UChicago Alumni in Professional Sports

UChicago students continue to pursue athletics beyond their time on campus.

By Diestefano Loma

The University of Chicago, aside from being recognized as one of the most prestigious institutions for higher education, can also boast of student-athletes who bring intensity to their sports teams in order to compete at a high level. After their time at UChicago has to come to an end, these athletes have gone on to follow their passions and become involved in their respective sports, whether as professional athletes, as coaches, or on the business end. 

From the inception of sports programs like baseball on campus, UChicago athletes have worked hard to play professionally. Henry Clarke (A.B. 1896) was the first player in the baseball program to make it to the Major League level. He debuted on June 26, 1897, at the age of 21, for the Cleveland Spiders. He was followed throughout the 20th century by the likes of Speed Kelly, Charlie Blackburn, Jack Boyle, and Art Lopatka. These alumni would have short-lived stints in Major League Baseball, but the most notable one came to be Roy Henshaw. Aside from playing professionally for close to a decade, Henshaw was also inducted into the UChicago Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003. More recently, Mark Mosier is an alum who was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 1997 and spent two years playing in the minor leagues.
As the University of Chicago Athletics Hall of Fame states, “Roy Henshaw was a standout pitcher for the Chicago baseball team from 1930–32. Following his playing career, during which he gained All-America recognition, Henshaw spent eight years in Major League Baseball, including a three-year stint with the Chicago Cubs (1933–36). He posted a 13–5 mark for the Cubs in 1935.”

In professional football, there were UChicago alumni playing dating back to 1922 up until 1941, during the Big Ten era. On record, there are 20 alumni who played professional football after college. Alumni like Milton Romney, Saul Sherman, Ralph King, Fred Hobscheid, and Lewis Hamity played for the Chicago Bears. 

While alumni haven’t followed the path of being professional athletes as often, they remain involved in professional sports in other capacities, and excel in it. Italo Zanzi (A.B. ’96), a sports business executive, became the CEO of A.S. Roma, a professional soccer team in the Italian League, Serie A. He was a soccer player throughout his time at UChicago and combined the love of the sport he played with what he’s skilled in academically. Kim Ng (A.B. ’90) played softball throughout her time at UChicago, and is currently Senior Vice-President for Baseball Operations with Major League Baseball. Prior to that, she worked with the Chicago White Sox as Assistant Director of Baseball Operations.

Adam Cushing (A.B. ’02) went from representing the UChicago football team at Stagg Field to becoming the head football coach at Eastern Illinois University. Previously, he spent 15 seasons as the offensive line coach for Northwestern University’s football team. His offensive line blocked for the most productive running back and quarterback in program history. Similarly, Matt Limegrover (A.B. ’91) played football and coached at various universities such as Northwestern University, Northern Illinois University, and the University of Minnesota. Most recently, he became the offensive line coach at Penn State University. 

What can be seen is how UChicago alumni have transitioned well from playing sports in college to being involved in professional sports in different capacities. It requires what they learn on the field and off of it in order to gain success, and the network of players in the professional sports world only continues to grow.