Colorado’s Mo Bandi set his sights on a career in medicine early in life.
Colorado's Mo Bandi set his sights on a career in medicine early in life. (Brian Howell /

In the spring of 2016, Mo Bandi was riding in the car with his father when he decided to bring up a touchy subject.

"I asked him, 'If, by chance I play football for CU, you won't be mad, right?'" said Bandi, who, at the time, was in his first semester as a student at Colorado. "He was like, 'Oh man, you're thinking about that again?'"

Bandi dropped the subject for a couple of days before revealing to his parents, "'I actually signed with the football team.'

"They were both kind of shocked."

A walk-on defensive lineman and 2015 graduate of Niwot High School, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Bandi has a football body, but the native of India was raised to develop his mind.

"When I was a kid, I loved playing sports, but my parents would always make sure that education was first for me," he said. "If you have a good education, you're guaranteed something in this world. They always raised me with that attitude."

Over the last two and a half years, Bandi has shined in the classroom as a triple major in neuroscience; molecular cellular and developmental biology; and pre-med studies. He's also minoring in biochemistry.

"If I was on scholarship, I'd probably major in four or five things and take it up to four or five years of school," he said. "This is all I can fit within four years."

Well, that and the rigorous schedule of being a college football player.


"It's incredibly impressive," said Katie Bason, CU's director of football academics. "He is what is great about college football. He's getting to live his dream; he's getting to play football and he's excelling in school and really setting an example for everybody else. You really can do both. That's what we preach all the time."

What's remarkable about Bandi, however, is that he doesn't have to do both.

Bandi is not on scholarship, where being a student and athlete is required. He's a walk-on who is low on the depth chart and might never play in a game.

At Niwot, Bandi was a good player who stood out on a struggling team. He got a few scholarship offers and actually signed a letter of intent with Jacksonville University, from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). By that summer, he had changed his mind and instead went to Division II William Jewell in Liberty, Mo.

An only child, Bandi felt the pull to return home and after just one semester at William Jewell, he did, moving back in with his parents.

"I could tell they were really missing me and I was missing them, too," he said.

Whenever football came up in conversation, however, Bandi's parents reminded him of his dreams of being a doctor and that he should focus on protecting his hands and his brain for medical school and beyond.

It made perfect sense.

After all, his father left India when Bandi was 2 years old to establish more educational opportunities in the United States for his young son.

"My parents wanted to give me new opportunities and I'm so thankful they did," Bandi said.

From a young age, Bandi was encouraged to strive to make a difference in the world. In Indian culture, doctors are often equated with God, and Bandi set his sights on a career in medicine.

"Ever since I was a kid, that's all I've wanted to do is save lives," Bandi said. "In my opinion, (being a doctor) is the most noble profession and ... just knowing that you saved someone's life, that's awesome."

Bandi has never lost sight of that goal and recently got his CNA (certified nursing assistant) certification. He plans to get his EMT (emergency medical technician) certification this summer.

"I hope he's my surgeon one day," Bason said. "You get the sense from him that he knows what he wants in life and he's got it figured out. I'm just happy to know him and be a part of his journey."

But, why add football to a journey that's already jam-packed with classroom obligations that would bury some students?

"I know I have to challenge myself now to be ready for med school," he said. "I'm trying to take on a huge load, No. 1, to challenge myself and, No. 2, to really learn as much as I can about the human body because, why not start now rather than four years down the road?"

Preparing for medical school is only part of Bandi's insane schedule. His dream of playing college football has a role, too.

"I just love playing the sport," he said. "Not many people get to do this. It's such a blessing to be able to play football at this level, even if I don't ever play a down."

Bandi's greatest sacrifice has been his social life, but he laughed and said, "I'm fine with that."

Nearly every spare moment — even 15 or 20 minutes between football meetings — is spent looking through notes or studying on his phone.

When he's not doing football or school, Bandi admits he's "usually so tired mentally and physically" to do much else. But, his teammates joke that Bandi lives in the locker room and players' lounge, where he's been known to take a break and get lost in Netflix.

"Watching some random thing, it feels so good, not having to think about football and school just for a little bit," he said.

Those breaks aren't long, though, as Bandi is about as driven and busy as anyone on campus.

"When I'm showing recruits what a typical schedule looks like, I make sure I don't show them Mo's, because I'll scare some people away," Bason said. "I know I couldn't have done that in college and do football the way he does.

"He really puts forth every ounce of energy he has for school and football."

Bandi's efforts in school are sure to pay off down the road with a career in the medical field.

His efforts in football bring immediate rewards, such as coming out of spring more confident than ever in his improvement, thanks to his new position coach, Kwahn Drake.

"I've never had a better coach to coach me up the way he does," Bandi said. "He teaches you everything in a step-by-step process that no other coaches really do. Every little thing matters to him and I've definitely improved more this one spring ball than I have in pretty much my entire career. I'm definitely headed in a good direction. I've responded well to his style of coaching."

With several scholarship defensive linemen ahead of him, Bandi's chances of actually playing aren't great, and he's only got one season left. He is a junior in football eligibility, but will graduate next May and move on from the game.

So far, Bandi's only real claim to CU football fame is that he has the longest first name in program history: Varasiddimounish. His personal highlight is that he has dressed for three games, and that's OK, because his journey at CU is mainly about preparing for his bright future as a doctor.

He has not, however, given up his dream of playing in a game, even if it is only one snap.

"That would mean to the world to me," he said. "I can't wait for the day that might happen."

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at or