2004, my mom had a major heart attack only two hours after her mom, my grandma, died of cancer.
My mom died for 20 minutes. After paramedics shocked her heart 13 times, she woke again. Although she remained in a coma for three weeks following her heart attack, she regained consciousness, spent seven years in multiple brain injury facilities across the midwest and eventually retired to a nursing home only 40 minutes from my hometown. With her illness came several hopes and several disappointments. For years we prayed that her quality of life would improve. We prayed that she would learn to walk again, learn to speak, regain old memories and keep new ones. We always prayed, period.
As time went on, however, I accepted that my mom would
never be the same mom I once knew. Although pivotal moments in my life like prom and graduation were spent without her, however, I learned to be positive and I learned to be tough.
Toughness became a badge for me. I wore toughness like I wore a volleyball uniform. From learning to play volleyball in eighth grade, to making the Varsity roster in high school, to committing to Iowa, to finishing a four year career this past fall. Each step came with adversities that often times I never thought I could overcome. However, the legacy of my mother never let my badge of toughness leave me.
There comes a time in every collegiate athlete’s life when they experience senior night. Senior night: the one and only night of your career where each and every family member, friend and fan comes together to celebrate the completion of a career you often times never felt you could complete.
My senior night was one of the most bitter sweet moments of my life. My incredible teammates, family and friends did everything in their power to make my night perfect. From flowers, gifts, letters, hugs, photos and chants of encouragement, I had never felt more supported in my life. I had the privilege of singing the national anthem. I gave a speech to all those that attended the match. I shared my thank you’s and said my goodbye’s. In only a week,
after all, my career would officially end.
With the accolades and support came tears as well. My mom wasn’t there. Since my freshman year I anticipated the inevitability of her appearance missing at this extremely significant night in my life. I had wished their was a way to get her there, to tell her I was sorry, to explain to her that I was thinking of her the entire night. These thoughts always remain with me, even to this day.
No one student-athlete will ever experience this night the same. For me, it was a relief that I made it that far. I could see the finish line. For me, it was a symbol of the tremendous dedication, passion and resilience I had shown to get to this point. For me, senior night was one of the greatest gifts I could’ve asked for in my career.
The Last Match
Michigan State University will forever hold a special place in my heart. The night before entering the gym for our final match, my fellow seniors, Alli O’Deen, Mikaela Gunderson and I requested that we share a room. The three of us spent the entire night sharing laughs, tears and stories of our careers together.
Although at times our hearts were heavy, we we were ready.
The match came and went quickly. We lost 3-0 to a powerhouse squad that would soon go on to the Sweet Sixteen at the 2015 D1 NCAA tournament. Walking to the locker room, I looked up at the sky and said thank you. Maybe even out loud, I’m still not even sure to this day. While my fellow seniors cried, I felt absolutely relieved. To me, this journey was so hard. For so long I never thought this day would come. I guess, looking back on that moment more than anything, I knew my life had finally started.
The Finish Line
Walking off the plane that final evening, I knew everything would be different. This life I had lived for so many years, so dictated by the clock, so physically, mentally and emotionally invested into the sport I had grown to love, at times, more than life itself. It was over.
However, finishing was my most valuable reward. Following my time as a Division I athlete, I’ve found who I truly am. I’ve exceeded so many expectations in exploring potential careers I never once thought I could do. I’m involved. I know my family more than I ever have before. I invest in relationships with anyone and everyone. I smile more, I cry more passionately, I set goals, I exceed them, I challenge myself to live more free and love deeper and make time for the things that matter most to me.
My Life After Division I Sports is my real beginning.
Following a record breaking year at the University of Iowa in 2015, former football player Kevonte Martin-Manley is taking over the fashion world with his brand, TwoStar Clothing. TwoStar was designed to serve the “underrated overachievers.” Basically, his clothing line represents his life story: a former 2star recruit who achieved his dream of playing on one of the biggest stages of them all. Co-founding TwoStar with former Hawkeye, Anthony Hitchens of the Dallas Cowboys, the two men have a passion for motivating all those who feel that they are doubted. With a clothing line that fits any demographic, TwoStar clothing is the accomplishment Kevonte is most proud of in his Life After Division I Sports.
DelVecchio Orozco is a genuine class act. Through out his gymnastics career at Iowa, fellow athletes could always count on Del to crack a joke in the weight room, flash a smile walking through the halls of Carver-Hawkeye Arena or encourage a teammate before a difficult event. Flipping roles from gymnastics to Life After Division I Sports, the former Hawkeye and 2015 Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honoree now resides in Bogota, Columbia.
Growing up, what was your dream profession?
I always dreamed about running my own movie theater.
Going in to college, what did earning a spot on Iowa’s roster mean to you?
For men’s gymnastics, it’s a very huge privilege to be able to compete and represent a university. Since there are such few universities that offer collegiate gymnastics, it makes the selection and recruitment process that much more picky. For nearly all of us we accept it as our final stage in our career unless you are an Olympic hopeful. It was a very big deal for me because I looked up to the collegiate gymnasts as role models and heroes. Having a spot on the Iowa roster meant that I was now playing with the big boys.
What did your experience in gymnastics at the University of Iowa most prepare you for in your Life After Division I Sports?
I would like to say that my time with gymnastics at the university helped me realize what time management really is. I also got to see the absolute limit of what my body can handle both physically and
mentally. It also prepared me on how to deal with poor leadership and build thicker skin.
What was the biggest obstacle you faced in your career?
My biggest obstacle was actually my overwhelming fear of high-bar. Ironically, I ended up competing in the event and was extremely consistent throughout my career at Iowa. I was still terrified of it but I kept training it until it was impossible for me to make a mistake. I still have nightmares about it!
What was your most rewarding moment?
My most rewarding moment in my career at Iowa was when I received the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
Who helped shape you the most into the person you are today during your time in college sports?
Lance Alberhasky was the one who helped me the most during my time at Iowa. I was a lost cause when I first arrived at Iowa and Lance looked out for me. I look up to him as an older brother who I know I can count on for anything. I definitely wouldn’t have made it through my time at Iowa without him.
Where are you now and what are you doing?
As of right now I am currently living in Bogota, Colombia with my family. I would like to one day export Colombian coffee from my family’s farm to the United States and help my father out with his distribution company in Miami when I’m back in the states.
What’s your favorite part about being done with college sports?
I absolutely love the amount of free time and energy I have. Whenever I go to workout now, I don’t have someone yelling at me and putting me down. It’s a lot less stressful and I am much happier.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
In ten years I hope to be living in Colombia or in Germany and starting my family. But, we will see what happens since I can’t even get a good morning text.
When an athlete’s career ends another journey awaits. Instead of lacing up for an afternoon on the court, former athletes trade in their Nike’s for dress shoes and a briefcase. While the transition may require a new wardrobe, deciding where you fit into the workforce world can often be the most stressful decision to make. If you’re looking for some career inspiration, check out these five jobs that are perfectly fit for former collegiate athletes.
Everyone has experienced the impact of a teacher. From the time you enter elementary school to the day you graduate college, teachers play a key role in molding each step from adolescence to adulthood. Another form of teacher is coaches. As Division I athletes are trained by numerous coaches in their careers, they observe how to effectively develop an individual’s potential. Like preparing for a practice, teachers prepare lesson plans each and every day. In a leadership role that’s responsible for nurturing the lives of others, D1 athletes would naturally excel in teaching young individuals of all ages.
2. Franchise Owner.
As small business owners who develop a division of an existing company, franchise owners are counted on to maintain the brand of their company while making a profit. No matter how difficult of an adversity any franchise owner can face, they are expected to be loyal to their company’s vision. Through trusting the lead and direction of coaches and teammates during athletic careers, D1 athletes use their resiliency and dedication to power through any and every problem they face whether big or small. That ability to be resilent insures the potential former athletes have to own a franchise and run it well.
3. Sales Representative.
From girl scout cookies to medical devices, any salesman must be persistent in order to make a profit. In a sales pitch to a potential customer, sales representatives are constantly exposed to rejection. In sports, athletes face similar failures in their every day lives whether it be playing time, difficult practice drills or injuries. However, athletes are trained to keep moving forward. In a sales position, former athletes are your best bet in fighting for a “yes” and completing a deal.
4. Project Manager.
Through overseeing various projects, project managers are the master’s of time management. For each piece of a project to go smoothly, manager’s ability to work with others and stay on task is crucial to the success of any company. Athletes have no choice but to be mini masters of time management. No matter how busy the calendar can get, excuses aren’t acceptable. With so much experience in balancing a heavy workload, former athletes have the necessary qualities that make a project manager successful.
5. Physical Therapist.
When an athlete is injured, they’re almost always expected to participate in aggressive physical therapy. By spending a large chunk of time with therapists that work to help athletes recover, athletes often find that they want to help other athletes down the road, too. After all, without the knowledge and expertise of physical therapists, how would any athlete make it back to their sports healthy and prepared to continue competing?