By Ragan Gainey
LSU Sports Information
Being a true athlete encompasses much more than just making big plays on the field. A huge part of an athlete's success concerns the big plays made off the field --- in people's hearts. Senior offensive lineman, Rudy Niswanger has shown that there is much more to him than just playing football by proving his worth in every aspects of the word athlete.
If you ask Niswanger what his top priority is over all of the things he's involved with which embrace athletics, academics, community outreach and constant self-improvement, you'll get a response that you don't find in most. For Niswanger, a true and equal balance of all of these things is ideal.
"It's definitely a time commitment but I was always told that you make time for what's important to you," said Niswanger. "So if school, family, friends and football are all important to you then you just end up making time for it all."
Of course sacrifices always come with the territory said Niswanger. Sometimes it's extremely difficult after a long day of school then practice to get studies done when you're wiped out.
"You've got to do it because that's what's important to you," Niswanger said. "We're not here only as athletes but we're here as students also with a bigger goal in mind of graduating and being members of the community above and beyond sports."
A lot of athletes do indeed excel in both their athletics and academics, but only a certain percentage of those athletes take it even further to another level. For Niswanger, being a man of faith as well as reaching out to his community is a passion in which he's very well spoken.
"When we come in and sign on as athletes, we don't just sign on as football players, we sign on as people, that whether we like it or not, are looked up to by others in the community. They look to us in what we do as guidelines. That's part of being responsible in the community and following through with the term ‘giving back'," Niswanger said.
Some programs that Niswanger is involved with include Champs, the campus athletic program that provides different activities like public speaking and visiting hospitals, shelters and so forth. He has also been involved with the Cub Scouts and different youth groups like the Chapel on the Campus and Central Academy High School.
Advocating character and a positive mind-set to the youth groups he speaks to is something Niswanger feels is essential to their moral development.
"Some groups will ask me to speak about academics and athletics, both excelling on the field and in the classroom. Other groups just want to here my testimony of faith regarding how Jesus Christ is working in my life and what's going on there. I'm pretty vocal about that also," Niswanger said.
Being involved with his family is also of great importance to Niswanger. Recently married as of Jan. 8, 2005, he appreciates all of the support he gets from both the family he was born into as well as the support from his new wife and her family.
"I'm just extremely grateful for everything they've all done and for everything they've sacrificed. It's not just a big time commitment for us as players, it's a big time commitment for our families also," stated Niswanger. "I just really appreciate all that they've put up with, especially my wife who doesn't get to see me much because I'm up here but she understands how all of that goes and I'm very appreciative to her."
As far as his five-year stretch as a Tiger, Niswanger is extremely fulfilled with his tenure, teammates and coaches.
"I'm very proud of my career along with the rest of us seniors. We've been through a lot. We've won a lot of great games. This season with the coaching staff with Coach Miles coming in, he's done a great job for us and we're on to another great season with a lot of opportunities in front of us."
Right now what is most important for Niswanger as well as his teammates is coming back and redeeming themselves post SEC performance.
"The opportunities in front of us are what I'm really trying to focus on. Everything in the past people know about. What's done is done. Right now it seems like such a bigger deal in my senior season wanting to finish out with a bang."
Last week, Niswanger was presented with the Wuerffel Trophy, also known as the "Humanitarian Heisman." The award, named after 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel of Florida, is awarded to the college football player who best combines exemplary community service with outstanding academic and athletic achievement.
"I was extremely proud to receive that," said Niswanger. "It just means a lot because that award encompasses what it means to not just be an athlete but to be a person and I'm just extremely proud to be able to represent my family and school and state by winning that award."
To top that off, Niswanger is currently in New York City to represent LSU after being nominated by the National Football Foundation for the Draddy Award. 16 scholar athletes have been invited to New York after being nominated for this award, which is also know as the "Academic Heisman." This award encompasses those athletes excelling in athletics and academics.