Three Sun Devils Receive NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship
By Noah Flack, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism
It's not easy to get a scholarship, let alone an athletic scholarship. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), out of the eight million high school athletes across the United States, only 480,000 receive some form of financial aid due to their participation in college athletics. Some of those athletes go on to play professionally and others begin their careers with their new education and degree.
Then, there are Sun Devils like national champion-winning triathlete Kyla Roy, former wide receiver and aspiring surgeon Kyle Williams, and two-time Pac-12 All-Academic selection swimmer Evan Carlson. Roy, Williams, and Carlson were awarded the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, which is only given to 126 former and current collegiate athletes each year.
For Roy, success has been something that had become commonplace in her time at ASU. Roy had won first place individually in the 2019 Women's Collegiate Triathlon National Championships, while the women's triathlon team had captured their fourth consecutive national title. Beyond the competitions, however, Roy and her team have excelled in the classroom. Sun Devil Triathlon just recently enjoyed its best academic semester in program history.
"It pushes me every day to be my best academically and athletically," Roy said. "These girls on this team are smart. They have pretty hard majors, and they get over a 4.0 GPA? It challenges me every day."
This is the triathlon program's second time winning the Postgraduate Scholarship. Charlotte Ahrens had previously won in the Fall of 2019. Roy was a teammate of Ahrens for three years.
"This was a standard that was set when we started the program in 2016," Triathlon Head Coach Cliff English said. "You have to be smart to be able to juggle three sports."
It is hard to imagine being able to manage both a full athletic schedule and every demand of being a college student. In addition to living and practicing in Tempe, Roy takes the intercampus shuttle for her classes and internship in Downtown Phoenix.
"Developing a schedule is helpful," Roy said. "If I didn't have triathlon, I think I might be more all over the place and more behind because you have to set out times to study and go to class."
Coach English has come to expect that his students can succeed in both their sport and studies.
"Most of the time, these students are doing triathlon outside of school when they are in high school," English said. "They are seeking out coaches and teams, so they already have a handle on time management and discipline, and so when they get here, their overwhelmed freshman phase lasts about two weeks, and then they get their bearings."
Roy didn't know about the scholarship until she had been emailed by one of the academic advisors that she had been nominated. After being selected, Roy did more research and finished her application after securing four letters of recommendation. Roy plans to use her scholarship to get her Masters of Social Work, which she is passionate about and majored in for her undergrad.
"My career goal is to work with the elderly population for end-of-life care. That is a passion of mine." Roy said.
Williams also has big career goals. Once he is done with school, Williams hopes to be a surgeon. William's journey at ASU has been well documented. As a talented football player, he flourished as the number two receiver in his sophomore year and excelled as a slot receiver in his junior year. Williams came to ASU because of the opportunity to play football and pursue a degree in Biomedical Engineering. Williams graduated last year but knew he wasn't done yet.
"I was nominated for the scholarship and decided to apply," Williams said. "I ended up getting it and I am blessed to get it. It's a highly competitive scholarship, and I was super excited when I found out."
Teammates and coaches have always described Williams as one of the smartest guys on the team. Williams came to ASU as a first-generation college student. During his freshman year, Williams injured his shoulder and received treatment from long-time team physician Dr. Anikar Chhabra. From the moment Chhabra met Williams, Williams continued to ask questions about fixing his shoulder and why it was hurt. His interest in orthopedics grew from then on, and he began to join Chhabra in the trainer's room.
"He was asking questions on a different level than most football players ask," Chhabra said. "I knew he was special from that standpoint. From that point on, I took him under my wing because he began to show an interest in medicine and orthopedic surgery."
Williams went on to intern with Dr. Chhabra at the Mayo Clinic of Scottsdale twice. William's background as an honors student and a Biomedical Engineering program student allowed him to understand injuries. During one summer, Williams was a co-author of a chapter in a textbook about minimally invasive knee arthroscopy in the office and research on epidemiology studies and NCAA athletes with back injuries.
"We got to know each other very well," Chhabra said. "He's a special kid, bright as can be. He's got such a great demeanor about him. My staff loved him in the operating room, and he asked the right questions."
Williams had aspirations to continue his football career at the next level. Still, after a short stint with the Tennessee Titans, he decided to shift his focus to graduate school and begin his career. Williams currently works as a medical device rep for cardiology equipment which includes programming pacemakers.
Williams plans to enroll in a postgraduate healthcare professional program.
"He is going to be successful no matter what he does," Chhabra said. "He is going to impact a lot of people in his life and it's been a true joy to mentor him."
Ever since arriving in Tempe in the Fall of 2017, Evan Carlson has been a big part of elevating the Sun Devil Swim and Dive program. He made an immediate impact as a freshman, earning honorable mention All-American honors in the 800 free relay (teamed with Cameron Craig, Grant House, Dylan Boyd). That same team had a podium finish (2nd) with 800 free relay team at the 2018 Pac-12 Championship.
He opened up the 2018-19 season with two victories at his first two events, posting the best time in the 50 free and 100 fly, and 100 free with Florida State and USC. He placed third in both the 50 and 100 free against Cal and earned two podium finishes in the 50 free and 100 fly against Stanford. In the Territorial Cup, he won the 50 free and was second in the 100 free against Arizona. He competed at the Pac-12 Championships in the 50 free (ninth), 100 free (ninth) and 100 fly (11th)
Carlson had a breakout junior season which included four wins in the 50 free, three in the 100 fly, and one in the 100 free. He swept the 50 free and 100 fly in match8ups with Utah, Northwestern, and Stanford. He once again had a solid showing at the Pac-12 Championships in the 100 free (fifth), 50 free (sixth) and 100 fly (seventh)
Heading into his final season in Tempe, he holds two of the top-10 times in ASU history in the 50 free and one in the 100 free. He is coming off a 2019-20 season in which he won the first eight events he swam in, looking to carry that momentum over into the upcoming season. Carlson gets it done outside the classroom as well, named to the Pac-12 All-Academic team each of the past two years.
Roy, Williams, and Carlson begin graduate school soon and each look forward to using their degrees to get them to where they want to go in life. After seeing all the qualifications both Sun Devil athletes have, it is easy to see why they were selected. It's rare to go to school and receive a scholarship for your athletic abilities, but even rarer to get a scholarship to continue your education after your college athletic career is over.