Ilitch School football student-athlete pursues M.B.A. while suiting up for fourth season


EDITOR'S NOTE: This story originally appeared on the Wayne State Athletics website. Lane Potter graduated from the Mike Ilitch School of Business in 2020 with a bachelor's in global supply chain management and is now pursuing his M.B.A.

The only constant in this world has always been change.

And never has that been more apparent than in this COVID-19 pandemic in the last year and a half, during which we've had to redirect ourselves in nearly every aspect of our lives in order to adapt, and survive.

But at the same time, we are creatures of habit and mostly fight change with every fiber of our being. So, after altering this, that and the other in his own life, including watching helplessly with his Wayne State University football teammates as the 2020 season was cancelled because of health concerns, Lane Potter, a young man with a lot of principle and the courage of his convictions, finally reached the point where he said to himself, "Enough already with all this change." He drew a line in the sand and refused to compromise who he really is and what he truly believes in.

The result is that the fifth-year player has decided to return for his senior season and will suit up at left guard for the second consecutive year, attempting to continue a string in which he has started all 33 games on the line, also at right guard and right tackle, in his first three seasons from 2017-19.

 "It was the right thing to do," the Hudsonville (Mich.) School product said of coming back. "When I signed to play here at Wayne State, I made a commitment to play four seasons. And now I get to do that and finish what I started. It's a great feeling."

But it was a difficult decision nonetheless, and rightfully so. To be sure, there were plenty of reasons for the 6-foot-4, 318-pounder to move on and begin his life's work in the business world. And no one -- no one at all -- would have blamed him if he had called it a football career, and a good one at that. He would have been going out on a very high note, as the 2019 Warriors finished 8-3, their best season since going 12-4 while being Division II national runners-up in 2011. Everybody wants to end their career with a season like that. With the program being rebooted following being put on hold for more than a year and a half, it would have been a clean break in almost every way, shape and form.

Sure, but as strong as those reasons for leaving were, there were even stronger reasons to stay.

"I struggled with the decision of what to do. I really did," Potter said. "I had graduated (in 3 ½ years with a bachelor's degree in Global Supply Chain Management in December 2020), and I thought long and hard about going out and looking for a job."

It would have been the easy thing to do. Students go to college to get a degree, and then a job. It's a simple formula while at the same time being a hard thing to do. And he had done it. His task was complete in that regard.

But there was more -- much more -- to it than that, and that fact was not lost on Potter. For as strong as those reasons for leaving were, there were even stronger reasons to stay.

"Those are my brothers in that locker room, and my friends," he said. "We've spent plenty of time together and gone through a lot. I wasn't ready just yet to leave them and move on."

What Potter realized is that he was comparing something important, but intangible, in a job and a career, with something -- or someone, as it were -- tangible in those teammates and, for that matter, all the coaches on head coach Paul Winters' staff.

The job and career aren't going anywhere. They will still be there down the road waiting for him. In fact, Potter is now a graduate student, the recipient of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Pat Riempa Postgraduate Scholarship. He is pursuing a master's degree in Global Supply Chain Management and expects to receive that next spring.

But the members of the Warriors football team -- and this 2021 season -- are all here now, with a limited shelf life. This moment in time will happen only once. The experiences and the time together will be over quickly -- in a veritable blink of an eye, actually -- and when that happens, Potter will have come to the stopping point. There will be no more football, and it will be time to go after his life's work. He will be satisfied. He will have been able to finish his career his way, and not at the mercy of those who were forced to make the difficult decision to cancel that 2020 season. It couldn't end that way -- it just couldn't -- and the more he thought about it, the more he was convinced of that.

"It's the last time I will have the college football experience -- the last chance to do it," Potter said. "I enjoy this place. I enjoy going to school, and I enjoy playing football. I have played football since I was a little kid."

Indeed, the game is a part of him. And so is the bond with his brother, Ty, a redshirt sophomore center who came to Wayne State in 2019.

"Yeah, we've talked about having two Potters playing together on the offensive line," Potter said. "That would be kind of cool."

He added that he realized that he is a role model to Ty, showing him how a player is to go about his business both on and off the field. By leaving early, with that one year of eligibility left, he knew he would be sending the wrong message in that regard. Play every play until the whistle, and play every career until the final gun of the final game of the final season.

"I don't quit things," Potter said. "I see them to the end."

There's also the part about what his presence will mean to the other players. As a fifth-year senior, he laughingly calls himself "everyone's big brother."

He came to WSU before almost everyone else currently on the roster, so his wealth of experience, both in general about the game and concerning the program, is a real asset. He realizes it is his time to carry that torch, and he is more than happy -- actually, he is honored -- to do so.

"A lot of people during my time here have been leaders for me and helped me along," Potter said. "Now it's my turn to do that and to be that for others. I am thrilled to serve that role. I owe it to the guys who came before me to do a good job with that. That list of guys is too long to mention them all, because I'd forget some people. I appreciate every one of them and what they did for me."

Potter is excited about everything, because for a long time during those dark days of 2020, he never knew if these types of things would happen for him at Wayne State, and if they did, he wasn't sure for a while whether he'd still be with the team.

"I'm not a big fan of watching football on TV, but I would get up last season on Saturdays, turn on College Game Day on ESPN and then watch a lot of games throughout the day," he said. "On Sundays, I'd watch the NFL games.

"I had been playing football my whole life, and now I wasn't able to play at all. It was very difficult. It hurt a lot. It was strange. I was a college football player, there was a season going on and my team and I weren't playing. We had had one of the best seasons in school history in 2019, and then we couldn't follow it up with a season in 2020. It was shocking. It really was.

"Now, to get that chance again to play -- to play my senior season -- is really special. After what happened last season, you realize that nothing is guaranteed. So, I won't take this season for granted."

What kind of season will it be for Potter and the Warriors?

"It will be fun, and exciting. I'm looking forward to it," Potter said. "A lot of the players who were around here the last several years are gone. We've got a younger team -- a lot of young talent -- and these guys are raring to go. They have been waiting a long time for their chance to get on the field and play and show what they can do. They've really been battling for positions.

"I'm ready to go, too. We're playing football again at Wayne State, and that's a big deal.

Indeed, it is exactly that -- a gift, really -- for everybody, and especially for someone who has been invested in the program as much and for as long, as Lane Potter.

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