A decade in review: from Lehigh to the pros

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Countless student-athletes compete on Lehigh athletic teams — living in their brown and white uniforms for four years before hanging them up upon graduation — but few have been able to take their careers a step further and play for professional programs. 

In the past decade alone, three Lehigh athletes have found spots on professional teams. Mark Forrest, ’18, CJ McCollum, ’13, and Levi Stoudt, were drafted for different sports following the success they found at Lehigh.

After graduating in 2018, forward Forrest was drafted in the fourth round by the Major League Soccer (MLS) team, Chicago Fire FC.

Former Lehigh forward Mark Forrest beats a defender during a game against Drexel on Monday, August 27, 2018, at Ulrich Sports Complex. Earlier this year, Forrest was drafted during the 4th round of the MLS draft by the Chicago Fire FC. (Courtesy of Brent Hugo)

Forrest majored in management while he was a student-athlete at Lehigh. Although he was drafted in the middle of his senior year, the organization allowed him to finish out the semester and graduate with his class. As part of the agreement, Forrest had to spend one year playing in the United Soccer League (USL), one division below the MLS, as a forward on the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

Coach Dean Koski said Forrest is one of the best forwards to play for Lehigh during his 28 years as head coach. To date, Lehigh has had 10 players make it to the professional stage. 

Forrest finished second in career goals behind Andy Mittendorf, ‘99, who still holds the team and league record for career goals. 

The standout forward garnered several awards and accolades over the course of his Lehigh career, including two Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, First Team Senior CLASS All-American and First Team All-Atlantic Region honors, among several others. 

“(Forrest) distinguished himself as the best forward in the league for most of his career,” Koski said.

Koski said he expects Forrest to compete for a significant role on Pittsburgh’s team this coming season. 

Former Lehigh Mountain Hawk shooting guard CJ McCollum during a game against Bucknell on Wednesday, March 7, 2012. McCollum is now a starter for the Portland Trailblazers. (Leah Kulp/B&W Staff)

McCollum was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers in the NBA draft as a shooting guard after he graduated.

McCollum was picked 10th overall in the draft and was named Most Improved Player during the 2015-16 season.

While at Lehigh, McCollum received several Patriot League and national honors, and as of Dec. 10, 2013, during his senior year, he led the nation in scoring average. He also posted double-figure points in 33 straight games of his final season and 100 of his 109 career games.

As a student, McCollum transferred from The College of Business to The College of Arts and Sciences to pursue a journalism major, and he served as an assistant sports editor for The Brown and White.

McCollum kept his passion for storytelling alive and has written articles for different outlets while playing in the NBA. 

He recently returned to Lehigh in 2019 to retire his No. 3 jersey. During his visit, McCollum was given a glass framed copy of his first article published in The Brown and White.

Lehigh Mountain Hawks Levi Stoudt pitches during a game against Navy on Saturday, April 27, 2019, at Max Bishop Stadium. Stoudt was selected 97th overall in the 2019 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Stoudt was selected to the Seattle Mariners in the third round of the MLB draft as a pitcher, during his junior year at Lehigh University.

He had a strong senior campaign for the Lehigh baseball team in 2019, playing in 11 games, starting at pitcher in 10 and finished the year with a 3.53 ERA, striking out a total of 69 batters. His standout season earned him All-Patriot League Second Team honors.

Coach Sean Leary said Stoudt was an “impact performer” even as a freshman, immediately earning a spot in the pitching rotation.

Leary said Stoudt was projected as a potential MLB draft pick when the Lehigh coaching staff recruited him. But it was his dedication and commitment during his time at Lehigh that propelled him to the major leagues. 

This past June, Jason Reynolds, ‘20, was drafted to the Padres, and Leary said Reynolds is another great example of how an unwavering work ethic can lead to accomplishing a lifelong goal of playing professionally.

Five other players from the baseball program have signed MLB contracts in the last decade, including pitchers Andrew Berger, ’10, Mike Lebo, ’11, and Mark Washington, as well as outfielder Justin Pacchioli, ’15, and second baseman Mike Garzillo, ’16. These players serve as great inspiration for current student athletes, Leary said.

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