By: Ryan Sosic '19
BEREA, Ohio- In his three years at Baldwin Wallace University, senior Zach Poudrier (Penfield, N.Y./McQuaid Jesuit) has made life-long experiences playing linebacker while also gaining the necessary off-the-field experiences to be a professional in the world of sports.
In high school, Poudrier was a three-sport athlete as he excelled on the football, lacrosse and wrestling teams, earning a total of eight varsity letters. During his time as a Knight, he was named McQuaid Jesuit High School Football Knight of the Year, Rochester City Athletic Conference (RCAC) Defensive Player of the Year, a two-time All-RCAC selection and also served as team captain for wrestling and football.
How does a prospective student-athlete from upstate New York make his way to Berea to continue his dream of playing college football and earn his degree? Relationships.
When it was time to choose where he would continue his athletic career, he didn't have to do too much research to find out about the liberal arts school in Berea, Ohio. His defensive coordinator, Gary Parisi, had a very close relationship with former head coach and current Assistant Athletic Director John Snell. This opened up his eyes to the possibility of making the trek to Berea for college.
"I was advised to look at BW as a possibility for school because of their rich history and strong academics," explained Poudrier. "From there, Coach Snell would call me every Friday to gauge my interest in their program and as time went on, my interest in Baldwin Wallace ballooned."
Like many recruits, after the New York native made his way to campus for a game day visit, he envisioned himself living out his lifelong dream of playing college football on Tressel Field.
Once he dug deeper into the majors that the university offered, however, it made his decision even easier.
The Wide World of Sports
Poudrier was able to speak to professors in the sport management major in the School of Health, Physical Education and Sport Sciences while on his visits.
"I was always interested in studying sport management and making a career of my life-long love for sports. When I found out the opportunities the program offered, I couldn't refuse," he said.
Some of the opportunities he learned about included experiential learnings trips to the Super Bowl and College Football Playoff, roundtable events with various professionals in all areas of sport and the close proximity to major and minor league teams in the Cleveland area.
Everything that Poudrier was told about the program has come into fruition throughout his first three years on campus.
Through the Sport Management Club, Poudrier has worked Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas; Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, Minnesota; the 2017 College Football Playoff in Tampa, Florida; and the 2018 College Football Playoff in Atlanta, Georgia.
All these experiences have given students like Poudrier the ability to impress future employers by adding these major events to their resumes while also learning day-to-day professional skills along the way.
Poudrier explained that these trips have been the most exciting and his favorite experiences thus far at BW.
"Being able to travel and have a hand in one of the largest sporting events in the world is always a mind blowing idea to think about. Not only being inside the stadium and watching the Super Bowl, but the week leading up to the big day is filled with events for us to work and grow our own practical work experiences," says Poudrier.
Along with working and volunteering for events at the NFL experience and VIP parties, students are able to network and tour professional or collegiate facilities in the host city. It is not uncommon during the duration of these trips for the students to meet up with a BW alum who is willing and eager to create relationships and serve as mentors to current students. Some of these tours have included the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Atlanta Hawks, Texas A&M University and the Houston Astros.
"Being able to visit different facilities throughout all different levels of sport has given me the chance to see different opportunities that may be presented to me when I graduate," explained Poudrier. "I love visiting these different facilities and being able to connect and learn from professionals already working in the organization."
Other work experiences have included the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association, the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, the Event Management team at BW, Mallard Creek Golf Club as a Pro Shop Manager and the Student-Athlete Advisory Board.
In terms of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission gig, Poudrier played a huge part of assisting with the event planning and logistics for the NCAA Division I & III Wrestling Championships. This included acting as a point of contact for guests, delegating tasks to volunteers and recruiting talent for the National Anthem for all sessions.
BW just so happened to be the host site for the Division III tournament and had nine wrestlers competing in the championships as well.
"Going into my internship with the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, I knew that BW was the host school and was excited to be able to work alongside my peers for another NCAA Championship," stated the linebacker. "What took it to the next level was having the opportunity to support my peers chasing the individual accomplishments. Seeing guys that I see around campus or in class competing for a National Championship was an amazing experience."
The Final Go Around
Poudrier has two varsity letters, an Academic All-OAC selection and 46 career tackles on his athletic resume so far. In his senior season, he hopes to continue to contribute and guide the program into a NCAA Division III playoff berth for the first time since 2003.
Academically, he looks to have things set and stone before he leaves Berea in May of 2019. He looks to have a full-time position in event management or facility operations at a professional sports organization by the time the spring semester rolls around.
Like many strive to, Poudrier has gotten the full college experience as a student-athlete. He has put the time in and has made contributions on the field while making moves professionally to land a dream job straight out of school.