For hundreds of student-athletes at Fordham, the sudden, ongoing disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic have been jarring—a winter season cut short, a spring season canceled, a fall season postponed.

Students responded by forming Fordham Connect, a group that aims to support all student-athletes, with a focus on mental health and issues of social justice and racial equality. And as practices resumed this fall, with safety guidelines in place to prevent the spread of the disease on campus, student-athletes said they have regained a sense of camaraderie—and a deeper appreciation of what their sports mean to them.

A girl lines up to run before trackJade Dyer-Kennedy

Fordham College at Rose Hill, Class of 2022

Majors: Journalism and Spanish Studies

Track and Field: Triple Jump and Long Jump

“Training without knowing what we’re training for is weird. Am I training just to stay in shape? Am I training for my coach? Or am I training to see how well I can do? If you’re doing any sport in college, it takes up a lot of time on top of schoolwork and ‘work work’ and internships. So being around everyone who has love for it and wakes up at six o’clock every morning to come run—it motivates you.”

Nick Zakelj

Gabelli School of Business, Class of 2021

Major: Finance

Football: Offensive Lineman

“COVID has affected eligibility in ways that I’ll be able to play for another year—while pursuing a master’s degree in the business school after graduating in May. That’s something that I wouldn’t have been able to do, so I try to take it as a blessing in disguise, really. And my goal of getting drafted into the NFL is the same; it’s just pushed back. I can’t wait to put on the jersey, whether that’s in the spring or next fall.”

Jenna Devine

Fordham College at Rose Hill, Class of 2022

Major: International Political Economy

Soccer: Midfielder

“I think quarantining for COVID opened our eyes to how much we really appreciate soccer and how much we really love being together. And it gave us a better perspective on how we need to take every moment and just grow and learn and be present with each other. They’re more than just my teammates, they’re my family. It’s just a different energy out on the field now because we never know when it’s going to be taken away again.”

Jaden Vazquez

Fordham College at Rose Hill, Class of 2022

Major: Urban Studies

Football: Linebacker

“Fordham Connect really became a thing because so many athletes are feeling an out-of-body experience—they’ve been playing their entire lives. Some people had an identity crisis. And because I came out as LGBTQ last year, I know how horrible it feels when things are weighing on you. And also through the Black Lives Matter movement, we realized we should put something in place. When we talk about these issues and allow people to express themselves, we can be better athletes, because we won’t have that weighing on ourselves.”

Jesse Bramble

Fordham College at Rose Hill, Class of 2021

Majors: History and Sociology

Football: Corner/Safety

“I was supposed to graduate last December, but I hurt my shoulder, so I had to come back, and then my senior year got cut off. It was like a dagger to the motivation. I didn’t realize how much I depended on my teammates. Sometimes you don’t feel like you can go anymore—your teammates are like, ‘Come on, we can do this,’ and it allows you to push yourself farther than you would by yourself.”