USA by Way of the NFL

Posted on May 19, 2017
Nichelle Smith

Just two days before the start of freshman orientation, Jeremy Towns’ journey to medical school at the University of South Alabama was interrupted when he was offered a contract with the National Football League. Two years later, he is now fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor.

“I realized I wanted to help people at a young age,” Towns said. “One year, I dressed up as a doctor for Halloween. I remember asking my mom what I had to do to become a real doctor, and she told me that I had to work harder than anyone else.”

Towns took his mother’s advice to heart. He received his acceptance letter from the USA College of Medicine shortly after earning his undergraduate degree in sports medicine from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., where he played football as a defensive lineman.

“I received my medical school acceptance letter the day before NFL pro-day,” Towns said. “My mother opened the letter and told me the great news. We were both so excited.”

With plans to attend medical school in place, Towns traveled to Dominica for a week-long mission trip. While traveling back home, he noticed a voicemail from a Washington Redskins scout. “Since the voicemail was a week old I thought I missed my opportunity and they moved on to the next person,” he said. “To my surprise, I called them back and they wanted to send me up there to do a workout in a few days.”

Ultimately, Towns was offered a free-agent deal with the Redskins and chose to postpone medical school.

After he left the Redskins, Towns was signed by the Buffalo Bills and the Philadelphia Eagles before he made his way to the USA College of Medicine. Towns said he is thankful for the opportunity to play professionally as it prepared him for the rigors of medical school.

Towns said his approach to medical school is to meet every challenge with overwhelming force, a strategy he often utilized on the field. “Playing defense taught me that you have to get back up every time you get knocked down,” he said. “It also showed me that I can do all of the preparation in the world, but at some point I have to play the game. Now, I use that same mentality by thinking of every test as my opponent. I have to tackle it."

As the first person to attend medical school in his family, Towns said he immediately felt at home during the interview process at the USA College of Medicine. “People suggested that some medical schools would not allow me to keep my dreads, but South welcomed me with opened arms,” he said. “I am always going to be thankful for the opportunity to be in the presence of such great people.”

Compared to professional football, Towns said the rigors of medical school are far more demanding but will be extremely rewarding.

“I love that USA is very serious about medicine and every students’ success,” he said. “To be able to walk into any professor’s office for help or clarification is amazing. I can tell that this is not a job they do just for a paycheck. They genuinely love coming to work every day.”

Although his professional football career temporarily delayed his childhood dreams of attending medical school, Towns said he never lost sight of his ultimate goal in life. “I have always wanted to impact the community through medicine,” he said. “And it all started with a Halloween costume."

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