University athletes plan for the professionals

By The Beacon | October 6, 2010 9:00pm

By John McCarty, Staff Writer --

The average University of Portland student will spend their four years on campus working toward a degree so they can get a job in their chosen field of study.

For some students the job just happens to be professional sports.

In 2007, the NCAA began running a series of public service announcements advertising that "There are over 380,000 student-athletes, and most of us go pro in something other than sports."

Senior women's basketball forward/center Lauren Angel, senior men's soccer goalkeeper Austin Guerrero and senior pitcher Owen Jones are part of the minority who plan to enter the professional sports arena after graduation.

"I started playing soccer when I was four or five and by the time I was nine or ten I had kind of decided I would love to do this for the rest of my life," Guerrero said. "I just have a passion for the game. When I'm not playing soccer, I'm probably thinking about it so obviously playing professionally would be a dream come true."

According to Jones, the professional sports arena is not unlike becoming a doctor; it requires a great deal of commitment and the willingness to spend a certain amount of time every day working toward self-improvement.

"Anytime anyone wants to play sports you aspire to go as far as you can," Jones said. "Eventually opportunities arise to go higher and given that chance I'm going to take it."

Angel, Guerrero, and Jones agree that their time at UP has been integral in their development as both students and athletes, and they are adequately prepared to enter the world of professional sports.

"I had the opportunity to play professionally in Australia before college but I decided I needed more skill and coaching and college was the best place to get it," Angel said. "Now my game is way different, I have improved my skills and changed how I think about the game, even how I apply myself outside basketball is different."

According to Guerrero, the men's soccer program has a strong emphasis on professionalism in regard to attitude, dress, conduct on and off the field.

"The University has a strong history of producing professional players and that's one of the main reasons I came here," Guerrero said. "The coaches have also played professionally so they know what its like. They have a lot of contacts and can look out for us."

According to Angel, Guerrero and Jones, coaches and both former and current teammates are helpful resources when confronted with questions about the transition from college to professional sports.

"When it comes to experience, anytime I have a question there's an array of people I can talk to," Jones said.

According to Guerrero, there are a large number of college athletes competing against each other and against veterans and foreign players for a limited number of spots on each MLS team.

Angel said that the small size of the WNBA makes it hard to get drafted and even harder to get playtime as a rookie.

On top of games, practices and traveling, collegiate athletes must also deal with the same course requirements as the average student.

"My schoolwork was definitely affected," Guerrero said. "I'd personally like to thank Dan McGinty because he really does a lot for athletes like talking to professors and keeping everyone organized."

"My perfect team would be one where everyone wants to win and is on the same page without any stupid cliques." Angel said. "I'd really like to play with Lauren Jackson [C/F Seattle Storm] who is definitely my role model."

Guerrero, a native of Chula Vista, Calif. would most like to play for Chivas USA or anywhere in Mexico, Europe or South America.

Jones says he would most like to play for the Seattle Mariners.

"When you grow up watching a team, no matter what sport, there's just a connection," Jones said.