By Lucas Robbins, SDA Digital Communications Intern
It's no coincidence that some of Sun Devil Athletics’ most recognized players picked a major that requires them to be leaders off the field as well.
Football’s Taylor Kelly, softball’s Dallas Escobedo and volleyball’s Macey Gardner are all students at Arizona State’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. The three star athletes have more in common than a major and athletic talent. Their experiences on their respective teams have shaped them into leaders and role models, and have instilled in them an eagerness to help others.
“I wanted a major where I could give back to the community,” Kelly said. “I want to go out into the field and coach and help kids out that are in need find direction so they can be successful later in life.”
Garnder, a sophomore outside hitter, and Escobedo, a senior pitcher, were also late in moving their focus to education, but like Kelly, they’ve found the program to be extremely rewarding.
“I wanted to be a person that could be an influence for younger people,” Gardner said. “I knew that educating kids was a passion of mine, so I switched over and I am enjoying it immensely.”
Escobedo added, “The summer before going into junior year I worked at a special needs center in Mesa and just loved it: the people there, the kids, the clients, everyone,” she said. “I fell in love with the whole atmosphere. These kids might not have everything going for them but their attitudes are so great.”
Kelly’s abilities aren’t in question as he threw 28 touchdowns for 3,635 yards in 2013, the third most in a single season in school history. Kelly knows that his play on the field will speak louder thank his words and quarterbacking the best scoring offense in the Pac-12 South last season exemplified his style.
“I’m a quiet leader and I’m going to do things the best of my ability, one hundred percent,” Kelly said. “I Lead by example, and show guys that this is what it looks like, follow me and we’ll be successful.”
Gardner, who was named First Team All Pac-12 last season, also shares those same characteristics. She strives to be a someone her teammates can rely on. Even though she can be shy off the court, her hardworking attitude on the court inspires her team to match her intensity.
“I would see myself as a leader but I know I’ve got 13 other girls who are behind me, who are all also leaders,” said Gardner. “It’s just a matter of making the right choices, right decisions, at the right time.”
Escobedo was thrust into a leadership role early as ASU’s freshman starting pitcher in 2011. She grew into the role extremely well over the course of her 37-3, 326-strikeout season.
“I didn’t really consider myself as a leader because I was so young,” Escobedo said. “Now as a senior, I really understand that the choices and decisions I make are going to affect my teammates and outside in the community.”
The three aspiring educators are taking the field again for the start of their respective 2014 seasons, and will continue to inspire teammates, fans, and future Sun Devils. These leaders may not have their degrees yet, but they’ve already begun their roles as teachers both on and off the field.