Prepared to think - prepared to lead
Westemeyer carries on Vikings tradition on field, in classroom, in community
Four years ago, it was Augustana College's tradition of athletic and academic excellence that lured Blaine Westemeyer to campus.
Today, he is as much a part of that tradition as any Viking that came before him.
Westemeyer, who recently completed his career as an offensive lineman on the Vikings football team, will graduate as one of the most decorated student-athletes ever to don the Augie blue and gold. A four-year starter, three-time all-conference pick, two-time All-American and two-time academic All-American, Westemeyer won the Gagliardi Trophy, given to NCAA Division III's most outstanding player. He was the first offensive lineman to claim the award.
Augustana Academic All-Americans, the sixth-most all-time and second-most among Division III schools
CCIW championships for Augustana, more than any other member institution
NCAA Division III football championships, won in succession from 1983-86
Augustana student-athletes who have won NCAA postgraduate scholarships
Westemeyer also was one of 16 recipients of an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship from the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. He will put that money, and the $7,500 he received from an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, towards medical school next year. That honor placed him in the company of big-time college football stars Tim Tebow of Florida and Colt McCoy of Texas, among others, as finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy, given annually to the college football player who excels most in academics, community service and on-field performance.
"It's a little surreal," Westemeyer says. "I usually see those guys on ESPN, so they seem a little bit larger than life. For me to be listed with those names is a little bit humbling."
A biochemistry major, Westemeyer carries a 3.93 grade-point average - the fourth-highest among the NFF scholarship winners - and he has spent his summers at Augustana doing lab research with faculty, studying the proteins involved in mitochondrial inheritance in yeast cells. He is vice president of Augustana's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, works with Athletes Giving Back and has volunteered giving hospice care to cancer patients.
"Blaine is the epitome of what a college student-athlete should be," says Augie football coach Jim Barnes. "He excels in every facet of college life: academics, athletics and leadership. We are grateful for his contributions to Augustana."
More than 25 percent of Augustana's students participate in varsity athletics, and Westemeyer says the campus atmosphere nurtures the NCAA Division III ideal of putting the emphasis on the student in student-athlete. The support staff at Augustana works hard to make sure Vikings student-athletes are recognized for their achievements both on and off the field, and they are — more, in fact, than any other Division III college in the country.
The Vikings have had 131 academic All-Americans, the sixth-most all-time and second only to MIT among Division III schools. The football program has won four national titles, and the Vikings, all together, have totaled 173 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin team championships, more than any other member institution.
More than anything, Westemeyer says his time at Augustana has prepared him - prepared him to compete, prepared him to think, prepared him to lead.
"Spending four years in the football program has shaped my character," he says. "My coaches and teammates have challenged me to reach my potential. My professors here have helped me with problem solving. I don't necessarily have all the answers, but I can approach a problem and think — approach the problem the right way and think critically about it in order to find a solution."