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Punter and Engineering Student, ODU's Plisco Excels at Both

Jonathan Plisco is an award-winning punter and an award-winning engineering student at Old Dominion University. The question is: Does engineering help you be a better punter?

"I was talking about that with (fellow punter) Benjamin Knerr. We were joking about calculating the vectors of punts and kicks. But we decided it really doesn't give us an advantage," Plisco said with a smile.

The sophomore engineering student from Newport News just happens to be pretty good at both. A walk-on on the Monarchs football team, Plisco was selected as the All-American punter from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) following ODU's 2009 inaugural football season.

The graduate of Woodside High School is also on three different academic scholarships at ODU, where he is pursuing a mechanical engineering degree, with hopes of becoming a nuclear engineer.

"It's something that I take a lot of pride in, being a good student and playing football," Plisco said. The 20-year-old redshirt freshman punter led the FCS with a 44.84-yards-per-kick average this past season. He also is maintaining a 3.44 grade point average in an academic discipline that's tougher than many other undergraduate programs.

Plisco earned a Governor's Technology Scholarship coming out of high school. Since arriving at ODU, he's also received the Edgar and Kathleen Kovner Scholarship, and the Pace Collaborative Scholarship in Engineering. Together, they pay most of his costs to attend the university. As a football team walk-on, "It really helps," Plisco said.

After a year of adjusting to the balance of academic life and varsity athletics, Plisco experienced an entirely different level of commitment during his first season of playing collegiate football last fall.

"The year before was a little bit of a taste of it, but it was nothing compared to football season," he said. "I probably spent 15 more hours a week this year than I did during my freshman year. You're working out harder, spending a lot of time studying film and playbooks, plus all the travel and other commitments. It was really tough."

One thing that helps Plisco feel a little more normalized is that there are four other engineering students on the football team, so they can commiserate about the balancing act required to do both. Some of the students in other majors will joke with him. "They'll say, 'Can you do my math homework?'" Plisco said. But with the amount of information a varsity athlete has to digest, "by the time you get to college, every football player is smart. Otherwise, you couldn't do this," Plisco said.

After earning his ODU degree, Plisco hopes to pursue a master's in nuclear engineering. But first, he's got a few more years to look forward to kicking footballs for ODU's fledgling team, and maybe finally engineering the perfect punting technique.

This article was posted on: February 2, 2010

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