From sneakers to suits: FDU Devils after graduation

senior fall athletes

Above: Seniors Robert Loneker, left, and Gabby D'Amico, right, on the field during their last seasons as Devils. (Photos by Larry Levanti) 

By Catherine Krawiec

Being a Division III student athlete comes with two base requirements: be enrolled as a full time student with twelve or more credits and participate in any varsity sport. At Fairleigh Dickinson University, that is just the bare minimum of what these student athletes do. Four Florham graduating seniors sat down to talk about their experience as a Devil over the past four years.

How they got to FDU

Robert Loneker, defensive lineman on the football team, saw an opportunity at FDU to play four more years of his favorite sport. “All I wanted to do in college was play football,” Loneker says. “FDU was the last school that gave me an opportunity to play. I called the coaches and expressed my desire to play and was able to walk on and join the team.” Loneker is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science this May.

After spending her high school summers at FDU’s field hockey camp, forward field hockey player Gabriella D’Amico, already felt as if she was a student here. “I had been on campus so many times and I felt so comfortable with the area. I knew that I would fit,” D’Amico recalls. She is graduating with a B.A. in communication studies and a minor in journalism.

Samantha Guido, defender on the women’s lacrosse team, experienced feelings similar to D’Amico’s. “I knew I wanted to play lacrosse in college; I wanted a gorgeous campus and somewhere where I felt welcomed. I fell in love with the team and coaching staff at FDU and knew it was the perfect fit for me,” Guido says. She is graduating with a B.A in criminology and political science.

When applying to schools, Mitch Gettis, standout tennis player, looked for two things: something close to New York City and the ability to study abroad in the United Kingdom; tennis was not his main concern. “Coming into FDU, my mind was set on studying abroad. Having traveled with my family throughout my childhood, spending a semester at Wroxton was in the works within days of my arrival,” Gettis says. Gettis will graduate with a degree in international business and finance with a minor in British studies.

Being a team player

As a freshman, Guido was not only trying to earn her spot on the field, but she was also responsible for developing a new defense system for the women’s lacrosse team. Head Coach Adrienne Carr asked Guido to teach her how to play a zone defense, and then implement it with the team. The women's lacrosse team won the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Championship and advanced to the NCAA tournament.

“I learned that I had a voice and I could really make an impact on this team. You have to strive to reach your full potential and if you give it everything you have, you can succeed,” Guido reflects. The women’s lacrosse team won the MAC Championship Guido’s freshman and sophomore year.

With more than 100 student athletes on the football team, Loneker had to work hard to get playing time. “There was a lot of camaraderie on the team, as a team, we were in the same boat,” Loneker says. “We worked hard to make each other better and have the best experience.”

Playing tennis is a bit different from some of the other team sports at FDU as it’s both a team and an individual sport. “You could be playing a match and have to focus on your skills, and at the same time cheering on your teammate playing on the court right next to you.” The men's tennis ream finished their season in the MAC playoffs, finally falling in the Freedom Conference semi-finals.

senior spring athletes

Above: Samantha Guido, right, and Mitch Gettis, left, finishing out their seasons at the MAC Championships.

During the off-season…

With future aspirations of becoming a lawyer, Guido spent the fall semester of her junior year “studying abroad,” as she puts it, working in Washington D.C. The political science department offers an internship for credit at The Washington Center, where students intern with federal, state, and local lawmakers, see the inside of a courtroom, and work with different law enforcement agencies.

“I learned how to network and connect will all kinds of people. I am an assertive person, but after spending time with so many different people in D.C., I learned how to rein it in. It helped me become a better teammate because I learned that there are different ways to approach different situations and girls who had different personalities.”

Besides being a key part of the Devil’s field hockey teams’ success this year (winning the MAC Championship and making it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament), D’Amico is a valuable member on other teams as well: she is currently the vice president of communications for the Student Government Association and the president of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee. She has organized several fundraising events for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and created a "You Can Play" video as an NCAA Division III Initiative.

Both D’Amico and Gettis spent a semester at Wroxton College. D’Amico’s experience from across the pond gave her independence and confidence. “I learned to take full advantage of my opportunities and not be afraid to take risks. I worked hard to keep up with my academics and mentally became more determined,” she says.

Gettis had already been to the United Kingdom, but this was the first time he went without his family, and for an extended period of time. “My family has always instilled in me to learn by experience. There is no such thing as a bad experience, you have the ability to learn from everything you see and do,” Gettis says. “After being at Wroxton you learn a lot about people and interpersonal skills, and how everyone is different. This helped me handle different situations I faced on the tennis team.” Gettis was able to help underclassman by teaching them not only about tennis, but also about life as a student athlete.

From the field to life

“One of the biggest things I learned from my time as a student and athlete here at FDU is that if you have a goal and a vision, and it’s what you really want for yourself, you can achieve it,” D’Amico says. In 2014, she and the field hockey team won the MAC Championship for the first time ever in the program’s history, and finished their season in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. D’Amico will study school counseling at Villanova University in the fall.

“I did everything I could to be the best I could be, both on the field and in the classroom,” Loneker says. “I have been playing football since I was six years old and I can’t spend a day without it.” After graduating in May, he will spend one more year at FDU, working with the football team as an assistant coach for the 2015 season and graduate from FDU in the spring of 2016 with a master’s in computer science.

Being a student athlete is not an easy feat. With schedules consumed by practice, class, games, homework, and tests, there is little time for life. But throughout the past four years, Guido has been able to find that silver lining.

“It was fun, even on the tough days. You learn about your sport and more so about yourself: how far are you willing to go, how hard are you able to push yourself to accomplish the goals that you set for yourself, that you set for your team, and that other people set for you,” Guido says. “My mentality has always been, do it 100%. I learned that I can’t expect every single person, whether they are on my team, or in my classes, to feel the same way I do about the job at hand.” Guido will attend law school at St. John’s University in the fall.

For Gettis, being an athlete was the ultimate learning experience.

“In high school, I played one way, my way, which worked for me. But here I have learned that winning can happen in a variety of different ways. I can run around and push the ball back over or I can be aggressive. That is something both on and off the court; you can change how you are each day,” Gettis says. “You can be aggressive in the workplace, and some days you need to. Other days you need to be passive, sit back and learn from the situation. I was able to take that from tennis and apply it to my academic life.” After graduation, Gettis will spend the summer interning for Dun and Bradstreet. Then in September he will travel back across the pond to get his master’s degree from the Imperial College of Business of London.