Walk-On With a Dream

Adam Mikesell, a sophomore communication major from Tooele, is unlike many of the players one might find on SUU’s football team. After graduation Mikesell wants to start a nonprofit helping young athletes who struggle in school, and wants to use his experience as walk-on safety with a 4.0 grade point average as an example of work ethic and ability.

In high school Mikesell wasn’t all that interested in academics, and was more of a typical teenage ‘punk kid.’

“I liked getting in trouble with my friends and playing sports, and just kind of hanging out,” Mikesell said. “School wasn’t really on my mind that much. I thought I had all the work ethic and the right attitude and what not, but that wasn’t the case.”

After pulling a low score on the ACT, Mikesell’s academically inclined mother pressed him to retake the test. Unwilling to do so, he instead made the sudden decision to go into the Army.

Mikesell said joining the military was a great experience for him and helped him learn a lot. “I had a lot of great leadership, it kind of shaped me up,” he said.

Due to the values he learned in the Army, Mikesell decided that he wanted to help kids that currently have the same mindset he had towards school when he was younger. So he developed the dream of starting his own nonprofit tutoring center for high school athletes.

“Hopefully (it will) help them realize a lot sooner than I did that they actually have to put in some effort into some stuff,” Mikesell said. “I feel like there’s a lot of kids that are in the same position that I was that need a helping hand to guide them like I did, but I just came across it a little bit later in life.”

Before he could do that, however, Mikesell realized he would have to go back to school.

“It kind of started with, ‘well (if) I want to go into a nonprofit and work with kids, I have to practice what I preach,’” Mikesell said. “I (have) to learn as much as I can before I become the teacher, so that’s why I’m building my resume, I guess you could say.”

After getting a 4.0 his first semester, he was encouraged to try out for the football team, despite his belief that he wasn’t the best athlete.

“I was a subpar quarterback on a crappy high school football team,” Mikesell said. “Then I realized, ‘well if I can work hard enough it’ll go great.’ I can say I did it, you know?”


Mikesell also believed earning a spot on the football team would put meaning into his statements and help him earn credentials for helping kids later on. “I feel like if I can say I got a 4.0 in college, anybody can get a 4.0 in college. If I say that I can make a division one football team, who says anybody can’t? As long as you put in the time and effort, and work hard, have the right attitude, the willingness to learn and be critiqued, it will show,” Mikesell said.

When he didn’t make it onto the team the first time he tried out, Mikesell said he trained ever harder. He worked out with senior cornerback Jarmaine Doubs and continued to train with his friends over school breaks.

All of his determination paid off in his second tryout, earning him a spot on the scout team.

“I think it’s a blast, I love being out there with everybody and trying to give the offense the best look,” Mikesell said.

He has hopes to keep working hard and make it onto the travel team next year, but even if he doesn’t, he will continue working until he can.

He still has his sights set on his nonprofit aspirations after college, though. “The fact of being a football player, it’s great that I’m a football player, but that’s not the reason why I did it,” Mikesell said.

While he would like to go straight into building his nonprofit, he admitted there’s a few steps he needs to take first, and it’s going to take him a minute to get there.

Mikesell’s current plan is to apply for SUU’s bridge program to earn master’s degree credits while working on his bachelor’s degree. After completing the Master of Arts in Professional Communications program, Mikesell hopes to earn an MBA through Stanford University. After completing school, he would like to work with a large brand name company, such as Adidas or Under Armour to gain experience and grow connections.

“Anything really to help my end goal, and that’s to be able to work with kids,” Mikesell said.

When he does get to that final step, he envisions his nonprofit being a community tutoring center that high school athletes can come to and be able to get the help they need for their grades and development. Mikesell speculated that perhaps this tutoring center would also host athletic training camps in conjunction with its academic services.

Even though his focus is on young athletes, Mikesell stressed that the sports are secondary to what he’s trying to accomplish. He said he doesn’t want to just make the tutoring center about sports and academics, but more about learning to be a better rounded person and more prepared to succeed in life.

“Hopefully I can preach that in the future and lead by example,” Mikesell said.

Like him, not everybody can be a professional athlete, but Mikesell hopes one day he can at least help kids become professional and successful adults.

Story By
Haleigh Clemens

Featured Photo Courtesy of Anita Bunker