Colgate Going Pro: What the Future May Bring

Ben Arledge

Starting a career after college is a chal-lenge to every senior, traveling into waters of uncertainty. Much like an economics major shooting for a Wall Street job, a biology ma-jor looking into graduate school or an Eng-lish major trying to land a communications job, a Colgate University athlete faces choices and difficult decisions in pursuing employ-ment after college. Attempting to continue a sports career at the professional level is differ-ent for every student-athlete, even within the same school. The Raiders’ soccer team sent first-year Jimmy McLaughlin to the Philadel-phia Union of Major League Soccer earlier this year and senior Steven Miller was drafted by the Montreal Impact. From the football squad, senior Nate Eachus is receiving seri-ous looks from NFL franchises and could even be a late round draft pick this weekend. Finally, the Colgate hockey team has five drafted players, including two seniors, as the Dallas Stars drafted senior Austin Smith in the fifth round of the 2007 NHL draft and the New Jersey Devils selected senior de-fenseman Corbin McPherson in the third round in 2007. The Columbus Blue Jackets took junior Thomas Larkin in 2009 in the fifth round, junior Jeremy Price went to the Vancouver Canucks in the fourth round in 2009 and the Anaheim Ducks scooped sophomore Chris Wagner in the fifth round in 2010. Within the past few weeks, Smith, McPherson and Wagner have all signed deals and will continue their hockey careers. Ad-ditionally, senior defenseman Kevin Mc-Namara signed with Stjernen of Norway to play overseas.

Director of Athletics David Roach eas-ily claimed hockey to be the sport with the most opportunities to continue a career after Colgate. As a Division I, nationally-ranked program, Colgate hockey offers a platform for players to jump to the next level after college. Austin Smith, a four-year forward with Colgate hockey, finished the 2011-2012 campaign with an NCAA-high 36 goals and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. Smith signed a two-year entry level contract with the Dallas Stars. Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk called Smith “one of the best young pros-pects in the NCAA.” He reported to the Texas Stars, the AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars, late last month and made his debut on March 23.

Meanwhile, 6’5″, 215 pound four-year defenseman Corbin McPherson inked with the Albany Devils after his 10-point senior season. He was drafted after two seasons with the Cowichan Valley Capitals of the BCHL prior to his time at Colgate, and called the 87th overall selection “unex-pected and awesome.” How did Colgate factor in? McPherson explained, “My fam-ily has probably been my biggest influence. They’ve always stressed education, and fin-ishing school before turning pro was always in the forefront of my mind. There is al-ways life after hockey.” He continued, “The academics at Colgate played a huge role in coming here. Colgate has the best of both worlds – a world-class education as well as an opportunity to continue to develop my hockey skills.” The philosophy major has already recorded an assist in his nine games with Albany.

Sophomore Chris Wagner recently joined Smith and McPherson in the pro-fessional ranks, signing with the Ducks in a three-year entry level deal. In 38 games with the Raiders this season, Wagner totaled 51 points.

“Colgate has greatly helped the process of striving to become a professional hock-ey player,” the two-year Colgate forward said. “I have gotten tons of ice time since I have been here, which is great for my development.”

Junior defensemen Thomas Larkin and Jeremy Price agreed.

“Colgate has helped me a lot in devel-oping as a hockey player,” Larkin explained. “During the recruiting process, I realized that Colgate was the best option for me be-cause of the chemistry that I found with the coaches and the confidence that they’ve had in me since day one.”

Price, however, suggested that the play-ing time that he received immediately as a first-year was the biggest contributor to his development. They both currently await professional deals and remain with the Raiders.

There is no arguing the impact that Colgate’s hockey program has made on these players, surely advancing their pro-fessional prospects and allowing them to play regularly and develop. Making deci-sions, however, is still a challenge for these young players, and they seek out family advice most of the time. Price called his brother his strongest influence.

“He went to Boston College and played hockey there, and he has influenced me a ton in terms of helping me make any decisions.”

Leaving early for the professional ranks has benefits, but most Colgate play-ers opt to obtain a degree and finish out their four years. Neil Abbott, a prominent sports agent, recently spoke at the Silver Puck Dinner and preached the impor-tance of staying in school through to the end. In his opinion, leaving early does not pay off in the end.

The road is not so smooth for Colgate football players. Senior tailback Nathan Eachus is learning just that. The Col-gate Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) football program does not offer the same national coverage as the hockey team, and the schedule strength is obvi-ously not as strong. Director of Athletics Dave Roach argued that just about any Colgate hockey player could continue professionally after school, whereas that opportunity just does not exist for foot-ball players. Still, Eachus has excelled, making an immediate impact after replac-ing an injured Jordan Scott during his first year. Throughout his four years, he ran for 4,485 yards and 53 touchdowns. Despite only playing six games in his se-nior year, Eachus still recorded 763 rush-ing yards, 193 receiving yards and 7 total touchdowns. 27 of 32 NFL teams have taken notice and visited Colgate on scout-ing trips. During his March 7 Pro Day at Andy Kerr Stadium, Eachus impressed with a 4.56 40-yard dash, 37.5 inch ver-tical jump and 9’8″ broad jump. The running back also put up 24 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.

Eachus has been a stand out at the FCS level, and his play warranted a pre-draft tweet from ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. and a men-tion in a Sports Illustrated article about late round pick options.

“Sometimes, it is tough being scouted at such a small school like Colgate, but if you are good enough, they’ll find you,” the Raider tailback said. “Of the schools that recruited me for football, Colgate was the best academically. That was the main reason I chose Colgate.”

Like all graduating seniors, Colgate ath-letes face the uncertainty of the future. The school has helped shape student-athletes in different ways, but in the end, it is all about standing out and being noticed. That is ex-actly what Eachus has done, and it will be interesting to see where he ends up, wheth-er it is via a draft pick or post-draft free agent signing.

Contact Ben Arledge at [email protected]