RALEIGH — N.C. State's Mikel Overgaard doesn't have the fastest 40-yard dash time on the Wolfpack football team. He doesn't lead the Pack in the bench press or any other weight-room category.
What Overgaard does have is the best grade-point average. The senior offensive tackle has a 3.65 GPA, the highest among N.C. State's returning players this year.
In an age when the term "student-athlete" can draw snickers, when a plagiarized paper by a former UNC football player has drawn so much attention, when academic support budgets are on the rise and Academic Progress Rates are on everyone's minds, Overgaard said he tries to do things the right way.
"It's something that's always been important to me," he said this week. "I like to try and be the best in anything I do."
Overgaard, from Weiser, Idaho, is a biology major with a concentration in human biology. He said he might go to medical or dental school after graduating in the spring.
"You have to be realistic and know there is life after football," he said.
Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien would say Overgaard, who transferred to NCSU from Snow (Utah) Junior College in January 2010, has the proper priorities. O'Brien has said there are only two for his players: football and academics.
"It doesn't matter what order they're in, but those two have to be number one and number two," O'Brien said. "You run into trouble when something else jumps up to number one or two.
"Certainly it takes someone who is mature. ... It's all about their time management skills and priorities, which we work continually with our guys on."
Teaching starts at home
Overgaard said both his parents have been teachers. His father, Will, played college football at Idaho and later taught history. His mother, Megan, teaches biology and anatomy.
Mikel Overgaard said he was class valedictorian at Weiser High with a 4.0 GPA and then had a 3.8 GPA at Snow.
"It's been challenging, especially on top of football," he said of the class work. "Football at a Division I school is more time-consuming than junior college. I've tried hard to stay on top of it."
N.C. State holds morning football practices, which helps. Overgaard said that allows him to slip in a nap after class and gives him plenty of study time in the afternoon and evening.
Overgaard said he has at times used tutors to help with tougher courses but added, "Not so much for the tutoring, but someone to talk through problems with. When you're telling someone else what you know, it helps you learn it better."
Asked to name his most challenging course at N.C. State, Overgaard didn't hesitate.
"Organic chemistry," he said.
And his favorite course?
"The same, organic chemistry," he said, smiling.
Overgaard said he took the chemistry course and studied with junior defensive end McKay Frandsen, another transfer from Snow. Frandsen, who enrolled in January, said he had a 3.9 GPA in high school and in junior college. He said he has a 3.6 at NCSU, where he is majoring in science technology. He hopes to be a dentist.
"An education is what you'll carry with you the rest of your life," Frandsen said. "Your transcripts follow you everywhere, so I've tried my best to get good grades."
Overgaard said he isn't offended when he encounters the stereotype of being a big football player - he's 6 foot-6 and 289 pounds - who probably cares a lot more about Saturday's game than Monday-to-Friday classes or getting a diploma.
"I do like it when students or teachers will kind of jokingly make fun of how 'C's get degrees,'" he said, smiling again. "It doesn't upset me. I joke around with them, too.
"And it's nice when you're getting A's and B's."
email@example.com or 919-829-8945