On September 19th, UNCUT Chapel Hill celebrated its two-year anniversary. As an NC nonprofit organization, UNCUT aims to provide a platform for student-athletes to share their authentic voices. Through one-on-one conversations and empathetic understanding, the writers at Clean Slate are honored to help author, illustrate, and connect student-athlete ideas to a greater audience.
Over the last 24 months, 19 student-athletes have worked with Clean Slate to express their values, stories, and memories on topics like injuries, mental health, role models, passions, and more. Their narratives and moments are a reminder that student-athletes are humans too. To celebrate the second anniversary of UNCUT, we took a look back at the stories that these student-athletes have shared. Here are their stories:
Jill Shippee - I’m More Than Just A Statistic
In the first-ever Clean Slate piece, UNCUT co-founder Jill Shippee looks at her self-identity and recognizes the importance of being more than just an athlete.
“The next time you watch any sporting event, think twice before you criticize an athlete’s performance, or call them a name, or cheer when they get injured. You never truly know what is going on behind the uniform.”
Nicole Kiszenia - Faith, Sexuality, And Fear: Overcoming Adversity
In Faith, Sexuality, And Fear: Overcoming Adversity, Nicole Kiszenia reflects on her faith in Christianity, her relationship with her girlfriend Megan, and her outlook on being a part of both communities.
“I’ve learned that the best thing you can do for the world is be your true self no matter what anyone else tells you. There are no “shoulds” in life. It’s going to be hard. However, whatever you love, there are people in this world who will support you, even when you didn’t know they existed.”
Gianluca Dalatri - Alone On The Mound
In Alone On The Mound, Gianluca Dalatri reviews his most difficult moments as a baseball player, from injuries to draft day, and his recovery to being the best version of himself, focusing on the present and not worrying about the future.
“Instead of feeling vulnerable, I feel powerful. I feel strong. I feel confident. It wasn’t an easy journey to get to this point and I am far from finished. However, from where I was to where I am now, gives me all the confidence in the world.”
Joey Carrington - Putting Away The Game
In Putting Away The Game, Joey Carrington recalls his love for lacrosse since his childhood, his struggle with putting away the game, and his growth toward pursuing a career outside of athletics.
“For the longest time, I thought I wanted to come to Chapel Hill to win a national championship, and while that dream still lingers in the back of my head, I have learned what it means to champion the journey of self-discovery.”
Tommy Hatton - A New Field
In A New Field, Tommy Hatton details his encounter with change after a concussion and how he used his football instincts to jumpstart a new path as an entrepreneur.
“It’s easy to not truly understand this because, as a collegiate athlete, you don’t have much time to discover much more outside your bubble. But trust me, you’re well prepared to tackle the game of life.”
Graham Eklund - The Circle
In The Circle, Graham Eklund remembers the life of his friend Walker Wilbanks, the moment when his high school gathered around the 50-yard line to reflect as a community, and the everlasting reminder to always keep your circle open and wide.
“From that circle, from those Mississippi locker rooms and waiting rooms to the University of North Carolina, I am coming to a new “ending” and a new “next thing.” What I can say that I have learned from that circle in August on that 50-yard line is that no matter where you go in your life, keep your circle open and keep your circle wide.”
Mariah Evans - What Would You Risk?
In What Would You Risk?, Mariah Evans reflects on how her life changed after a concussion in volleyball practice and how she dealt with the set of unforeseen consequences that came with it.
“So next time you are watching your favorite team, remember that those are people in the uniforms. People with problems and injuries that you will never see in the stadium or on the screen. We sacrifice more than most know to play the game we love and for most like me, these sacrifices will follow us the rest of our lives.”
Sterling Manley - Legacy Everlasting
In Legacy Everlasting, Sterling Manley remembers his great-great Uncle Willie, known as the “Gentle Giant” by his family, who would go on to become the first African-American quarterback in NFL History.
“Though many people are unfamiliar and unaware of the barrier Willie broke... I will never forget.”
Will Blumberg - Full Court Presence
In Full Court Presence, Will Blumberg focuses on his early rise as a youth tennis player, his journey to find balance through family and friends, and his call to be seen as more than just an athlete.
“For me, the biggest compliment anyone can give is congratulating our team for sportsmanship, kindness, and effort. For doing things right, not just to win.”
Jake Lawler - What Does Being A Student-Athlete Mean?
In What Does Being A Student-Athlete Mean?, Jake Lawler and UNCUT celebrate National Student-Athlete Day and recall the trials involved with being a part of something bigger than just one person.
“It means loving who we are. It means loving what we do. It means that despite all that pain, all that failure, all that sacrifice, we persevere. we pursue. Because we love it. And because we can’t live without it.”
Blair Ramsey - Hark The Sound
In Hark The Sound, Blair Ramsey talks about her love for Carolina, her struggles with eating disorders and injuries, and overcoming the challenge of medical retirement.
“For any 17-year-old who feels she doesn’t look exactly like the majority of the girls on the starting line, you are not alone.”
Emily White - Falling Out of Routine
In Falling Out of Routine, Emily White recalls her experience with wanting perfection, her struggle with injuries and depression, and her growth in learning to become stronger from setbacks.
“I encourage everyone to let your imperfections build you up. Let the hard times show you are stronger than the challenge itself. By accepting all aspects of my situation, I have learned that I am exactly where I am meant to be. And that has made all the difference.”
Hannah George - Is That What They Think?
In Is That What They Think?, Hannah George reflects on the challenge of being one of few black pitchers in softball, the role of religion in her identity, and the desire to use her platform to inspire other girls like her.
“However, being Black isn’t a burden as so many make it seem. It’s so beautiful. And when others make it hard to find that beauty, we just have to keep fighting a little harder every time. Maybe one day we won’t have to.”
Molly Little - He’s Not The Sun, You Are
In He’s Not The Sun, You Are, Molly Little speaks about her experiences with sexual assault and gender-based violence, how they have changed her perspective, and how they have led her to become a fighter for other survivors.
“I rarely talk about my story and what happened to me, so most people wouldn’t know the struggles I have gone through and continue to struggle with behind closed doors. Be kinder, be slower to judge someone when you don’t know what’s truly going on, and when you feel safe enough, speak up. Speak loudly and do not ever apologize for doing so.”
Taylor Gregitis - A Coach’s Contribution
In A Coach’s Contribution, Taylor Gregitis remembers how her rowing coach, Mr. Duling, influenced her in and out of the water even after he faced a paralyzing accident.
“Each individual is a compilation of those who have supported them throughout their life. All accomplishments, successes, and milestones require us to turn around and acknowledge the people that held our hands every step of the way.”
Aaron Hamm - Am I There Yet?
In Am I There Yet?, Aaron Hamm looks back at his childhood and his journey to the US National Handball Team, while looking toward his future and a lifelong career.
“The last four years have given me the privilege of traveling the globe in a shirt with “USA” on the front and “HAMM” on the back. They’ve given me some of the greatest friends I could ever hope for. But most importantly, they taught me who Aaron Hamm is – something that I am only now realizing at the ripe age of 22.”
Brianna Pinto - Tar Heel Born & Bred
In Tar Heel Born & Bred, Brianna Pinto reflects on being the child of two former UNC student-athletes, growing up with the Carolina logo across her chest, and creating her college journey as a Black woman, athlete, and Kenan-Flagler student.
“I was born and bred a Tar Heel and I look forward to representing this University in the next chapter of my life.”
Sarah Overby - The Longest Mile
In The Longest Mile, Sarah Overby reviews her dream to run for Naval Academy, her diagnosis of anorexia, and her experience accepting and moving on from her past to focus on her family at Carolina.
“Like my story, I am still a work in progress. I am still trying to find the lessons that all of this has served to teach me. But as I continue my journey as a Tar Heel, one thing is true: I have finally found a family here at Carolina— a family that I’ll cherish no matter what my future holds.”
Ashley Lim - Remodeling “Minority”
In Remodeling “Minority”, Ashley Lim recalls growing up as an Asian American in a predominantly white neighborhood and doubting her position as a coxswain, to later embracing her racial identity and becoming confident in her role as a leader.
“I hope that if even one Asian American is reading this, you can gain a bit more confidence in who you are, even if it’s just baby steps, such as understanding why you perceive yourself in a specific way. The small steps eventually turn into character growth, and then you’ll be able to look back at your past self and be proud of the changes you’ve made.”
As athletes continue to change the game, our mission at UNCUT remains the same: to amplify authentic student-athlete voices and connect athletes to everyday people. At Clean Slate, the power of first-person storytelling allows student-athletes to share ideas, values, and reflections while creating a message that is much bigger than just one person.
With the recent changes in NIL rules, athletes will have even more opportunities to impact the world. With these changes, Clean Slate will continue to embrace student-athlete interests and experiences outside of sports, while offering them a way to show other organizations and brands who they are off of the court, field, or water.
As we look toward a future where stigmas around the student-athlete identity no longer exist, it is important to recognize the steps taken by each of the above stories. These stories are timeless, and we hope that they will continue to provide a source of inspiration for anyone in the world who may need it.
- Devin Wu