Patrick Elsenbast was a busy man last spring.
The Colorado State redshirt senior linebacker wore two different hats as both a football player and a teacher. He slept very little and managed a schedule that kept him occupied for 18 or 19 hours per day.
There was Elsenbast the football player, the linebacker who was the Rams’ ninth-leading tackler a year ago and was training for the upcoming season in the new on-campus stadium.
But from 7:30 in the morning until three in the afternoon? He went by Mr. Elsenbast.
The Littleton, Colo. native was also completing his student-teaching program at Rocky Mountain High School.
It was hectic, to say the least, but teaching and football are two things Elsenbast is passionate about. When you love what you do, the long hours, the short nights of sleep, and all the other inconveniences don’t seem as bad. And that was the case for Elsenbast as he readied himself for another season of football, and for a career in education.
Elsenbast said he awoke everyday around 4 a.m. to begin conditioning at five. In order to make it to Rocky Mountain on time for school, he had to leave morning workouts early. That meant arriving before the rest of his teammates to get the work done.
After that, it was a quick dash down Shields St. for a day of teaching before returning in the afternoon for more football. Following that, Elsenbast said he attended seminars for student-teachers.
“I wouldn’t get back home until 9 or 10,” he said. “I then had to finish planning what I didn’t get done. So I’d tell people if I was in bed by 11:30 or midnight, I was extremely efficient. I ran on five hours of sleep the whole spring.”
As a result, Elsenbast’s weekend activities consisted exclusively of sleep, something his students at Rocky Mountain were surprised to hear.
Elsenbast comes from a family of teachers. His mother and both grandmothers were teachers and he claimed he didn’t have a bad teacher at Chatfield High School in Littleton. The combination of being around these educators and witnessing their ability to influence young minds in a positive way struck a chord.
“Specifically, it was two English teachers, a couple history teachers, and one science teacher and the combination of everything they did for me was like, “Man, this what I want do.’ I had so much fun learning and going to class. I grew up in a teacher family,” Elsenbast said. “I don’t think you can put a price on making a positive influence on a kid’s life every single day of your career.”
One of those teachers at Chatfield was Sophia Rodriguez, who taught Elsenbast as both a sophomore and senior. Elsenbast, who was always looking for ways to challenge himself academically, took her Honors Anatomy and Physiology class his senior year. Rodriguez said Elsenbast has a “humble confidence” about him and described his assignments in school as “meticulous.”
“When I think of him as a teacher, I just think he’s constantly going to push himself to be a better teacher,” Rodriguez said. “He’s going to push kids to be the best they can be but he’s going to do it in a way that not only models what that looks like, but is encouraging of them and is not degrading. He’s going to get the best out of his kids.”
After completing his student-teaching, Elsenbast earned his teaching license for the state of Colorado this summer. He is certified to teach secondary (7-12th grade) social studies. If he wasn’t playing football for the Rams, he could be working as a teacher in a middle or high school right now.
Elsenbast has taught geography and is licensed to teach any social studies course. But he said his greatest interest is in American history, particularly events from 1900 to the present.
And his favorite 20th century history topic?
“1960s, man,” Elsenbast said without any hint of hesitation. “Vietnam, Civil Rights, and sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.”
Elsenbast is quick to have discussions about history with his teammates, usually fellow linebacker Evan Colorito or Brandon Summer, a reserve punter. Those conversations usually take place in the locker room or over food somewhere. And Elsenbast has no issue playing the role of fact-checker.
“I’ll be that smart aleck that goes, ‘Hold up, hold up.’ And I’m the nerd that comes in and wrecks everything and kills the mood with history,” Elsenbast joked. “That’s what makes it so funny with our relationships.”
The parallels between football and teaching are abundant. There are numerous lessons Elsenbast has learned on the football field that translate to the classroom.
Time management stands at the top of the list. But the ability to connect with a variety of different people and personalities is another.
“There’s different maturity levels in a classroom,” Elsenbast said. “There’s some kids who are high-flyers and others you need to pick up. There’s some kids where you can kind of get on them, not as a jerk but you have that kind of relationship. Then there’s some where you go to them and you have to be more personal and pick them up. Same thing goes for the team. There’s some teammates where you can go, ‘Hey man, let’s go.’ And there’s some you have to pat on the back and say, ‘Hey we need you.’”
Interestingly, Elsenbast taught high school seniors last spring, who are the same age as present freshmen on the CSU team now.
Elsenbast graduated with his bachelor’s degree and is now working on his master’s degree. Following the season, the plan is to look into substitute teaching while applying for full-time positions and finishing up graduate school. He’s hoping to land a full-time position somewhere next fall.
Meanwhile, Elsenbast is going to enjoy his final season of college football. But when it’s done, he’ll have a purpose-filled career waiting.
“You get to have really good relationships and you get to make a positive impact on every single person’s life,” he said. “I really enjoy that. It feels like it’s just a natural purpose.”
Collegian sports writer Michael Roley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @michael_roley