Inside the Huddle with Derek Baljeu

Oct. 20, 2017

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DAVIS, Calif. - For tight end Derek Baljeu, the 2017 season is a bittersweet one since it marks his final year with the football program and the beginning of his graduate studies in UC Davis’ globally respected School of Viticulture and Enology. Like his teammates, Baljeu faces the same challenge of balancing his academic and athletic responsibilities, albeit with a unique twist due to the pace and depth of graduate coursework.

Does your graduate curriculum begin at the same time as your teammates? How does it differ from your undergraduate studies?

My classes start at the same time as everyone else. My professors and advisors expect you to begin coursework with a level of knowledge and understanding of the curriculum from the first day, which is the way it should be in grad school.

At this level, students are more independent and work on quarter-long projects. Everyone is expected to remain on top of their coursework throughout the entire quarter.

What is the transition like from the undergraduate to graduate level?

I make a concerted effort to stay ahead of my coursework as much as possible. This strategy is one that many of my peers use, and find successful. Before, I would handle whatever projects I needed to, and wait until the next round of work took place before handling things accordingly.

What are some of the strategies you use to successfully balance your responsibilities in the classroom and on the field?

I am a ‘live in the moment” type of person, but I now check my calendar frequently and plan each day by the hour. I also use a separate calendar to help me prepare for the bigger projects, or events, that take place throughout the month. By seeing things on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, I can efficiently manage my time.

UC Davis did not compete last weekend, how does the bye week help you manage your responsibilities?

The bye week is huge for me and my teammates. We are still out on the field working hard and practicing, but the week is significantly reduced, which allows me to get ahead as much as possible. When it is time to prep for a game the following week, I can remain ahead of things once Saturday arrives, especially during a week like this one where we are on the road.

Bye week is a great opportunity for everyone to take a mental and physical break, help players recover and everyone to rest their bodies. This break also gives the team a chance to meet up and spend time with one another away from the field to strengthen its chemistry.

As one of the team’s captains, what steps do you take to help the newcomers manage their first bye week?

During bye week, the most important thing newcomers can do is remain disciplined and not let their guard down. Everyone is still practicing, working out and preparing for the next game. Having an extra week to prepare for our next opponent, especially one like Northern Arizona, is an opportunity that everyone is taking advantage of.

UC Davis will begin the second half of its schedule on Saturday when the Aggies visit Northern Arizona for a 4 p.m. league tilt from the Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, Arizona. Links for an online stream, internet audio, live stats and in-game Twitter updates of this Big Sky battle are available at

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