Feb. 7, 2009
Chris Ptaszek spent most of his time on the football field at Rice Stadium playing a role that he did not come by naturally.
At 6-5 and just under 300 pounds, he certainly looked the part of a nose tackle, but the requisite violence that the position demands in order to survive and to succeed was something that he had to manufacture each time he took the field.
However, drop him into a room with school-age children, then sit back and watch his true personality emerge. Ptaszek was a regular among the Owls who signed up to visit local schools, or help when groups of children paid a visit to the Rice campus.
"I always liked seeing those smiling faces when we had a chance to visit schools or hospitals," Ptaszek recalled. "I never thought of it as something I was going out of my way to do. It was something I have always enjoyed," he added.
As with many of his teammates, Ptaszek was able to balance the demands of both his academic and athletic commitments well enough to find additional time to answer the call when a request was made.
Ptaszek credits his faith for giving him the energy and desire to make those appearances.
"It's something I believe very strongly. You can send a message just by how you present yourself. You want to be joyous in how you approach others, and by doing that, you give them the best example of what faith can do," he stated.
He admits at times that as he entered a classroom, he wondered if the students were afraid they were meeting the same person who stuffed opposing offenses at Rice Stadium in the fall. Those fears were always quickly put to rest.
"You can accomplish a lot with a smile, and the kids always picked up on that right away," Ptaszek said.
Ptaszek has his sights now firmly set on his post-football future. The kinesiology major sought out one of his professors about opportunities to get some hands-on experience in the Health Sciences and Nutrition field and he is currently assisting with a project on campus.
The work is definitely at the grass roots level, but Ptaszek is happy to have the chance to gain some experience.
"It's pretty basic stuff, to be honest," he noted. "But it's also a great opportunity to be a part of the research and to see the process in action while also getting credit for the work," he added.
With a willingness to set a joyful example in his daily life and an eye on a career that could impact so many lives, Chris Ptaszek is one of Tomorrow's Leaders.