Athletic directors honor best former student-athletes on Capitol Hill
© Lead1 | Former Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), Will Batson, and Tom McMillen

Lawmakers and staffers gathered in Washington on Wednesday to honor the best former student athletes on Capitol Hill.

“All the qualities that make a good athlete really make a good public servant, whether it’s as Congress or as staffers,” said Tom McMillen, the CEO and President of the LEAD1 Association and a former Democratic representative from Maryland.

Lead1, a group representing the athletic directors of NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision schools, hosted the inaugural Best Staff Student-Athletes on The Hill Contest in the Rayburn House Office Building.

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The group recognized 25 former student-athletes who now work on Capitol Hill.

McMillen said his career playing basketball at the University of Maryland and later for the National Basketball Association taught him valuable lessons for life beyond the court.

“Being an athlete, you learn to suffer adversity. You fail. You lose games. That’s very similar to life,” he said. “You don’t win all the time, you lose. A lot of people aren’t used to that.”

McMillen served in Congress for 6 years. The tallest member ever in Congress, he remembers his time on Capitol Hill fondly. “It was awkward for me because our senator from was Maryland was Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiLobbying World Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Raskin embraces role as constitutional scholar MORE, she was only 4’11, and I was 6’11,” McMillen said, referring to the former Democratic senator. “I always said we averaged out to a normal Congress.”

Will Batson, a legislative assistant for Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Cruz in 2016 said 'something fundamentally wrong' with Christians who back Trump: book Hillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid MORE (R-Texas) was among those receiving awards. Batson played baseball and football for the University of North Alabama.

He said his experience as a student athlete helped him gain life skills and prepared him for his career on Capitol Hill.

“You have to be able to work together to get the job done. So I think at the end of the day, it’s coming up here and being a part of that individual office, or committee, working with others to accomplish the same goal,” he said.

Batson said college sports also taught him the value of persistence. “You win some, you lose some but being able to handle both situations with grace, and saying ‘alright we’re going to get back on the horse and do it again,’ ” he said.

Hunter Yurachek, athletic director for the University of Arkansas, also praised the leadership skills student athletes bring to the workforce.

“Obviously there are leaders throughout this building, throughout Capitol Hill, throughout D.C because of their involvement in teams, and working as part of a team,” he said. “The leadership characteristic is first and foremost what they bring.”

Congressional offices were able to nominate former student-athletes to be recognized. The awards were open to those from all collegiate divisions and all staff positions.

Several lawmakers attended the event, including Reps. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosHouse Democrats' campaign arm raises over million in second quarter Lawmakers join Nats Park fundraiser for DC kids charity Democratic leaders seek balance amid liberal push to go big on immigration MORE (D-Ill.), Dutch RuppersbergerCharles (Dutch) Albert RuppersbergerCongress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid House passes bill to establish DHS cyber 'first responder' teams House Appropriations passes defense bill that would limit funds for border wall, pull US support from Yemen war MORE (D-Md.), and Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenHouse Democrat pushes for censuring Trump in closed-door meeting House Democrats introduce resolution condemning Trump for 'racist' comments Ted Cruz blasts Tennessee GOP governor for declaration honoring early KKK leader MORE (D-Tenn.).

A fan of both the University of Memphis and Vanderbilt University football, Cohen expressed his appreciation for LEAD1's athletic directors.

“Thank you for being up here and keeping college athletics clean,” Cohen said.

“Looking out for the young men, and making sure they play in a sport that is safe," he continued, before jokingly adding, and a sport that doesn’t ever get "overtaken by soccer.”