When some people think of an engineering student, they imagine a nerdy, buttoned-up shirt with pocket protector, pencil pusher who doesn’t know the first thing about sports and couldn’t tell you any of last night’s scores. Paul McCall is nowhere near this stereotype.
McCall, a former starting quarterback for the Golden Panthers football team, is outgoing, well-known at the University, has an athletic build and does not shy away from doing interviews or helping out a friend in need. He’s a huge sports fan and is very active in physical activities.
McCall said that being an engineering student has helped in on the field while being a competitive athlete has helped him in his studies. He provided some advice to up-and-coming student-athletes and said to go for the most advanced and toughest major they believe that they can be successful in.
“What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” McCall tells young student-athletes to think about when choosing a career path. “That’s going to set you up for the most success going into the future.”
“The year after you graduate nobody cares how many touchdowns you have,” said McCall, a doctoral student in electrical engineering, and a record-setting quarterback. He grew up in South Florida and received his bachelor and master’s degrees in electrical engineering all while juggling both his studies and playing football at the University.
He has made it through his studies with various scholarships and currently holds a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship.
He explained one of his toughest days while studying electrical engineering and playing for the Golden Panthers was when he was finishing his senior design project and he had training camp to get ready for the football season at the same time.
“We had a week where we really had to cram and get ready for the senior design presentation and there were three nights that we just pulled all-nighters and went to practice in the morning,” McCall said.
McCall said that he went through his entire bachelor and master’s degrees without telling his engineering professors that he was a football player because he didn’t want them to think he was looking for an easy-ride through classes.
“People don’t see the hard work that it takes to be a quarterback, not just hard work on the field but in the film room and really that preparation. It’s the same thing you learn in engineering, you can’t just show up for a test, you gotta put the work in,” McCall said. “That really transferred over very easily for me into football, because you can’t just show up to game day and expect to do well.”
“Having that structure of football when I came in here as a freshman, [helped] with the 60-70 hours weeks,” explained McCall. “You really don’t have too much off-time [so] the time you do have has to be dedicated to school work. In that way football really structured my life coming into college.”
Since completing his master’s degree, and ultimately leaving the Golden Panthers, McCall tells how his involvement in sports, particularly team sports, has changed considerably.
“Every now and then I get offers [to play in] flag football games or leagues [but] I really try to stay away from contact sports these days,” said McCall. “Those things are too competitive; when you play Division I football, that’s the real thing, anything but that is literally just a game to me, it’s just for fun, and a lot of people tend to take flag football games very seriously and I’ve seen a lot of people get hurt.”
McCall continues to be active and stay healthy while keeping his body conditioned.
“Since I graduated I had a lot of injuries, so I started training for triathlons and things like that, mostly swimming and running,” said McCall “to heal a lot of long standing elbow, knee and hip, and ankle problems I had; I run and bike and swim more than anything else now.”
McCall is currently working for a private engineering firm that deals with electronic testing devices for the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning industry. He completed a co-op with the U.S. Department of Defense while finishing his master’s degree in summer 2009 and spring 2010.
McCall said he found many advantages of being an engineering student and an athlete for the University at the same time. He said employers recognize the difficulty of “being able to handle the workloads of both school and athletics” together, which they look at as the ability to multitask and have a good sense of time management.