Mickle ‘Engineers’ Academic All-District Honors

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
December 10, 2009

In 2009, his third season as a starting defensive end for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Engineers football team, Port Allegany High School alumnus Brian Mickle racked up 25 tackles (including three for losses), one sack, one forced fumble, and one other impressive number which doesn’t show up in the game-by-game statistics: Despite the additional demands imposed by playing a varsity sport at the college level, Mickle currently carries a 3.80 GPA in in finance at MIT’s world-renowned Sloan School of Management, which earned the senior a spot on this year’s CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District Team and placed his name in the running for Academic All-America honors.

Only the first-team members from each of eight districts move on to the next round of voting; although he wasn’t selected for the final All-America squad, Mickle was one of only 192 athletes – including just 29 defensive linemen – to appear on the ballot for the College Division team, comprised of players from Division II, III, NAIA and two-year schools nationwide.

“I was shocked,” he said during a recent interview at his family’s Broad Street home. “I wasn’t expecting it. Some other guys (from MIT) had made it in the past, but I was surprised.”

So how did a kid from small-town Pennsylvania end up wearing the Cardinal and Grey of MIT, anyway? As Brian explained it, despite strong interest from the coaching staff at Carnegie Mellon, the opportunity to keep playing the sport he loved while attending one of the top business schools in the country drew him northeast to Cambridge, Massachusetts when it was time to make his college decision.

“It was a tough choice,” he admitted. “Carnegie Mellon is three hours from home as compared to Boston, which is about eight hours. It was tough, but I figured I couldn’t pass up MIT or I’d probably end up regretting it down the road.

“Most people, when I tell them I go to MIT, it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re an engineer.’ No, I’m one of the few who are finance majors. But applying for jobs, just having that name, they know the general coursework you have to do even if you’re not in engineering. (Companies) know that they put you through the rigors, so they have some confidence in you.”

In Brian’s case, that confidence was hard-earned, and not without some early struggles.

“My first week there, I didn’t really know what to think,” he confessed. “I’m going to all these classes and they’re saying, ‘We’re going to skim through this introductory stuff; you should have known this from high school.’ I’m like, ‘Wait, wait. What did you say? I’ve never even seen that before,’ and everyone else is like, ‘Oh yeah, we’ve already learned that.’ It was just overstimulating the first week.”

His head spinning, Brian sought advice from a friend on the team, an upperclassman who had already made it through the demanding introduction to the MIT curriculum.

“I came in to talk to him one day with a deer-in-the-headlights look; it was like, ‘There’s no way I’m going to make it here.’ But MIT is very good about wanting you to succeed, and they have tutors you can go to on campus.

“So I learned what I had to do, went to the tutors, worked with friends – and finally, I learned what it took to succeed and just stuck with it. And playing football, even though it’s an extra commitment, I find that I’m more efficient during the season. I know that this is my schedule and I have to stick with it: go to practice, do my homework, and on to the next day.”

Beset by injuries on top of dealing with challenges not faced by most schools, the Engineers finished the 2009 campaign 1-8 under first-year head coach Chad Martinovich.

“It’s a struggle,” Brian said. “I think most of the teams in our league have more resources. We have so many varsity sports” – 33 intercollegiate squads, more than any other Division III school in the country – “and financially, it’s spread across all these different teams. No one team is favored over another one; they’re all treated equally. And we only have so much time.” (Unlike some programs which have trouble keeping team-related activities under the NCAA-mandated threshold of 20 hours per week, practices at MIT are restricted to a two-hour block of time from 5-7 p.m each weekday.)

He continued, “I think some of the other schools focus as much on sports as we do on academics, so it can be challenging in some aspects, but we like that. We play because it’s fun, and we like the challenge.”

With his college football career complete and his final semester of school fast approaching, Brian is looking toward his next challenge. He spent last summer interning with Goldman Sachs in New York City, where a job in their sales and trading division awaits following graduation.

“I expect to live in the city for, best guess, five years or so,” he said. “You almost have to go to New York to learn the trade, to understand the markets. From there, I think I’m going to slowly get away from the city, or maybe just live outside and work in the surrounding area.

“But I really like this environment. I’m a pretty big outdoorsman, so New York is not my best fit. I think I eventually want to get back to an area like this. Hopefully running my own hedge fund, but not being in the city. Being somewhere like … This is a dream of mine, but running a hedge fund from the Taj Mahal building in Coudersport. That would be my dream job, to be back in this area.”

What advice would Brian give current students chasing their own dreams at Port High, where younger sister Kyley is a multi-sport athlete and high honor roll student in her own right?

“I would just say, ‘work hard,’” he concluded. “The thing that got me to where I am is my work ethic. At MIT, I’m definitely not the smartest kid there, but I think that my work ethic kept me in the running. No matter how smart you are, if you work hard, it’s going to be tough to not succeed. That would be my one tip.”