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Adaptation, early graduation are a win-win for Wynn

Beavers football standout embraces engagement, flexibility of online learning

There is a fervent national debate about college athletics, asking whether players at major football programs like Oregon State are on campus to earn an education or primarily to play a sport.

Dylan Wynn, OSU alumnus and football defensive lineman

Dylan Wynn earned his human development and family sciences degree in June. (Photo by Randy L. Rasmussen | The Oregonian)

Dylan Wynn doesn’t waste time debating. He’s too busy proving he can excel at both.

Even as a standout defensive lineman with pro football aspirations, Wynn set his sights on one goal: earning his Oregon State degree in three years.

That’s a tall task for any student, let alone one whose time is largely consumed by duties on a team as successful as the Beavers. But in June 2014, Wynn walked across a stage at Reser Stadium – the site of his football exploits – and received his diploma in human development and family sciences.

Wynn says the impressive academic feat was made possible in part by the flexibility and engaging nature of the many classes he took online with OSU Ecampus.

Well, that and an unflinching drive to meet his three-years-or-bust goal.

“Sometimes I’d take 20 credits per term, or 19 or 18, and I’d ask myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ ” he says now. “It was overwhelming, but once you start something, you have to finish it. And the more credits I took, the better grades I got.”

Ecampus classes not only gave Wynn the ability to finish his degree sooner, but they also opened his eyes to a new, dynamic way of learning. He laughs when asked what he expected of the online learning environment, admitting that he thought it would be mostly ineffective.

But after taking “about 10 to 15” OSU classes online, he developed an affinity for the virtual format.

“It works really well. Some of my most challenging classes were Ecampus classes,” Wynn said. “You really feel like you’re collaborating and having a conversation with your teacher. I connected with the teachers easier than I did in some on-campus classes.

“I was surprised with the communication aspect and being able to get a feel for who you’re taking the class with.”

Communicating is one of Wynn’s strengths, a trait the OSU coaches value immensely. The senior is a vocal leader who brings a high level of energy to each practice, and he’s impossible to miss at the start of every game – he’s the one wielding a chainsaw as he leads the Beavers onto the field.

Dylan Wynn leads the OSU football team out of the pregame tunnel

Dylan Wynn carries a chainsaw as he and his Beavers teammates run onto the Reser Stadium field before a game in 2013. (Photo by OSU Athletics)

When OSU head coach Mike Riley learned Wynn would finish his degree requirements one year ahead of schedule, he wasn’t surprised.

“You’re talking about a different bird when you’re talking about Dylan. He’s one of the hardest working, most diligent guys I’ve ever had,” Riley said. “He’s very focused, takes care of business. He had a plan to graduate early and did not deviate from it. I admire that.”

Wynn’s prowess isn’t limited to the classroom either. The 6-foot-2-inch, 275-pound lineman was a freshman All-American who compiled 67 tackles as a junior last year – the fourth most on the team.

Riley expects him to play “the best football of his life” this season as the Beavers aim for their seventh bowl game in nine years.

“Dylan is one of those guys who always wants it better. His focus is on his development and his team winning,” Riley said. “Leadership comes in many different packages, and the best leader is one who shows people how to do it instead of telling them. Dylan does it the right way.”

Now that he has his degree, Wynn can focus even more intently on football. He’ll make a run at the NFL next year, but if it doesn’t work out he says he might pursue his master’s and perhaps be a graduate assistant coach for OSU. His passion is working with people, and coaching fits him like a glove.

Just days away from the start of his senior season, Wynn is being asked to demonstrate his versatility again by playing multiple positions on the defensive line. No task is too tall. Just as he was able to thrive in the seemingly strange online learning environment, he sees himself as a chameleon who can succeed in any situation.

“If you don’t adapt to your environment and better yourself in some way, you’ll be put to the wayside,” he said. “The sooner you realize that and use it to your advantage, the sooner you’ll be successful. I think I’ve been able to do that so far in my life.”

That’s not up for debate.