Ben Brickman is defined by his perseverance. Be it enlisting in the Marines after high school, grueling basic training in Parris Island, South Carolina, infantry training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, two tours in Afghanistan, multiple visits to the Syracuse University Football office to get a tryout or finally walking onto the Syracuse University football team with little organized football experience, the 27-year-old senior Health and Exercise Science major has persistence as part of his DNA.
“In Afghanistan, I went to towns where kids have zero opportunity,” says Brickman. “They grow up to turn a field with a shovel 12 hours a day until the day they die. That gave me so much perspective to recognize the opportunities in our country and made me want to seize every chance I have.”
As a senior reflecting on his collegiate career, Brickman, a wide receiver for the Orange, cites his veteran experience and the support he’s received from the University as part of why he has been able to achieve success off the field.
I found out at Syracuse they cover 100% for veterans which was a massive weight off my shoulders.
As a marine, Brickman worried about affording the cost of college even with his GI Bill benefits, as it usually only covers a percentage of a private university’s tuition. At Syracuse however, Brickman found opportunity and plenty of resources to help him be successful.
“I found out at Syracuse they cover 100% for veterans which was a massive weight off my shoulders,” says Brickman. “Coming out of the Marines, you think a school like Syracuse is out of reach but this University really went above and beyond for me as they do all veterans. They even found me some extra money to cover housing.”
Supported by the University resources and commitment to military service members, Ben transitioned well from uniform to campus life and quickly settled into the Syracuse community.
“I grew up two hours away but I still didn’t know anybody here,” says Brickman. “Within an hour of getting here though, the Student Veterans Organization and the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs introduced me to three or four people that quickly became my good friends.”
Never one to be shy about sharing his military experiences, Brickman found that his time as a Marine has provided opportunities to get to know his many teammates.
“Marines are notorious for discipline, strength and training,” says Brickman. “There are 107 guys on our team and they all want to know what it takes to be a Marine. They are always asking me about what to eat, drink, how to train, even just general life experience. I think they see me as a guy with some real life experience and I am glad to share my perspective if they ask.”
Brickman credits the military for his perseverance and his accountability.
“As a kid, I didn’t have the mentality that I do now. Back then, I did what I wanted to do. Now I am much more thoughtful and cognizant of what’s right for others and not just me.”
This coming of age has served as common ground when his student veteran and student-athlete lives collide. Recently more than 60 children of military families came to campus for the second Fort Drum Youth Football Day —a session hosted by the Syracuse football program exclusively for youth football players whose family members serve in the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division stationed at Fort Drum. The day camp gave the young players a chance to watch a pre-season practice, test their skills with drills run by the SU players, get autographs, and hear from Brickman.
“I saw myself in a lot of them, especially the kids that weren’t paying attention,” says Brickman. “Talking to them about my military experience and now my experience as a college student, I could see on some of their faces that it really hit home and it was so rewarding.”
On the field, both Brickman and his team’s hard work is paying off as the Orange are enjoying their highest ranking in two decades and are bowl-eligible for the first time in five years.
When he graduates, Brickman hopes to take the skills he has learned at Syracuse and give back through physical therapy.
“My passion is getting guys who are injured, those who can’t play and giving them that ability back,” says Brickman. “I’ve learned a lot about life and how to be successful at Syracuse. Much like the Marines, my experience here, where the environment for veterans helps you thrive, has further instilled just how far you can make it when you persevere.”