For senior running back Jonathan Rigaud, the decision to attend Johns Hopkins was easy. Having first heard in his junior year of high school about the winning combination of strong football and pre-medical programs that Hopkins offered, Rigaud saw the school as "the best of both worlds." When the Blue Jays offered him the opportunity to play Division III football, Rigaud jumped at it.
"I was considering going to Michigan or Miami just for academics, but when Hopkins came into the picture, I decided to come here. What really sold me were the players and coaches and the strong academics," Rigaud said.
Rigaud has made the most of his time on the Homewood campus.
Off the field, the Pembroke Pines, Fla., resident is majoring in public health and is a senior leadership consultant, a brand ambassador for Next Step Realty, a member of the student-athlete advisory committee and a member of Alpha Delta Phi fraternity.
On the field, the 5-foot-8, 190-pound back has been a force. This season, he has rushed for 1,262 yards, third-most in one year ever at Hopkins, and 20 touchdowns, second-most in program history. On Tuesday, he was named the Centennial Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
His play a big reason the Blue Jays have made the NCAA Division III playoffs three of the past four years. Hopkins (9-1) will open postseason play Saturday at noon with a game against Washington & Jefferson (8-2).
Rigaud's recruitment story mirrors that of many of the players on the team, students who are invested in pursuing a rigorous academic program, especially in pre-medical studies and the sciences, while playing for a successful D-III program.
Ten of his teammates comes from Florida, a state lacking D-III football.
"Football is a way of life in Florida. It's hard, however, for many high school football players to pursue playing the sport in college," said senior running back and fellow Floridian Scott Barletta, also a pre-med student. "High school players that don't receive an offer to play at one of the D-I schools have to go elsewhere. There aren't many schools with academic prestige like Hopkins in-state, so a place like this is perfect for those whom want to excel in football and their academics."
Hopkins' combination of D-III football and top-tier academics lends itself to geographic diversity.
Said coach Jim Margraff, "To find a student athlete to fit the academic profile sought by our admissions office and the athletic talent to play on a nationally competitive football team, we have to search a much wider area than a typical D-III football team."
With 21 states accounted for among its 93 players, Hopkins ranks sixth among Division III schools in states represented.
"It's been great having people from across the country on the team because I've gotten to experience different cultures and the different kinds of football each player plays based on where he comes from," Rigaud said.
Rigaud has cherished the opportunity and is acutely aware that his playing time is coming to a quick end.
"It went by too fast," he said. "It went by real fast."
After the season, he'll continue his academic pursuits by doing research with Orioles orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bashir Zikria, an assistant professor of sports medicine, and studying for the Medical College Admission Test.
At Hopkins, there's little doubt Rigaud will achieve his goals.
"Jonathan has done everything the right way as a student-athlete," Margraff said. "He is certain to find success in whatever endeavor he chooses."
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