From the Football Field into the Dental Field
Faced with the choice of following your dream career of being a dentist or playing in the NFL, which would you choose? First-year dental student Mason Monheim, son of College of Dentistry alumni Jan ’84 DHY, and John Monheim, ’86 DDS, was faced with that decision when sports agents began telling him he would likely be drafted into the NFL after his successful Big 10 career.
“I came from a small town where football was a big deal,” said Monheim, who was born in Orrville, Ohio, about an hour south of Cleveland. “My lifelong goal was to play for a Big 10 university.”
Offered a scholarship by University of Illinois during his junior year of high school, Monheim started all four of his years with the Illini and distinguished himself by earning the number seven spot on the team’s career tackles list—two spots ahead of Chicago Bears legend Dick Butkus’ ranking when he was at Illinois. Despite Monheim’s achievements on the field, he never forgot his second lifelong dream of joining his father’s dental practice in Orrville where he had been shadowing his dad since his senior year in high school.
“Orrville is home and it’s where my heart is,” said Monheim. “... and there’s a high need for dentists in rural areas. After I graduate from dental school, I’m going back home where I’m needed.”
“My plan was always to play college football, go to dental school, and then work with my dad,” said Monheim. “Near the end of my college career I applied to dental schools and was accepted. I didn’t rule out playing in the NFL, but I knew in my heart that I was ready to move on from football and move into dentistry.
My dad’s practice is typical for a small town. Everyone knows him. He has worked solo for 10 to 15 years and his staff worked there before him. I always loved walking there after school and watching my dad work.”
It was comforting for Monheim to know that his parents, who didn't miss any of the 49 games he started in at Illinois, would support whichever decision he made. In the end, he decided to pursue a dental career.
“Orrville is home and it’s where my heart is,” said Monheim, who is engaged to marry his high school sweetheart in July. “I loved growing up in a small town where you go to the grocery store and know everyone. And there’s a high need for dentists in rural areas. That’s another thing that drew me back. After I graduate from dental school, I’m going back home where I’m needed.”