Courtesy of Albert Wilhelmy V
Coming to Case Western Reserve University was Albert Wilhelmy V’s goal early on.
“I have wanted to come to CWRU for a very long time. It was my dream school since my sophomore year in high school.”
Now, Wilhelmy is not only a first-year majoring in electrical engineering, but he is also one of the quarterbacks for the CWRU Division III football team.
Originally from Lakewood, Ohio, Wilhelmy has been surrounded by football his entire life. His father, who also played college football as a quarterback, was also a member of the semi-pro Cleveland Lions, from 1999-2004 and 2007, and later played for the Cleveland Saints from 2009 to 2010. When Wilhelmy first picked up football in third-grade, he immediately fell in love with the game. The next year, his dad started coaching his team and later coached Wilhelmy’s high school team for a few years as well. Wilhelmy cherishes this relationship with his father, as it has been integral for his journey thus far.
Wilhelmy explained, “[My dad] was always an influence and was always there to help me. A lot of people would say they don’t like having their dad as a coach because they push them really hard. I personally loved having my dad as the coach because we’d come home and just keep talking football … It is a great balance between father and coach. He’s definitely the biggest influence on me playing football.”
In middle school, Wilhelmy also became intrigued by the engineering field and began dabbling in computer science and circuitry.
“Around 8th grade, I got an Arduino electronics board and I started to play with it and learned to code and stuff like that. It kind of set me in the direction of engineering,” Wilhelmy said.
Building on these tinkering experiences, Wilhelmy took the initiative to explore his interest. In the summer after his sophomore year of high school, he landed an internship at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
There, Wilhelmy worked with programming scripts for GNU Radio, which is a software development toolkit the research center uses. For Wilhelmy, working with NASA employees and being a part of an engineering team excited him. His initial interest blossomed into a real passion. Enthralled with this work, Wilhelmy was selected again to intern at the Glenn Research Center for two more summers.
“Those experiences [with NASA] helped pave the way. I had to try out different types of things; I had to touch some hardware, some software and do different projects. Being able to do that during the summer helped me find what I wanted to do probably a little faster than most people, because I had that experience of what a real engineer did on a day-to-day basis.”
Engineering and football were on Wilhelmy’s mind as he looked at colleges his senior year. CWRU was Wilhelmy’s first college visit. Initially, Wilhelmy liked the campus and the football program. After looking at other colleges and meeting with their respective coaches, he concluded his college search, realizing that CWRU was a truly special place.
“I loved CWRU because not only are the academics great, but the people seemed really awesome. When I visited the football coaching staff, they had a different energy to them than most places I’ve seen … They seemed real honest about what they were doing and their intentions. They were just really good, honest people and that was a culture and a [place] I wanted to be at. And since being here, I’ve definitely made the right choice.”
Although he was excited to enter the new college sphere, Wilhelmy’s first semester here was drastically different than what he expected. In addition to the on-campus protocols that involve weekly COVID-19 testing and restrictions on gatherings, Wilhelmy and the rest of the football team are required to practice under completely altered conditions. As a first-year, Wilhelmy does not even know what a “normal” year is, which makes the situation even weirder.
“During practice [in the fall], we had to wear a mask beneath the helmet and two plastic shields on our helmet. It was pretty hard to breath and see … Now they rolled it back and we’re just wearing masks underneath our helmets, which was probably unthinkable months ago. Now we’re just used to it and it’s totally fine.”
The team has also had to get creative with their practice venues. Due to social distancing guidelines, the players take their benches and weights outside and do strength training workouts on the field. With the recent snowy weather, practices have occasionally been moved to indoor gyms.
Even with these changes, Wilhelmy is confident in the team’s ability to adapt and overcome.
“This group of guys is really tough and we’re getting through it. And whether or not we play games during this spring, we’re going to keep practicing and get ready for the games if they happen.”
The first game for the CWRU football team is scheduled to be held Mar. 19 against Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. The organization has until Mar. 1 to inform their conference, the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC), if they plan on participating in the season. According to Wilhelmy, the team has one central priority in preparation for this potential season.
“We’re just trying to stay healthy,” explained the quarterback. “All of us want to play football, that’s why we’re here. Trying to win and compete is obviously second right after. We’re definitely trying to make the best of this semester and make sure we can get on the field come March 19.”
“The idea of playing a game is exciting and motivating,” added Wilhelmy. “It’s a little bit of a light during this dark time. It’s something to look forward to.”
When asked about his goals for the season, Wilhelmy said, “I want to help the team in any way that I can. I would also like to get on the field as much as possible, but whatever I can do to help the team.”
Off the field, Wilhelmy enjoys the escape that books have to offer. When the pandemic began and quarantine orders were enacted, Wilhelmy went through a phase of reading space-themed novels. More recently, he has diversified his content and is reading about city planning and other engineering-related topics.
Wilhelmy also decided to take advantage of his free time during the quarantine to start writing a book. The inspiration for it came from his mother. Once a week, she would take photographs of people who she encountered in her daily life and then conversed with them about their paths to who they are now.
“I had this idea one day and said, ‘Hey Mom, what if you talk to [these people] and start to put together a book and get their entire story and put it in a collection?’ she said, ‘Maybe you should do that!’ And I was like, ‘Okay!’”
The novel’s objective is to capture and share the life stories of normal, hard-working people. So far, Wilhelmy has written 45 pages and has already interviewed a Navy lieutenant, an Air Force lieutenant, a leader of a national nonprofit organization, an airline pilot, an emergency room nurse and a few teachers. Wilhelmy finds the experience of talking to and writing about incredibly accomplished people gratifying and motivating.
Though composing and publishing a novel is a long, arduous process, Wilhelmy is optimistic about seeing the project through. To him, the novel’s true value lies in showcasing the “everyday heroes of our communities.”
“If I self-publish it and only sell a few copies, one for each person in the book and one for myself, I’d be totally fine with that. If I sell more, that would be great. We’ll see where it goes … because it takes time and [the scope of the novel] can change as time goes on.”
For the future, Wilhelmy is planning on working as an engineer right after graduation. He wants to use his undergraduate years to, “take classes that will challenge and push [him] in different ways.” Since coming on campus in the fall, Wilhelmy feels that his education is being taken to the next level because of the encouraging academic environment at CWRU.
“When you’re surrounded by good people, it definitely rubs off a little bit. I believe that being around smart and hardworking people is definitely motivating because you see your classmates working really hard and you think ‘Wow, I should be working hard too!’”