The two overriding qualities that the new crop of Raiders had in this year’s draft were speed and ties to the Raiders. But there was one more quality that can be found in some of these new Raiders — smarts.
The two primary players who jump out at you in the academic arena are center Stefen Wisniewski and cornerback Chimdi Chekwa. Both players received Academic All-American honors for their respective schools.
Along with being a seasoned fifth year senior and three year starter for the Buckeyes, Chekwa earned Academic All-Big 10 honors while at Ohio State. He graduated from the Fisher College of Business in December of 2010 with a degree in accounting. Most athletes study something like sports management or one of the easier degrees like communications or sociology. They hope all along that they never actually have to finish that degree. But Chekwa wanted a degree that would serve him outside of football. Accounting will definitely serve him well, both while he is playing and after he leaves the game.
Drafting an intelligent cornerback was not something we thought much about until Nnamdi Asomugha came along. But if you follow how Nnamdi studies the game, he takes the same approach that he always did with his academics. He proved that if you want to be the best, you have to be a student of the game. Chekwa is just that type of player.
Wisniewski’s grades were especially impressive, finishing out his college career with a 3.92 GPA including a 4.0 over his last three semesters at Penn State. He earned Academic All-American three straight years in his four year college career. Throughout his time at Penn State, he often gave his time tutoring kids at the local high school. He also graduated last December with a degree in secondary education. He, like his uncle Steve, is destined to be a teacher.
The term “football smart” gets thrown around a lot. It refers to a player whom we know is at very least intelligent about the game of football. So while we talk about how focused he is in the classroom, it is all the more impressive that he has had a great football mind in his uncle Steve Wisniewski to mentor him about the intricacies of the game.
The center position always requires a player with some degree of intelligence. The center must survey the defense just as the quarterback does and he must make his teammates aware of his observations so they can act accordingly.
The result of this pedigree, development, plus scholastic and athletic excellence is a near perfect specimen at the center position.
These two aren’t the only brainy Raider draft picks of late. Last year’s second round pick, Lamarr Houston, graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in corporate communications and was twice named to the Athletic Director’s honor roll.
The Raiders next pick in the 2010 draft was Jared Veldheer who attended tiny Division II Hillsdale College to earn a degree in biology and had plans to study for a graduate medical degree before the NFL came calling.
While all the draft gurus were talking about Demarcus Van Dyke and Taiwan Jones running their way onto the Raiders, no one noticed players like Stefen Wisniewski and Chimdi Chekwa studying their way onto the Raiders. The so-called experts decided instead to continue to predict that the Raiders would take a criminal or a problem child despite shedding that MO decades ago.
This team needs as many smart players as it can get. Athletes are great but they must be able to learn and improve for this team to continue to improve.