Syracuse University football co-captain Mark Baniewicz ’99 is an intimidating figure. Crouched on the line of scrimmage, the 6-foot-6, 275-pound offensive tackle explodes when the ball is snapped, clashing with defenders as he blocks and protects the quarterback. There’s no question that when he’s on the field, he’s all business.
schmitt shoots!! |
Syracuse football co-captain Mark Baniewicz ’99, a graduate student in the School of Management, received the prestigious 1999 National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete Award.
Baniewicz, you might say, is all business all the time. A graduate student in finance at the School of Management, he brings this same intensity to the classroom. In December, he was one of only 15 players in the country to receive the 1999 National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete Award. He’s also only the fourth player in SU history to receive the honor. Tack onto that a string of 37 consecutive starts and playing a key role on three SU Big East champion teams, being named to the 1999 All-Big East first team, and being selected as a GTE Academic All-American for two straight years (first team in 1999; second team in 1998), and it’s easy to see why he epitomizes the successful student athlete.
Baniewicz, a native of Fairport, New York, who majored in finance as an undergraduate at SU, is intrigued by investing and the stock market. In the not-too-distant future, he could find himself in either an NFL uniform or a three-piece business suit. While he wants to play professional football, he also likes the idea of working for a brokerage firm, though not on Wall Street. “That’s just not my style,” he says of the fast-paced world of New York City.
Baniewicz attributes his achievements on and off the field to his ability to separate athletics and academics. “When I’m on the field the only thing is football,” he says. “It’s a place to go and vent, a place you can leave your worries behind.” He also reminds himself that no matter what happens on the field, it’s important to leave it there. “That’s the difficult part, remembering that you have another life beyond football,” he says. “But you have to do it.”
The separation of athletics and academics becomes more difficult when you consider the rigorous schedule SU football players follow during the season. Between rising early for morning classes, afternoon weight sessions, and practice, players rarely have a free minute. “At night you’re really tired, and it’s difficult to get yourself to do homework, but you force yourself to get it done,” he says. Although he admits with a smile that he was an underachiever as a high school student, Baniewicz credits the structure of the Syracuse football program with helping him excel academically. “You either follow or go against the structure of the program, it’s as simple as that,” he says.
Coach Paul Pasqualoni agrees that Baniewicz benefited from the demands of the football program. “Having deadlines, being punctual, organized, and time-efficient worked in Mark’s case,” Pasqualoni says. “He kept things in order, and became a great student and a quality player.”
Pasqualoni also praises Baniewicz for his leadership qualities. Baniewicz is devoted to the sport and his teammates and understands that younger players look to him as a role model. “I watch what I do. I try to lead by example, not by being vocal and getting on guys. I just play hard,” he says. “My main focus was for the team to do well and win games,” he says.
The Orangemen weathered a turbulent year and were rewarded with a trip to the Music City Bowl in Nashville, where they defeated Kentucky, 20-13. Playing in a bowl game, Baniewicz says, was one of his main goals for the season. He was also selected to play in the Senior Bowl. “It’s for a select group of seniors who play and gain exposure,” says Pasqualoni. “I don’t know what his chances are in the NFL, but usually this group is closely looked at by the NFL, so we’ll have to see.”
While Baniewicz hopes to be playing pro football this fall, he knows he has other options. He could, for instance, invest those huge NFL salaries for others. “I enjoy playing the game and work hard to get better at everything every day,” he says.
LISA DEL COLLE
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