Michael Vick and Alexandra Nicole Summers don’t know each other.

If they sat side by side on a plane, she wouldn’t ask him why the defense reacts to a pump fake. And he wouldn’t ask about nuclear reactors.

Yet if they did strike up a conversation, they would find significant common ground: They are both right out of college and are entering the work force as “can’t miss” prospects.

As a result, they will earn more money than most of their peers in Vick’s case, than all of his peers and live with tremendous expectations, both their own and their employers’. They’ll leave the friendly confines of their campus successes, buy their first cars and move where their career course dictates they go.

How did they become among the top picks in their respective fields Vick as a quarterback at Virginia Tech; Summers as a mechanical engineer at Carnegie Mellon? What are these first heady, post college days like for these young professionals? And how do they approach the pressures of their new positions?

For Vick, answers to the latter question begin in earnest today, the opening of the National Football League regular season. As the league’s No. 1 overall draft pick, the 21 year old quarterback signed a contract with the Atlanta Falcons worth $62 million.

Vick will likely be a backup throughout his rookie season, learning from veteran players. But he’s certain about his potential:

“Michael Jordan is the only person I’d trade my talent with,” Vick says. “Everybody else, they can keep ’em. Jordan was special.”

Alex Summers could use some of Vick’s confidence. “I’ve always thought people have thought I was smarter than I really was,” she confides. “I didn’t believe that.”

But she’s beginning to believe: In May, Summers graduated from Carnegie Mellon with honors and a degree in mechanical engineering. She had received five job offers by January and chose a position with defense industry giant Lockheed Martin, where she’ll train Navy personnel to operate nuclear powered ships. She is 22 years old and will earn a starting salary of $63,000 per year. Last week, she began a 1 1/2 year training program. News World Report.

Summers, who attended Contoocook Valley High School in Peterborough, was ninth in her high school class with a 3.7 GPA. She chose CMU because it was small and personal and because she wasn’t accepted into Stanford.

CMU’s incoming freshmen are admitted to specific schools and are expected to select a major after the first year, said James H. Garrett Jr., deputy dean of the School of Engineering. That way, they can immediately start to whittle away at the demanding course load.

Summers picked engineering because of a fascination with understanding gadgets and constructing things, and she chose mechanical engineering because it was the discipline that gave the most wiggle room to change directions.

Her father, Frank Summers, is an engineer who now looks back on how his daughter glided through honors courses in high school, then went to CMU and found the shock of her life.

She told him, “These people are so smart. I’m nobody.”

“She was really shocked down to her toes,” Frank Summers said. “I think what shocked her is that she was in the middle. That was unacceptable. . She set out to be in the top of her class. Nothing less, nothing more.”

In the end, she didn’t become valedictorian but left CMU with an impressive resume. She finished with a 3.7 GPA. Each summer, she had an internship within her field, and in her junior year she became a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers. She also played goalie for the Division III soccer program in each of her four years and was team captain her senior season, before a concussion forced her to the sidelines.

To reward her dedication to the team, coaches placed a color photo of her diving in front of the goal on the team’s pocket schedule.

“She’s completely insane, she works so hard,” said her sister, Sarah.

Determined but not obsessed Alex Summers said there’s a difference. There were times when she studied to the point of exhaustion and times when she coasted, but she picked her spots.

Her toughest course, the fundamentals of electrical engineering, was one of those times when she decided to coast. The class involved the technical functions of circuits, and it frustrated her just to look at the book.

She got a B, and felt lucky to get it. “I’m glad [my teacher] graded on a curve,” she said.

When she applied herself, the results were the kind that look good on a resume.

For instance, in the course description for the mechanical engineering department, it says that “central to the profession is the importance of innovation and of creating new technology and products.” Summers combined the two with a senior project she worked on with members from the Society of Automotive Engineers. They designed an off road vehicle to race in competition, constructing the frame from scratch and assembling all the parts.

Mechanical engineering professor John Wiss, who was Summers’ adviser on the project, said that assignment called upon her strengths. She’s a decisive leader, he said, who enjoys working with people to accomplish goals.

“She takes right hold and does things,” he continued. “She’s a great engineer. She’s the one in class who always seemed to make good sense. She’s the one who takes hold and makes people do things exactly right.”

Building the car was a lifetime accomplishment and fell in line with Summers’ infatuation for components and moving parts. She gets goose bumps thinking about it.


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