EUREKA — You never know when the door of opportunity is going to open, so stay vigilant and be ready for your chance.
Andy Studebaker of the Kansas City Chiefs shared that message with Eureka JFL players and their families at the Eureka College Cerf Center. A Congerville native and a 2004 Eureka High School graduate, Studebaker answered questions from the JFL players and signed autographs as part of the JFL sign-up.
Studebaker said he wished he’d had the chance to play football before high school, and he encouraged the kids to keep at it.
He said he’d expected to be talking to about six rows of kids and he was surprised by last week’s turnout. The JFL had about 150 players last year.
Studebaker encouraged the kids to listen to their coaches and to strive to be men of integrity, and to do what they say they’re going to do even when things get tough.
“Work when it’s not popular to work,” he advised. “It will pay off.”
He said football was a great teaching game, and his journey through the NFL has taught him to be humble and learn quickly.
He remembered one day when he was playing linebacker and standing across from Donovan McNabb.
“That’s Donovan McNabb and I don’t even know where to go,” he remembered thinking.
After playing for the Eureka Hornets, Studebaker went on to Wheaton College. He got a chance to play as a sophomore and kept playing his junior and senior years.
The small-town kid finally started getting noticed by the scouts.
He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the sixth round but was quickly told he wasn’t good enough and was benched. Studebaker said he didn’t give up, and was eventually signed by the Kansas City Chiefs, where he has been for four years.
The kids asked him a variety of questions. One asked him his favorite NFL team.
“When I was a kid, I was a Bears fan,” Studebaker said to applause. He hesitated before smiling and adding, “But I’m not anymore.”
He said whatever team he is playing on is his favorite.
Fifth-grader Patrick Donovan of Congerville asked Studebaker if he preferred to play defense or offense. Studebaker said he’d play wherever they needed him, as “you got to serve your team.”
He said there were not many careers where “you get paid to run and hit somebody,” and he was thankful for every minute.
Studebaker stressed you just never know when your chance is going to happen, so you have to keep moving forward and trying your best.
That way, he said, “When the doors open up, you’ll be able to run right through them.”