Andrew Gear had two criteria when he was making his college choice four years ago. He wanted to attend a good academic school, and he wanted to be able to play college tennis.
"I sent letters to a lot of coaches," said Gear, a 2010 Winters Mill High School graduate. "I didn't hear back from a lot of them."
Gear just completed his career at St. Mary's College as the Seahawks' all-time leader in singles wins (69) and in doubles wins (56).
Not bad for someone who carried a triple major, graduating last month with degrees in English, Political Science and Public Policy.
The term "student-athlete" may be an oxymoron throughout much of the NCAA, but it couldn't be more apt in Gear's case.
Gear was named Capital Athletic Conference Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year on Monday.
The school's valedictorian, Gear made "Dean's List" every semester at St. Mary's, was named to the CAC all-academic team four years in a row and was a two-time "St. Mary's Scholar," bestowed upon juniors and seniors who carry at least a 3.5 grade-point average. On Tuesday, he was named first-team Division III At Large Academic All-American for the second time, one of fifteen selections nationally.
"It was a lot on my plate at times," said Gear, who will be attending the University of Virginia School of Law in the fall. "At times it's very tough. You learn quickly in college athletics that you have to be good at balancing.
"Academics come first in Division III, but you still might get back at 1 a.m. from a match and have a test the next day or a paper that's due."
Gear never let athletics affect his academics, or vice versa. On the court, he was the CAC Rookie of the Year as a freshman and the league's co-Player of the Year as a junior. Last season he was named St. Mary's Male Athlete of the Year and this year he was the schools Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Gear credited his coach, Greg Shedd, with helping everyone on the team to balance school and sport. And he said the environment at St. Mary's is conducive to doing both.
"The professors are great. I would walk into class and they would know how I did in my last match," said Gear, who had two housemates who also played varsity sports. "Everyone at St. Mary's does a lot of stuff."
Playing one sport and carrying a triple-major course load wasn't enough, either. Gear grew up a sports nut, playing everything as a kid, and that didn't change when he went to college. In addition to playing on the varsity tennis team, he also played various intramural sports, from soccer to handball to basketball to badminton.
Gear played first singles from the end of his freshman year through his senior year and played first doubles his entire career. He said he only missed one match in four years because of injury, and it was his first one.
He won 125 matches as a singles or doubles player, but he says his top highlights were team-related — beating rival and CAC powerhouse Salisbury his first two seasons.
"We weren't great as a program before my class came in," Gear said. "We really turned it around."
Gear said he will always play tennis, although right now more of his spare time is going into mastering golf. He sees himself one day as being "the old guy at the country club," playing both sports well.
Not that he has much spare time. He is working on Ryan Frederic's state senate campaign and he's getting ready for a trip to South Africa.
He hopes for a career in politics one day, perhaps running for office or helping to shape public policy behind the scenes.
"Politics is competitive," he said. "I treat it like a sport."
If Gear's achievements on the court and in the classroom are any indication, by the time he's that old guy at the country club he'll be looking back on a successful political career as he's beating younger members at tennis.