Former Colorado State Rams offensive lineman Clint Oldenburg can attest to that.
Oldenburg, a native of small-town Sheridan, Wyoming, made his way to Fort Collins, Colorado due to his football playing prowess.
With CSU, he played both guard and tackle – mostly tackle – where he was a tremendous player from 2004-06. Oldenburg started three straight seasons for the Rams' offensive line, being named to the All-MWC second team in his senior season by Athlon Sports and Lindy's.
So, what does it take to be a dominant offensive lineman?
“No. 1 is just having the physical mentality to dominate the man in front of you every play,” Oldenburg explained to me in a phone interview. “That's the No. 1 thing; toughness, physicality. To play the game of football, you have to have that, regardless of any other athletic skills you do or don't have. Outside of that would be mental as the second most important. It's how aware are you of the game going on around you; the protection, the run-blocking scheme, what the defense is trying to do. Third, the least important, is your athletic ability.”
The massive man took that confident mentality to the professional level, where he was taken in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. Throughout his five-year career, he bounced around between six NFL teams as well as two Canadian Football League teams before calling it quits last year.
But, he does still pay attention to Colorado State football, and he likes what he sees in both lineman Weston Richburg as well as head coach Jim McElwain.
“That would be the first thing that sticks out to me,” Oldenburg said of Richburg's likelihood of moving from center to either guard or tackle this season. “A guy, none of us knows where he's going to play, but obviously he can play just about anywhere on the line. That's pretty impressive. Coaches all over like having a guy like that, playing at any position they put him in. A guy that knows how to play center, that's pretty rare, crossing over from center to tackle. Both having the mental capacity and the athleticism to be able to do that is pretty special.”
Richburg has started all 36 games he's been a Ram, and he's been named to three different preseason award watch lists; he'll almost certainly be drafted next April and his leadership will make CSU's o-line a certain strength this fall.
On McElwain, Oldenburg said, “I like his mindset. I've met him a few times when I make it back to Colorado and I follow him through the news and twitter and things like that. He seems like a very positive and intense guy. And he wakes up every day with one goal – that's winning – and you really can't ask for much more than that out of your football coach.”
The former Rams lineman said he hopes to attend the game when CSU takes on National Champion Alabama, and why that contest could be a turning point this season.
“I think this game has the potential to be a very critical turning point for the program based on what it can do to guys,” he explained. “The team is going to be a very mature team and regardless of the outcome of the game, they have to take some certain things from it.
“I think about my experience playing USC. There's basically two things notice in a game like this; No. 1 early on, you're kind of hanging on and you start to believe 'Alright, I can play with these guys,' and you get that confidence and you a like, 'Alright, this is just another football game,' which is good and what happened to us is USC turned it on. Matt Linehart, Reggie Bush – they had all these first round picks getting ready for the league – and they turned it on and we got our butts kicked. It becomes a humbling experience. If we can raise the level of everyone playing on the team just a little bit, you can go from playing Alabama or USC back to the Mountain West and be much better for it. It's just a matter of what the mindset is, the maturity level of the team and what they can take from it.”
And what about Colorado State's effort to build an on-campus stadium?
“I think it's one of those things we need to do,” Oldenburg proclaimed. “I'm all for it, in support of the new stadium. Not only to improve the size of the crowd – get more people there that don't necessarily want to drive out to Overland to go to the game – but on-campus, getting more students there. Facilities-wise, it's going to be competitive for recruiting – you're going to have a brand new stadium right there on campus – recruits look at that stuff. They pay attention to that stuff.”
He also explained how the locker room at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium isn't competitive compared to other Division One stadiums, and finished, “It's an old stadium, it's time for an update.”
What has life after football meant for Oldenburg? Well, more football, but now as a video game developer as part of Electronic Arts' NCAA Football.
“I found this fellowship, it's called the EA Sports – NCAA Fellowship and basically they partnered to find former college athletes that would like to get into the video game business,” he said of the new career. “I applied and got a six month internship and at the conclusion of that internship they asked if I wanted to stay on full time to stay on as a designer on the football gameplay team.”
With EA, his job is to work with programmers to get players – specifically on the offensive and defensive lines – to move the way they do in real life. And while he's enjoying working on the wildly popular video game, he'd also like to become a coach as well as start his “#WinnersWin” charity.
It's clear to see, “winners win,” as Oldenburg continues to prosper in life.