Real reason why some HU student-athletes miss convocation

By Shemar Woods

John Silvanus Wilson, executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, was the keynote speaker at Sunday’s 67th annual Opening Convocation. 

Former Hampton University football star Wakeem Goode won’t be at the Convocation Center to hear Wilson’s speech. 

“I didn’t even know (Opening Convocation) was this weekend,” said Goode, who spent his last year of athletic eligibility during the 2008 football season, but needed an extra year to finish his 144-hour health and physical education bachelor’s curriculum.

“The only thing I’m worried about,” he said, “is walking across the stage in May, when my mom comes down.”

Goode is an example of why many athletes do not attend Opening Convocation, either because they are unaware of the community-wide event or because there is just too much on their plate these days to add another appointment. 

But what about those professionals who leave the classroom for the pros before graduation year even arrive? Penn State transfer Chris Baker arrived at Hampton University the spring before the 2008 season and by spring 2009, he left school before his senior year to enter the NFL Draft.

“Attending Opening Convocation never really crossed my mind,” said Baker. 

Former football coach Jerry Holmes, who was unavailable for comment, told the Daily Press in January, “From my experience, I think he needed another year to develop,” ultimately allowing the Denver Bronco the opportunity to attend the official school year kick-off. 

For Goode, it is not that education took a backseat to the football program during the fifth-year senior’s tenure at Hampton University. Actually, his accomplishments on the field stole from his many highlights in the classroom. After Goode’s senior season, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference second team linebacker compiled a team-high 111 tackles and three sacks, while holding over a 3.0 GPA in his academics. 

“I was a student in the classroom, but I was also a student of the game,” Goode said. “During some semesters, I wasn’t taking as many credits in order to balance both (activities) and still be successful.”

Goode’s decision to skip Opening Convocation this Sunday draws back on his desire to finish school and move on to the next level, wherever that may be. Although the 2009 NFL Draft served as his class’ draft year, opportunities still exist with teams like the Atlanta Falcons and the Detroit Lions, thanks to his agents. If the NFL closes its’ doors, Goode considers joining the Canadian Football League (CFL). 

But, let’s say football doesn’t pan out into a career. The Cleveland native is in the midst of partnering his grassroots travel agency with another company in the next two months.

Goode, expected to graduate in May 2010, has plenty of options.

“Goode was one of the brightest players I’ve seen come through the program,” football coach Donovan Rose said. “He studies hard during film sessions and in the classroom.” 

Sure, keynoter Wilson will provide some encouraging words to those seniors looking to survive one last year in college. 

But it appears Goode doesn’t need to hear the speech. 

He has plenty of self-motivation.