May 2, 2002

A Chat With Two of Cornell's Most Prominent Athletes

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Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be the biggest fish on the hill? Well recently I had the opportunity to conduct a no holds bar interview with two men who have pretty legitimate claims to that title.

Senior hockey goaltender Matt Underhill is perhaps one of the most widely recognized sports figures in the history of Cornell University. A sixth round draft pick of the Calgary flames in 1999, Underhill was one of the premier goalies in collegiate hockey. His .928 save percentage and 1.88 goals allowed average make him one of the best goalies in the history of Cornell, second only to legendary Ken Dryden ’69 in season-ending save percentage. Just about the only other candidate on the hill that could challenge the great Underhill in fame and recognition is the one and only “come-back kid” Ricky Rahne.

During last season, arguably Rahne’s best, he set or broke 20 Cornell quarterback records, many of which were his own records from previous seasons. Averaging just under 300 yards per game in passing, with a 52.6% completion percentage, Rahne holds the Cornell records for total completions (479), total yards (5,726), touchdown passes (43), and 200 yard plus games (19). A repeat All-Ivy honorable mention, Rahne is leaving behind quite a football legacy in his four years on the hill, as his senior year comes to a close. One would think student athletes of this caliber would have to go to great length to avoid unwanted attention from fellow students and admirers, alike. What they had to say about their celebrity status on campus in a recent, exclusive Sun interview is rather surprising:

Sun: How do people on campus typically react to your presence?

MU: Hah, I don’t think they really know who I am.

RR: I don’t think anyone really recognizes me to be honest.

Sun: Do you feel like you have any sort of a celebrity status around campus?

MU: Only during games. I mean, I hang out with friends and stuff after the games, and they call out my name while I’m playing, but off the ice I’m just one of the guys.

RR: I don’t really get any special privileges or treatment if that’s what you mean, and that’s fine by me because that’s the way it should be.

Sun: Do you think your professors know who you are and are aware of your presence in classes? And if so, do you think that works for or against you?

MU: I don’t think any of mine really do, and if anything I think it works against me, cause some of my professors won’t put up with absences even when they are university excused.

RR: I don’t think they know me by face. I’ve had professors who don’t believe in Cornell Athletics and give me and other athletes a hard time for not being able to attend every lecture or section.

Sun: Do you feel like classmates hold you to different standards because of your student-athlete status?

MU: No, well not off the ice because I’m a student like everyone else; I attend classes, study, and have the same academic concerns, and I think other students know and respect that.

RR: I think sometimes when I was younger [an underclassman], I would get assigned to groups for projects or presentations, and they wouldn’t expect me to do anything, but now that they know me better that’s changed I think.

Sun: How do you go about avoiding any unwanted attention that you receive?

MU: You know, I don’t really get bothered by students ever, mainly just townspeople and their kids. I don’t really try to avoid them though, because I understand a lot of the kids look up to us.

RR: I wouldn’t really say I avoid attention; my friends would tell you that I’m still pretty boisterous at parties. Some people, I noticed, judge me before they meet me and assume that I’m a jerk and don’t want to talk to them.

Sun: What does Cornell do to ensure that you are enjoying your free-time and excelling in the classroom as well, now that your senior seasons have come to a conclusion?

MU: Well I mean we don’t really have social lives as hockey players. We aren’t allowed to pledge frats or party like other kids. We are big kids and know how to take care of ourselves though, so we don’t need people heckling in on us. Now that my senior year has ended I definitely have more freedom to do what I want. I mean my coaches aren’t calling me up to tell me to work out or be at practice.

RR: Well if you’re an athlete and you go here, you kind of owe them [Cornell] a little something. They do help us get in to the school, but once you are here there is no reach out attempt to assure [that] you are having a good time and once again, I think that’s how it should be. I would say the only thing that’s changed is that my coaches aren’t calling me up and asking for grades or anything.

Sun: So how would you describe this final off-season?

MU: Well not much is different. I still work out with the team all the time, like 4 or 5 days a week. Weights and conditioning takes the place of all the practices. It’s important that I keep a strict workout schedule, because the seasons are longer and there is less time between games in the pros. I only really got a two week break at the end of the season. Right now I’m am just trying to graduate because once you have that [a diploma] it can’t be taken away from you.

RR: It’s not too different from other off-seasons. I really like playing a fall sport and only being a student-athlete for one semester. I appreciate having spring semester to be a regular college kid like everyone else my own age. Even this off-season, as a senior, I still represent the team and school and need to reflect positively on both of them.

Archived article by Adam Zwecker