I was a good football player in high school, but I knew I wouldn’t be heavily recruited because I was undersized. And since NFL careers are typically three years or less, I decided to choose a college that would help me build on my interest in technology and creating futuristic products for athletes.
So when Missouri S&T, an NCAA Division II school with a top engineering program, offered me a spot, I jumped at the chance. With education as my first priority, I chose to redshirt my freshman year of football. I majored in engineering management and took a summer internship with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, working on autonomous robotics for the military.
By my senior year, I was on track educationally, and I had a great season on the field, setting the school record for interceptions and becoming the first AFCA All-American from my school in 21 years. The following spring, I was selected to play a college All-Star game against the top NFL prospects in my class. After a good performance in the game, I was projected to be selected in the upcoming NFL draft.
I headed to EXOS’ Dallas, Texas, facility for NFL pro day training. I was immediately impressed with the company’s holistic approach to training as well as the technology they used to make analytics actionable for their clients. In the back of my mind, I knew I wanted to work here once my playing days were over.
Following the 2015 NFL draft, I signed a free agent contract with the Tennessee Titans, who released me after one season. Once I cleared waivers and no other team signed me, I decided to go to Canada and play for the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL. I spent the following offseason training at EXOS in Los Angeles, California. It was during this time that I was told by my team management that they needed me to take a pay cut or lose my spot.
I reached out to Craig Friedman, vice president of the performance innovation team at EXOS, and expressed interest in working with EXOS in a research and design capacity. He replied, telling me that there were no open positions with the performance innovation team, and they currently didn’t offer an internship.
Since there were no openings and my playing career seemed to be coming to an end, I decided to leave my spot with the CFL and take a job as a process engineer in St. Louis, Missouri. The pay was great, and I gained valuable experience. But that industry wasn’t something I was passionate about, so I wasn’t satisfied with my career path.
After working with that company for a year, I contacted Craig again to see if anything had changed in his department. He informed me that the team had recently decided to begin a performance innovation internship program. The four-month program was unpaid and there was no guarantee for a full-time position once the program ended.
After a few interviews, I was offered the position as an intern for fall 2017. Leaving my stable job made me nervous, but I took the internship anyway because I knew I could be passionate about the work. I’m a firm believer that hard work and faith pays off and that pursuing your dreams is always worth the risk.
During my internship, I worked on several technology pilots and studies, and I learned more about EXOS’ methodology and business practices. In order to make an impression at the company, I committed to excellence by working long hours and striving to do more than I was asked. This meant I could assist in the rapid innovation I was witnessing within the company and build priceless relationships with staff and clients.
At the end of my internship, I was offered a full-time position with the team as a performance solutions engineer, continuing the work from my internship while also assisting with new innovative projects. Even though it meant taking risks, today I’m able to use my education in an industry I’m passionate about while being financially stable.
Looking to find a career that builds on your passion for sports? Here are some tips.
1. Explore other interests early.
Challenge yourself to be more than an athlete and make education a priority too. The degree and lessons you learn in the classroom can set you up for life-long success.
2. Apply principles from sports to life.
Some lessons are universal both on and off the field. Your workplace can also be a place to apply qualities like commitment, integrity, and teamwork.
3. Become an expert of your interests.
Once you find something you’re passionate about, learn everything you can about it through education, internships, and mentors.
4. Access your network.
When it comes to looking for a new career, keep in contact with coaches, faculty, alumni, and boosters. You never know who can help you find a great opening.
5. Treat every day like game day.
No matter what you decide to do, don’t let your dedication slide. Keep your body and your mind in top condition by continuing to prepare, perform, learn, and recover.
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