By Megan Grindstaff
At Wylie High School, Abilene senior Drew Seale was a self-proclaimed “basketball player who ran track.” The dream of following in the footsteps of a long line of Baylor Bears in his family led him to talk to head coach Todd Harbour about walking onto the track team as an 800-meter runner.
“They didn’t think I would do anything, which is fine,” Seale said. “If I saw a walk-on come on, I’d probably think the same thing.”
As a freshman, Seale stumbled into running with the 400-meter runners in the off-season out of fear of the half-miler workouts.
“I was so scared to run the 800 that I got good at the 400,” Seale said.
Less than a year later, Seale was a two-time All-American and two-time All-Big 12 4x400m runner.
When asked about his improvement in such a short period of time— Seale chopped two seconds off of his 400 time in his first semester at Baylor— he credits his event coach, Clyde Hart.
“It’s a tribute to Coach Hart,” Seale said.
Those who know Seale attribute his rapid improvement and success to his quality of character. He comes to practice every day with a purpose, Harbour said.
“He’s extremely dedicated and extremely intense.”
Seale is not going to let anyone beat him at anything, whether it’s practice, a meet, video games or sand volleyball, Seale’s former roommate and Baylor track alumnus Phil Raaf said. Whether he is the most gifted competitor or not, Seale welcomes a challenge.
“He never backs down,” Harbour said. “Even when he doesn’t have the physical tools.”
Over the next two years, Seale earned two more All-American honors, four more All-Big 12 honors, and a Big 12 Championship. And for all of his hard work, dedication, and productivity, Baylor track rewarded him with books. No glamorous scholarship, just books.
Harbour said Seale deserved a full ride scholarship. Unfortunately, with his NCAA allotted scholarships already distributed across a 40-man roster, Harbour had no more financial aid to offer.
Men’s track is in the unique situation of having nearly twice as many starters as the program has scholarships to offer. With 21 events and only 12 full scholarships, many starters go without financial aid.
“What other sport could you be an All-American?” said Harbour, “and not be on a full scholarship.”
Despite his disappointment, Seale took it all in stride. First and foremost, he thanked God for blessing his family with the ability to afford Baylor without a track scholarship.
“I always felt like if I needed the money, I could have gone and talked to him, and I think they would have pulled somebody off that wasn’t doing well and I could have been on a full ride,” Seale said.
Understanding the frustration his coach felt in trying to make scholarship decisions with so little money for so many deserving athletes, Seale took the pressure off of Harbour’s shoulders.
“I told him if they needed a scholarship, if someone was out there that was really good and it was coming down to me or him getting the scholarship, I said give it to someone else, because my family is blessed enough to afford here,” Seale said.
For his fifth and final year at Baylor, Seale was given the option of receiving fifth-year aid.
After an athlete’s eligibility is exhausted, coaches can give a former athlete fifth-year aid in order to help them finish out their degree.
This money doesn’t count against the team’s scholarships. Seale refused to give up his eligibility for the 2013 season and was ineligible for fifth year aid.
“He could have been on a full this last year,” Harbour said. “But that season was more important than that to Drew.”
Seale only has remaining eligibility for the outdoor season, so he is continuing to train as his teammates compete at indoor meets.
Hart said Seale is using his unusually long off-season to get more mileage in that ever before.
As a result of his extra preparation, his coaches say Seale will be fresher and better prepared than ever in June when post-season competition starts.
After graduation, Seale plans to use his accounting information systems degree to begin working for his family’s insurance company.
His leadership on the track team will be missed. Seale’s ability to hold his teammates accountable during workouts and recovery alike will be hard to replace, Raaf said.
“You hope all of your athletes can be Drew Seales,” said Harbour. “He is the epitome of what a Baylor student-athlete should be: a great student, a great person, a man of faith.”
No matter the result of the 2013 outdoor season, it is certain that Drew Seale will leave behind a legacy at Baylor that reaches far beyond what a stopwatch can time.
“Drew is an example to other kids that if you work hard, it doesn’t matter whether you come here on a scholarship or not,” Hart said. “There is going to be a spot for you.”