No off-season in sight for two-sport athletes

    Northwestern students make a habit out of overachieving. Whether it’s serving as president of a club or student group, working part-time or loading up on tough courses, the average Northwestern student’s résumé is stacked.

    Arby Fields and Quentin Williams are no different. Rather than claiming presidencies or taking on unpaid internships, however, they play two varsity sports: football and baseball. Williams, a redshirt freshman, is a defensive end for the ‘Cats on Saturdays in the fall, and in the spring can be found roaming the outfield or toeing the mound on the baseball diamond. Fields, a freshman running back out of California, is the football team’s leading rusher with 294 yards, and played both second base and outfield in high school.

    As with any overachiever, one of the key challenges for Williams is how to deal with such a packed schedule. After football season finishes up, he dives right into baseball. The balancing act continues, however, as his obligation to football remains, meaning spring workouts complement his baseball practice.

    “I’m busy year round,” he says. Rather than complain about the workload, however, Williams enjoys the challenge. “It’s my choice and I’m loving it.”

    Still, there are always going to be conflict on any schedule. Williams recalls having to miss the baseball team’s three game stand against Ohio State because of the football team’s annual spring game. Fields, on the other hand, has never experienced college life and having to balance the two sports. But from talking to his teammate Williams, he has an idea of what to expect.

    “From what I’ve heard you don’t have an off-season,” Fields says.

    Arby Fields. North by Northwestern file photo.

    Maintaining good grades is challenging enough at Northwestern without the added of commitment of two varsity sports, something Williams knows all too well. Spring quarter, when Williams was working out and practicing for both sports, was a bit of a rough patch for his grades, as his GPA went down “significantly.”

    “Spring’s probably the toughest quarter for me,” he adds. Still, despite the end-of-year slump, Williams has managed to get back on track this quarter. “I’ve been keeping [my grades] up,” he says. “I’m pretty proud of them so far.”

    Fields also recognizes the academic challenges of playing two sports while attending a high-quality academic school like Northwestern. “School’s tough here,” he says, laughing. “No lie.”

    It turns out that the athletic department’s support of two-sport athletes may in fact be a recruiting tool, as it helped Northwestern land Fields, one of the ‘Cats .

    “Schools were offering me [chances] just to play baseball […] just to play football,” he says. It helped me narrow down my choices, because I knew I wanted to play both in college.” Ultimately, he says, “Northwestern was the right opportunity for me.”

    “I can throw a baseball pretty well, but I can’t throw a football for some odd reason.”
    -Arby Fields

    Of course, Williams’ and Fields’ teammates give them some good-natured ribbing about their decision to play both sports. For Fields, one of the more memorable jokes concerns his throwing ability.

    “I can throw a baseball pretty well, but I can’t throw a football for some odd reason […] so that’s the main thing they tease me about,” he says of his teammates. At the end of the day though, Williams and Fields have earned the respect of their teammates, too. “They know it’s a big commitment,” Williams says. “I put in all the work I can for football, and I do the same for baseball.”

    The transition between sports was a difficult one for Williams to make as well, as he had to go from a physical, aggressive mindset in football practice to a more mental and reserved approach in baseball on a daily basis during the Spring.

    “For baseball, you have to tone yourself down,” Fields adds. “While in football, you’re trying to bring yourself up […] It’s two totally different extremes.” More than that, one of the biggest challenges for Fields is balancing all the commitments to each sport. Between lifting and workouts for football, and batting practice and mechanics for baseball, Fields has a lot of things to keep track of.

    In the end, both Williams and Fields couldn’t choose between both sports, and knew they wanted to continue playing them through college. Both also find their commitment rewarding. Fields derives a sense of pride from his commitment to playing two sports.

    “Not a lot of guys get to do it, especially at Division I, Big Ten level,” he says. “It’s an accomplishment.”

    Williams doesn’t hesitate when asked why he wanted to play both “I really had a love for both games […] I wanted to challenge myself,” he says. “As long as it’s fun and I love it, I’m going to keep doing it.”


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