Only about 7 percent of all high school athletes go on to play in college, at any level — including Division III. While this does prove that Oberlin student-athletes are extremely talented, they might not be as talented as some of the other collegiate athletes out there. In fact, many student-athletes on campus have stories of when they matched up against future NBA, NFL, and Olympic athletes in their lives. Often, these stories tally among a young athlete’s most humbling experiences.
Nowadays, College second-year Chris Allen can be found leading the Yeomen football team as its starting quarterback. However, as a high school basketball player in New Jersey, Allen played against a number of high-profile athletes, including former five-star recruits and current University of Florida and Villanova University players Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine, respectively. Despite that, Allen would note another player, from his childhood, as the most incredible athlete he’s seen.
“The most notable name I played was [NBA player] Cole Anthony,” Allen said. “I ended up playing him at least over 10 times between fourth [and] eighth grade through [Amateur Athletic Union] competition. [His] biggest strength was his leadership. Sure, he had all the talent in the world, but he made sure his teammates were involved and it always made them hard to beat.”
Since the two last played against each other, Allen has focused on football while Anthony has gone on to be a star at the University of North Carolina and become a first-round draft pick for the NBA. Still, Allen thinks he could compete with the Orlando Magic guard.
“[When I played] against Cole Anthony, as a team, we beat them more than they beat us,” Allen said. “If we played today, the competitor in me says I can still compete with him. I know it would be a challenge, but it would be fun… to see where I am now.”
NFL running back Jonathan Taylor just finished his rookie season for the Indianapolis Colts, during which he accounted for over 1,400 yards of total offense and 12 total touchdowns. Before that, he starred for three years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he amassed 6,174 rushing yards, earning a top ten ranking in NCAA Division I history. And before that, Taylor ran against College fourth-year and track and field athlete Malachi Clemons in the New Jersey state track and field championships for three consecutive years.
“When I was a sophomore we beat his 4×200[-meter relay] team,” Clemons said. “But, individually, he would erase us. His junior and senior year, he completely erased us in any race and we did not perform well against him.”
Unlike Allen, Clemons doesn’t think he could compete against Taylor if the two were to meet up again today.
“He was fast, strong, and smart,” Clemons said. “His only weakness was that not everyone [on his team] was the same athletic superstar that he was. I was trash compared to him. If we were to race again, I would rather cheat and cut across the track, but, honestly, he might still win that.”
Before coming to Oberlin swimmer Jillian Jaczkowski, OC’20, competed for Chippewa Valley High School in the Macomb Area Conference’s Red Division. While there, she constantly ran into Grosse Pointe South and their swimming phenoms, the DeLoof sisters. Ali, Gabby, Catie, and Jackie DeLoof have all gone on to success with the University of Michigan and beyond, with Ali, Gabby, and Catie all qualifying for the 2016 Olympic trials and all four are hoping to qualify for the 2021 team.
“We did not stand a chance against Grosse Pointe South and the [DeLoof] sisters,” Jaczkowski said. “The sisters finished their individual races body lengths ahead of the other swimmers and dominated the relays. They pushed our faster swimmers to try to keep up, and we tried our hardest, but at the end of the day we had to be realistic that no one on our team was going to stand a chance against Olympic Trial qualifiers.”
Despite being in awe of their talents, Jaczkowski was also aware of the attitude of their team.
“Because of their skill, which was largely thanks to the [DeLoof] girls, the Grosse Pointe South team had a bit of an arrogance problem,” she said. “Their swimmers got out of the water before the other swimmers finished, did not congratulate each other after good races or cheer each other on, and were often just flat-out rude. You could tell that their team environment was not conducive to friendships.”
Still, Jaczkowski wants to give credit where it is due and, as a result, is confident that she knows how she compares to the DeLoof sisters.
“Considering that I have gotten slower throughout college due to back injuries and knowing that at least one of the [DeLoof] sisters is probably going to end up competing in Tokyo next summer, I think we can all assume how that would end,” Jaczkowski said.
Division III student-athletes don’t just appear out of nowhere. They train, practice, and play their sports for most of their lives and, as a result, end up crossing paths with some future superstars. While they may not be on the same level athletically, these encounters with elite athletes can lead to some long-lasting memories.
“A lot of times, I look back at when I played against these guys and it’s just amazing to me to see how much they have grown, but also how much I have grown,” Allen said. “It was always fun to play against them and to be able to say I did is a huge honor. Oh, and if anyone needs any proof, I’d be glad to share.”