Nelson Thomas, the #34 5-10 linebacker for UNH football, not only trains to be a strong teammate, but he works hard to pursue the co-founding of ecoText, a digital library for college students to access affordable textbooks, and support his colleagues as the co-President of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).
Q: What does inclusion of NCAA student-athletes mean to you?
NT: "Inclusion symbolizes what sports should be. An equalized playing field where the societal constructs that otherwise separates us do not matter...That is how it should be off the field of play as well. No matter where your teammate [came] from it is about who they are, and who they are that matters most."
Q: Why did you choose this word to represent another part of you?
NT: "I chose to be an Advocate because as athletes we have a platform and the ability to use our influence to cultivate a lot of change in the communities in which we are involved.
"It is important to for me to represent that I am more than simply an athlete by making myself an advocate and a role model for issues that I care about. Using the ethos that I have to speak for those who otherwise do not have the voice to speak for themselves."
Q: What stereotypes do you experience and want broken down, as a student athlete?
NT: "The largest stereotype that I wish to see broken down is the belief that students have to 'push through' everything on their own, particularly as it pertains to their mental health. It is important for athletes to know that admitting that they are going through something in regard to their mental health is nothing to be ashamed of and that it is a sign of strength to admit that you need help dealing with something."
Q: Outside of the goals in your sport, what do you hope to achieve during your time at UNH?
NT: "I hope to leave a legacy at the school that allows future athletes to know that it is not a choice between being an elite athlete and being a great student, advocate or change maker.
"You can leverage the game that you play to create opportunities for yourself that go far beyond the competitive surfaces...Time should be taken to discover who you are outside of the game you play.
"It helps you stay grounded during the valleys of your sport, and when the game is over, you will be thankful that you did that for yourself."