Dayton Snyder is as comfortable on the football field as a defensive lineman as he is in the classroom, where the senior biomedical engineering major has maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA.
In recognition of his excellence both on and off the field, Snyder recently won an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. Awarded annually to up to 174 student-athletes—87 men and 87 women—the scholarship honors recipients with $7,500 grants to use toward their post-graduation education.
For Snyder, that future means medical school.
“It’s a great privilege to get this award, specifically because of the hard work I’ve put in to get to this point and the fact that I’m representing the university as well,” Snyder said.
But just four years ago, that future wasn’t quite as clear.
During his senior year of high school in West Lafayette, Ind., Snyder wound up in an orthopedic surgeon’s office with three football-related injuries: sprained ankle, pulled hamstring and dislocated finger.
“He helped me come back from these injuries physically and mentally,” Snyder said. “That was really important to me, and I thought I’d like to do the same for people someday.”
That was when football and academics merged—putting him on the path to study medicine.
With his mind set on continuing to play football and his sights set on a university that would provide a rigorous curriculum, Case Western Reserve University emerged as an ideal choice. Snyder knew a teammate whose older brother had attended Case Western Reserve to play football and study biomedical engineering and, eventually, attend medical school.
Snyder first considered a career in medicine after seeing organ systems and bones up close while dissecting a fetal pig in a high school anatomy class.
That interest was cemented when he shadowed the orthopedic surgeon who helped him return to the football field—making the connection between the operating room and football.
“I loved the operating room environment,” he said. “It was actually really similar to sports, because the surgical team was working as a cohesive unit, and I could really see myself doing it.”
Though he’s still undecided on where it will be, he’ll begin working toward that goal next fall with a little financial help from the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.
Get to know Snyder better in this week’s five questions.
1. What is your proudest accomplishment?
The best thing we did through Phi Delta Theta [Snyder’s fraternity] was last year. Usually, we just donate the money to our foundation, which is the ALS Foundation, but we thought it would be a good idea for us to use the money to benefit someone directly. We partnered up with a family here in Cleveland with a relative who has ALS, and asked if she had lost anything from her disease that we could help regain through building something. Because most of the guys are in engineering, we thought we could help out in that way. She was still able to walk, but with a walker, and she loved to garden but couldn’t anymore. We built a walkway in her backyard with potted plants hanging that she could water. That was probably one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever been a part of: seeing a woman regain her ability and go out and do something she’d been passionate about and had lost the ability to do through her disease.
2. If you could do anything you wanted for a day, what would you do?
I’d definitely start by getting a good workout in because I think that’s good for relieving stress and starting your day. I went on a trip to Bora Bora two winter breaks ago, and I thought that was the coolest place I’ve ever been. I think going there, sailing and just visiting that place again would be awesome—hanging out in the sun. And I’d definitely bring my friends as well.
3. Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?
Ryan Reynolds. I saw Deadpool two weeks ago and I thought it was the funniest, greatest movie I’ve ever seen. Then I saw him in a romantic comedy just the next week, and I was like, ‘Wow, this guy is really versatile.’ He’s got it all: He’s got the comedy, he’s got good looks. He’s a pretty genuine guy and also kind of a nerd.
4. If you could go back in time and tell your childhood self something, what would you say?
Probably just to savor every moment that you have with your friends because it’s not always going to be that way. In the moment, you don’t really realize that.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
I think it’s the people I’ve met here. Also, I really like Cleveland. People give it a bad rap, but I like it a lot. Someone described it as it’s kind of got a big-city feel as well as a small-city feel, which I think it makes it unique.