When most people think of USC’s student-athletes, they only think about their sports and not much else, but what about their academics and life in general?
Last week, redshirt junior quarterback Cody Kessler, senior forward Alexyz Vaioletama, redshirt junior running back Javorius “Buck” Allen, senior swimmer Stina Gardell, senior outside linebacker J.R. Tavai and senior goalkeeper Caroline Stanley spoke about balancing all of their responsibilities.
Topics ranged from advice about classes to motivation to careers.
Vaioletama and Tavai — both Samoan — talked about their heritage, family life and the impact on their success as athletes. Both discussed how important their families were in their lives.
“I had to play the big role of being the older brother to my five younger siblings,” Tavai said.
Allen shared about his experiences in his classes.
“If you need help, get it,” Allen said. “Growing up I always thought help was a bad thing — I looked at it like a weakness.”
Being the first in his family to go to college, Allen emphasized that students should take advantage of their opportunities and not be afraid to ask their professors for help.
“If I didn’t do it, I knew no one else was going to do it for me.” Allen said.
Kessler recalled his early years at USC, when he lost out on the starting quarterback job twice.
“I could either take the easy way out and transfer,” Kessler said. “Or I could stick to it and work hard.”
Stanley, who transferred to USC from Missouri in the spring of 2012, shared about her previous experiences and adapting to life in Los Angeles. Stanley chose to leave Missouri after she ran into some issues with her coach who switched her to forward.
“That’d be like putting Cody as O-line,” Stanley said. “You just don’t do that … It doesn’t make sense.”
Growing up in the Midwest, she added that the diversity shocked her the most when she first came to USC.
“It’s been the coolest experience,” Stanley said. “I came out here and it’s been the best decision of my life and the best thing that could happen to me.”
Vaioletama said that of her favorite parts about USC is the relationships she has formed; she’s had teammates from Australia, Canada, and Russia.
“It not only helped me with my success, but it’s helped me just through life in general,” Vaioletama said.
Kessler added that he really appreciates the networking opportunities at USC.
“My advice for you guys from a relationship standpoint: Go out there,” Kessler said. “Go to events. Go meet people. Even just mention your name because sometimes it can help you out in the future.”
Allen revealed that he plans to play in the NFL and said that his career goals are anything but selfish.
“I stopped doing it for myself a long time ago,” Allen said.
Instead, Allen draws inspiration from his family to keep him working hard.
When asked about his career goal outside of a life in sports, Tavai said he’d be a chef. He was inspired by his mother who cooked for seven kids.
Gardell studied international relations and aims to get her Master’s degree in Sweden.
“My goal is to work with Interpol,” Gardell said.
Both Kessler and Stanley share aspirations to stay close to sports and work in broadcasting and sports media.
Vaioletama mentioned that she would be interested in pursuing a career in the military, as others in her family have.
Allen reflected on his memories at the Boys and Girls Club when discussing his career goals.
“All it takes is one person to believe in you,” Allen said. “No matter what it is, if you want to be a doctor, a lawyer, anything, it just takes one person to believe in you.”
Allen continued, “After the NFL, I’ll do something with kids through the Boys and Girls Club.”
Overall, the night was a good chance for the athletes to relate to their fellow students.