Junior Defensive End Brian Khoury sets the edge when it comes to balancing the Carnegie Mellon academic life with football. Khoury has shown confidence in dominating in both fields: taking on the challenges of an electrical and computer engineering (ECE) major and a heavy football practice schedule and coming out on top. This season he was well rewarded, being recognized as the University Athletic Association (UAA) defensive player of the year and an Academic All-American. Perhaps the best reward, however, was helping the Men’s Football team to its first UAA championship in 10 years.
On and off the field, Khoury looks to maintain his successful lifestyle and inspire his teammates and supporters to follow. Courses can frequently get tough, and a huge challenge to managing the football double life requires athletes to push through late nights and practices and stay with it all.
Khoury speaks to the balance of keeping practices light and fun, while maintaining the focus needed to be successful. “[Y]ou look around you see ... guys pretty tired and you were with them last night at 2, 3 a.m. doing a problem set. And yeah, it’s a tough situation but you just find a way to enjoy it," Khoury said. "Or at least enjoy it until it happens next Thursday when the problem set’s due again."
With the added workload off the field, keeping a good handle on the situation is key to a well-rounded college experience, both for the team and individually as a student and an athlete.
When away from the team, Khoury balances spending time with teammates, other friends he has through clubs, other sports teams, and classes. Khoury initially competed with Carnegie Mellon Solar Splash racing his freshman year, something that really opened him up to the impact of his work.
“[W]hen we made our boat, we went to Europe — our boat broke down, of course — and we were on the side of this canal in the Netherlands and this whole group of eight to 10 year-old kids came up and they thought we were rock stars.” Although Khoury has participated in Solar Race team and The Tartan Athlete Fellowship clubs in the past, he emphasizes the importance of making sure not to over-extend.
“If you can find something you enjoy and... it’s worth the grind and the process getting there, embrace it; go for it,” he said. Doing what you care about well is not only personally rewarding, as illustrated by Khoury’s experience in the Netherlands, but can be broadly influential both within the team and beyond. Taking care of responsibilities helps Khoury set a good example on the team, as he works with other athletes who have to learn to perform even under difficult conditions, but Khoury’s experience in Europe is informative of the real-world repercussions his work can.
Being on the team is a two-way relationship for Khoury. On top of the contributions he works to make, the team gives Khoury a great support group, with teammates to work with, eat lunch with, and work through injuries with. Being a part of the team, “It helps with girls,” Khoury laughs. But, he explains, the joke isn’t really such a joke at all. He and his teammates do look out for each other and advise each other all the time.
Even during the busiest semesters in ECE, including this one, Khoury can find time to relax with other guys on the team, if only for a meal. Pulling aside for lunch on campus, or if there’s time getting out for the luxury of some good Pittsburgh chicken wings, means that at the busiest times there still is a time to step back and enjoy the situation.
Not that homework with teammates isn’t enjoyable. “Guys are giving me a hard time about Oreos," Khoury said. "They were picking on me 'cause I said Oreos weren’t that good. They’re okay but they’re like the Notre Dame of snack cookies. They’re decent but they’re overrated.” Sometimes, doing homework on a Thursday night can leave anyone a target for getting a little too comfortable in his or her shoes.
So what has changed for the football team this season? Khoury explains how the excitement and the confidence built up this season after each next win and brought out a team that could control the tension between excitement with where the team was and the need for focus on the task at hand. While they made the best of the ride, guys on the roster stepped up in their roles and played their play week to week to help get Carnegie Mellon on top.
During the week, it’s always a goal for the team to keep practices consistent, but the energy definitely showed up. Khoury commends the team for the discipline they had early in the season, pulling their situation together after a 1–3 start and staying away from any internal struggles. Instead of pointing fingers, players stayed on top of their own game contributions and got the team into the win column, and kept them there.
Khoury gets back in action next fall with the start of the Tartan’s title defense, but for now, he’ll put in the work everyday that gets him ready to play at a high level.