Alumni Athletes Thrive in Post-Oberlin Pursuits

To some Oberlin students, it can seem like those who dwell on the north side of campus and those on the south side of campus attend completely different colleges. In the past few years, there have been several initiatives to help bridge these communities — notably the “Hate Sports? We Want To Hear About It” open forums facilitated by English Professor Yago Colas in fall 2017. But to many, an athlete roaming anywhere farther south than King Building remains a rare sight.

The history of Oberlin Athletics, however, demonstrates a powerful pattern of crossover between typical athletic and non-athletic activities, and countless successful Obie athletes have led dynamic and varied lifestyles that have taken them to every corner of campus. When questioning what it means to be an Oberlin athlete today, one must take a look at the past.

Chris Broussard, OC ’90, is one of the country’s most well-known basketball correspondents, and for anyone who knew him at Oberlin, there’s no surprise that his career has become a hybrid of his various interests.

Broussard was a point guard for the one of the most successful basketball teams in Oberlin history and wrote articles about the team for the Review, where he worked as a staff writer.

Though he initially enrolled at Oberlin as an Economics major, Broussard’s passion for writing redirected his academic path, and he graduated with a major in English and a few journalism internships in his back pocket. Beyond playing and writing about sports, Broussard also spun hip-hop tracks during his shifts as a WOBC DJ and rapped at a handful of Soul Sessions at the Afrikan Heritage House.

After Oberlin, he floated between various sports writing jobs until landing one at ESPN. Today, Broussard is one of the most respected voices in NBA commentary. At Oberlin, he is recognized as not only a successful alumnus, but also as a student who took advantage of opportunities offered across campus, living a student life not defined by, but enhanced by sports.

Jeff Weltman, OC ’87, also represented the Yeomen on the basketball court. Much like Broussard, Weltman was a point guard who wrote for the Review during the offseason. When he was appointed manager of the Orlando Magic in 2017, his former Oberlin classmate Michael Sorrell, OC ’88, described him in the Orlando Sentinel, “If you didn’t get along with him, it probably said more about you than it did him … He was always a guy that you were happy to have in the room, that made the room a better room. And that’s a cool guy to be.”

Weltman serves as another representation of how Oberlin athletics have equipped its student-athletes with strengths that assist them beyond their respective teams, the classroom, and the campus. A love of sports has not only directed these alumni toward promising careers, but also allowed them to indulge in an area that many consider to be nothing more than a hobby.

More recently, Lilah Drafts-Johnson, OC ’18, was a record-breaking sprinter for the Oberlin track and field team and helped guide them to four North Coast Athletic Conference titles during her four years.

While her athletic accomplishments are notable, Drafts-Johnson also excelled off the track, graduating with honors in Latin American Studies and a second degree in Politics.

Additionally, she spent time away from campus traveling in South America and working at a summer camp in Vermont. In an interview with The Wicked Local Melrose, Drafts-Johnson’s hometown paper, she stated that she was initially drawn to Oberlin because of its wide range of opportunities as a liberal arts college and its strong musical presence — but also because she was able to run.

“I grew up playing piano and singing,” Drafts-Johnson explained, “so I was very attracted to Oberlin.”

While running her most successful season as a collegiate track star in 2018, Drafts-Johnson also completed an honors thesis titled “The Language of Sport: Understanding Chile and Chilenidad though Marathon Races and Futbol Games.”

Inspired by her 2016 semester abroad in Chile, her thesis demonstrates her plans to continue bridging her love of sports, travel, and Spanish language and culture, and to bring every aspect of her Oberlin experience into her post-grad life.

In a time when many on campus are working to find common ground between athletes and non-athletes, the experiences of Oberlin’s athletic predecessors emphasize that Oberlin instills a range of diverse interests on all of its students. Athletes like Broussard, Weltman and Drafts-Johnson demonstrate that Oberlin encourages athletes and non-athletes alike to break out of their molds and explore what the campus and curriculum have to offer.