Golden Knights in the Spotlight

The Goal is In Sight

Gannon University student-athletes have made names for themselves at the highest reaches of athletic achievements, including professional sports, as both athletes and coaches.

But few have come as close to the Olympics as soccer standout Justine Rodrigues ’15 did in February.

Rodrigues was a member of the national team from Guyana, a Caribbean nation in the northeast corner of South America. Though she is Canadian by birth, Rodrigues’ Guyanese ancestry qualifies her to compete on the national team, which she has done since she was 16 years old.

Guyana may be a small nation and not well known on the world soccer stage, but the team was, and participated in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) qualifying matches to determine the teams from the Western Hemisphere that will participate in the 12-team Rio De Janeiro Olympic tournament in August.

Rodrigues was a key performer for her team, scoring a game-winning goal against Cuba to reach the qualifying rounds of the 2015 FIFA World Cup.

At the World Cup qualifying tournament in Houston, Guyana had a difficult draw, being placed in a group with 11th-ranked Canada, host of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, 48th-ranked Trinidad and Tobago, and 84th-ranked Guatemala.

Rodrigues and her teammates beat Guatemala, but a 5-1 defeat at the hands of Trinidad and Tobago eliminated Guyana from the tournament, just one game away from the semifinal round.

Still, the experience was unforgettable for Rodrigues, who is working in Erie as a physical therapist.

The Voice of Leadership

As four-year letter winner for the Gannon football team, graduate student Chris Pike ’15, ’16M was a valuable contributor to special teams. That hasn’t changed, even though Pike doesn’t play anymore.

The special team he’s on now is the NCAA Division II National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). At January’s NCAA Convention in San Antonio, Texas, Pike was elected to chair the committee.

It’s a big responsibility and one that the Oswego, N.Y. native accepts with gratitude. “It’s a big honor. There were 27 people on the committee. Three ran for the position and my peers decided that I’d be the best fit,” he said.

In this leadership position, Pike will serve as “the voice of SAAC for Division II.” It’s a big role, but in a sense, Pike has been preparing for it throughout his Gannon University career. 

He served on Gannon’s SAAC during his first two seasons as a Golden Knight, and was elected president as a junior. At the conclusion of the 2013-14 Academic Year, Pike was named to the Division II National SAAC as the representative from the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, the nation’s largest athletic conference in terms of membership.

As a former football player who also played and refereed hockey, Pike is an advocate for the safety of student-athletes, a concern that is a point of emphasis by the NCAA.

“We’ve had conversations about concussions and protecting student-athletes in every sport, and we work closely with the Sport Science Institute of NCAA in preventing injuries,” Pike said.

“Psychology and other required classes at the beginning of my career diversified the kind of information I received and allowed me to see different aspects of sport and how people respond to situations,” he said. “I can contribute to discussions that aren’t just about health and safety.”

Often, these discussions are on a big stage. This spring, Pike travelled to NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, to New York and to Phoenix, where he addressed more than 300 representatives of all three NCAA divisions at the NCAA Leadership Forum.

Serving a Sweet Dose of Service

The Sugar Bowl, established in 1935, is one of the crown jewels of the Bowl Championship Series for NCAA Division I football teams. So what was Gannon University quarterback, Liam Nadler ’14 doing on the field of the New Orleans Superdome?

Nadler was there for the nationally televised halftime showcase with 21 other members of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team (Allstate is the title sponsor of the Sugar Bowl). The Good Works Team is comprised of student-athletes from all three NCAA divisions and NAIA member schools who have used their limited free time to perform inspirational acts of service.

As a redshirt senior last fall, Nadler was Gannon’s starting quarterback for the fourth consecutive season, and his performance was impressive enough to merit an invitation to the training camp of the National Football League’s New York Jets.

But his off-the-field accomplishments might be even more noteworthy.

As an undergraduate, Nadler worked with local youth at Erie’s Bayfront NATO Martin Luther King Center and Sister Gus’ Kid's Café, the Gridley Park spring cleanup days and Gannon’s annual GIVE (Gannon's Invitation to Volunteer Everywhere) Days.

But the game changed in 2014, when one of Nadler’s classmates was diagnosed with cancer. With assistance from staff members at Gannon’s Health and Counseling Services Center, Nadler contacted the regional office of the National Marrow Donor Program’s Be The Match initiative to arrange for a screening activity at Gannon to register potential bone marrow donors.

Under Nadler’s leadership, three bone marrow donor-screening activities were held on Gannon’s campus with 200 individuals enrolling to become potential donors.

Among Nadler’s glossy list of statistics, that is certainly one that stands out.