College Football Redshirt Season Explained

When it comes to college football, the term “redshirt” often pops up in conversations. But what does it really mean, and why is it essential for certain student-athletes? To get a better understanding of the practice, The Wire turned to Cody Sokol, a retired college football quarterback who knows firsthand the advantages of redshirting.

Why Do Athletes Redshirt?

Redshirting refers to a strategic move made by college athletes to delay their participation in official games for a specific season. This decision grants them an extra year of eligibility, giving them more time to develop their skills, both physically and mentally.

“Redshirting usually is a way the coaches and players can get an extra year out of the athlete,” explains Sokol. “This can be for a number of reasons – to get stronger physically, to get an extra year because he wasn’t going to play due to an older, more experienced player in front of him, to improve your academics, or to grow the mental side of their game.”

So, it’s not just about delaying the game action; it’s about strategic planning for an athlete’s career. It’s about taking the time to prepare for the future, both on and off the field.

Cody Sokol’s Redshirt Experience

Sokol, who started his college football journey at Scottsdale Community College, transferred to the University of Iowa, where he faced the decision to redshirt during the 2012 season. He emphasizes that the decision should align with the athlete’s goals and the team’s needs.

“For me, I was a Juco guy, so I played two years of Juco ball and never redshirted because I started right away,” Sokol says. “I personally wanted to use my redshirt year because it would only benefit me coming out.”

In Sokol’s case, redshirting was an opportunity to learn and grow. He chose to transfer to Iowa, where James Vandenberg, an All-Big Ten quarterback, was returning for his senior year. Sokol saw this as a chance to gain experience and be better prepared when his time to shine arrived.

Day-to-Day Life During Redshirt

One might wonder what the day-to-day life of a redshirt athlete looks like. Because a redshirt athlete doesn’t play in games, it’s fair to wonder what else they may not partake in.

According to Sokol, it’s not drastically different from other team members. Redshirted athletes still engage in daily workouts, practices, and film sessions, just like their playing counterparts.

“The only thing redshirting means is you can’t play in the games, and due to that, you get that extra year of eligibility,” Sokol clarifies. “I still traveled on away games and suited up for every single game. They wanted me to gain that experience of the game-day atmosphere so when it was my chance, it would be something I had been used to.”

Cody Sokol #19 with the Iowa Hawkeyes

Al Messerschmidt / USA TODAY Sports

So, redshirted athletes aren’t sidelined or excluded from the team’s activities. They’re very much part of the action, contributing to the team’s overall success even when they’re not on the field.

Physical and Mental Growth

Perhaps the most significant advantage of redshirting is the opportunity it provides for athletes to grow physically and mentally. Sokol reflects on how the extra year helped him improve his strength, speed, and understanding of the game.

“I gained so much strength and speed during my redshirt year. Being in a D1 strength program for an entire year focusing on just getting better will do wonders for an athlete,” Sokol says. “I also had the playbook down and gained that leadership role that I wanted heading into the next year.”

This period of intense preparation and development pays off when these athletes return to the field. They are not only physically superior but also mentally sharper, making better decisions and contributing to their teams’ success.

Takeaways for Signing Day Sports Users

The concept of redshirting might seem like a distant one for high school athletes aspiring to play college football. However, it’s a crucial part of the college football experience, and understanding it can help young athletes make more informed decisions.

Here are some key takeaways that every high school athlete should consider:

  • Strategic Planning: Redshirting isn’t just about delaying play; it’s about strategically planning your college football career. Assess your goals and see if redshirting aligns with them.
  • Physical and Mental Growth: The extra year can be a game-changer. It allows you to get stronger, faster, and mentally prepared for the challenges ahead.
  • Team Involvement: Redshirted athletes are an integral part of the team. They participate in practices, workouts, and even travel with the team. It’s a valuable experience.
  • Long-Term Benefits: The benefits of redshirting extend beyond the extra year of eligibility. It sets you up for a more successful and fulfilling college football journey.

At Signing Day Sports, we believe in equipping student-athletes with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their athletic careers. Whether it’s understanding the intricacies of redshirting, navigating the recruiting process, or staying up to date with the latest developments in college sports, we’re here to provide the information you need to succeed.

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