They say there’s always life after football, but one player was ahead of the curve in mapping out his career between college games and practices.
Most know Elijah Sindelar from his time as the quarterback for the Boilermakers, but he’s learned to use the skills he was taught in football to better communicate and lead for Indiana Transmission Plant, where he’s made his career.
“Football prepared me more than I would have ever imagined for being in the workforce or in manufacturing specifically,” Sindelar said. “As a quarterback, you’re the leader of the offense. So you have to take a group of guys that have different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different beliefs, and moral … and you have to get all of them to work together toward a common goal. Taking that into consideration, and now in my position as a test and NVH engineering supervisor, I do the same thing with my guys that I supervise.”
The 2017 Foster Farms Bowl MVP just passed his one-year mark at Stellantis, and he said his experiences with emphasizing communication and battling adversity were two of the most important skills he took with him off the field.
Communication might be the biggest, though, he said. Being able to communicate a lot of technical information to upper-level management without overwhelming them with the complexities is key.
Going through adversity is an everyday occurrence for an engineer, he said. Like football, he needs to be able to predict what’s going to happen in any situation and be ready to change course if things don’t go as planned.
“Having that quick recall or that ability to make a quick decision (is huge) and not only just the quick decision, but the right decision transforms into manufacturing in real-time. I mean, we have issues every day that come up. That could be a particular part is causing a defect in the transmission, and you have to be able to not only root-cause that but narrow down what is the defect and how you’re going to fix it,” Sindelar said.
Sindelar received a promotion recently, which reinforced his decision to focus on engineering. He said he couldn’t be happier with his decision to step away from football. The injuries became too much, but a concussion was the last domino to fall that ultimately caused Sindelar to hang it up.
His father was an electrical engineer, and Sindelar said he always wanted to follow in his footsteps. Even during his football career, he already was preparing for what would be his career.
From the end of his sophomore year until he graduated college, Sindelar was a student intern at the power plant on campus. This caused him to work during the days, along with juggling football and managing his classes. After a concussion, Sindelar had trouble driving and looking at the bright lights on the road, and he said he couldn’t focus on anything at his internship.
“Losing kind of the ability to function with your brain, and as an engineer having to think through problems and look at numbers … all that kind of stuff, it’s very difficult when you simply can’t focus at all,” Sindelar said. “You have all these headaches, and your vision is kind of blurred. It was scary, to be honest. I thought that if I keep going down this path and this happens again potentially and I don’t get better next time, well now my fallback is even out of the question. If I don’t have my mind or my brain being able to think through issues and problems, I’m not going to be a successful engineer also. So that was kind of the one that caused me to be like, ‘Maybe I’m not doing the right thing right now in regards to my career path.’”
Sindelar committed to Purdue because of his ability to play football and work toward engineering at the same time, which he said some other schools wouldn’t allow. Sindelar didn’t want to take the easy road. He wanted to work hard in his career track from the very beginning.
He said he wouldn’t change a thing now and was happy to continue thriving at Stellantis.
“I could not be happier in my current situation. It’s been about a month-and-a-half now since I started (as a supervisor), and it’s just been phenomenal. It’s everything that I could dream of being an engineer,” Sindelar said. “Every day is different. It’s almost like preparing for a new game every day.”