Ever wonder how a college athlete in the Ivy League does it?
Steelers rookie defensive end Jake Stoller has some answers.
"Teamwork makes the dream work," said Stoller, who graduated from Yale this spring with a 3.58 GPA.
"You work with your buddies," he said. "It's difficult, but you work at it the same way you work at football. Take some time with it. If you take some time with the playbook, any playbook, you can figure it out."
Stoller went through the process of figuring out Dick LeBeau's playbook with the Steelers this spring. And once again his calendar took a beating.
After taking his final test at Yale on a Wednesday, Stoller reported for his first football practice with the Steelers on Thursday and worked through the weekend with the other rookies. And before the veterans showed up a few weeks later, Stoller attended his college graduation ceremonies.
Stoller studied political science at Yale, but says he's looking to enter the business world instead of politics.
"First I'm going to take this as far as I can," he said of football. "We'll address the rest when the time comes."
As an undrafted free agent, the 6-3, 284-pound Stoller is a longshot to make the Steelers' roster this summer but he's no certainly no Ivy League weakling.
The son of a doctor and a nurse, Stoller was born in the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights. He didn't grow up a Browns fan because his dad is from Queens in New York City, "so there wasn't a whole lot of Cleveland-bred stuff going on there," Stoller said. "But I've always been an AFC North fan. My uncle and cousins live here in Pittsburgh, so we come here every Thanksgiving. I haven't spent a Thanksgiving in Cleveland for a long time, so we're always talking up the Steelers, and know everything about it, so I was excited when I got the call."
Stoller captained his University School prep team in Shaker Heights and as a defensive end made the Ohio all-state team. He was offered scholarships to Pitt, Iowa and Wisconsin, "but at the end of the day I just really wanted to play, so Yale ended up being a great option for me."
Stoller played enough his first two seasons at Yale to earn a letter, and became a starter for his last two seasons. In 2011 he had 4½ sacks, was named second-team All-Ivy League, and won his school's Jordan Oliver Award, given annually to the player who's "earned the highest respect of his teammates," according to the school's website.
"I got a lot of experience and played a lot of different defenses," Stoller said. "I played a 3-4 my first two years, a 4-3 my last two years, every position from the 1-technique to the 5-technique. I've played just about everything, and that experience, I think, has definitely helped me out."
Can Stoller follow in the footsteps of Yale alumni such as Calvin Hill and Gary Fencik?
Those players became NFL superstars back in the 1970s and 1980s. And last year, a Yale man, Shane Bannon, was drafted in the seventh round by the Kansas City Chiefs. He spent the season on the practice squad.
"There've been guys from Yale who've done it," Stoller said. "It's a different road, but you wind up in the same place."
And Stoller knows that the Steelers hold no prejudices against undrafted free agents.
"This is a great opportunity," he said. "Obviously [defensive line] coach [John] Mitch[ell] has been here 18 years and he's unbelievably experienced, and [Brett] Keisel and Ziggy Hood have helped me and the rookies out a great deal.
"This is an unbelievable opportunity and experience to be here, to come to work every day with these guys."
Given the choice of going fishing with Keisel or going to the weight room with Hood, Stoller said he would do both.
"I'm a big fisherman with my dad, but I'll be in the weight room also," he said with a hearty laugh. "I try to split it up evenly. I'm sure they do, too."
Which strikes at Stoller's other response to finding both athletic and academic success at the highest levels. Teamwork was his first answer.
"You also need balance," he said. "Balance has been a very important part of my life in everything that I do, whether it's family, football, academics. Everything is very important, and you've got to figure out a balancing technique, because if you don't, and you put too much into one, you won't have the other."