|Player puts pigskin down for chance to learn about the world
RELEASED: Sept. 9, 2004
DANVILLE, KYJustin Atkins understands that life will be different this fall. For more than a decade, saying goodbye to summertime has signified many things to the Centre junior: the weather in the Bluegrass changes from sultry to crisp and cool, teachers and homework return to his day and he once again tries push snarling 250-pound young men out of his way.
For the first time since he was in the fourth grade, Atkins won't experience two of those three mainstays. The Danville native left campus last week to study in Centre's international program in Merida, Mexico. He'll be taking a sabbatical from Kentucky and football.
A standout Colonels defensive lineman who won two state championships as a player at Danville High School, Atkins says the timing was right to explore other options.
"I've played football more than half my life," he says. "I've been blessed in that I've had no injuries and played on successful teams at Centre and Danville. I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity."
Atkins became interested in studying abroad shortly after arriving at Centre as a freshman. He met others students who had learned overseas and enjoyed it, and Atkins read about Centre's international program, which is ranked No. 9 in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
Atkins was sold on the idea. His parents, however, took some convincing.
J.H. Atkins, assistant vice president and associate professor of education at Centre, believes his son has always gotten more out of athletics than awards and accolades. His parents took pleasure in watching Justin play and learn the values of hard work, team camaraderie and sportsmanship.
"Justin was the first person to walk over and shake that young man's hand," J.H. says. "He knew the value of competition, and he got something good out of it."
When Atkins approached his parents about not playing football this season he had a solid game plan detailing why he felt it was the best thing for him to do.
"After he explained himself, it was hard to say anything else," the senior Atkins says. "When a mature 20 year old comes to you and lays out the merits of his decision, you have to respect that. This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him."
An elementary education major, Atkins says the trip will produce numerous benefits.
"Learning more about the Mexican people and the culture will help," he says. "There's a growing number of minorities [in the U.S.]a large number being Hispanic. Learning to speak Spanish will be beneficial. Studying abroad will help me relate to Spanish-speaking students and their parents in my classroom in the future."
Atkins, who is also a standout performer in the shot put and discus for Centre's track and field team, isn't the only fall athlete studying abroad this term. Several Centre athletes have taken some time away from their respective sport or sports to study abroad. Seventy-five percent of Centre students take part in the College's international program (the highest percentage of any Kentucky institution).
Though he'll miss his teammates, there are certain things he won't miss away from the gridiron this fall.
"It's not all bad," Atkins says with a chuckle. "My body doesn't miss the soreness. And I don't miss two-a-day practices."
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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