NetWorks Sports Spotlight Interview with Joby Branion – Co-Founder & Executive Director, Athletes First (@athletesfirst)

NetWorks Sports Spotlight Interview with….Joby Branion – Co-Founder & Executive Director, Athletes First
By Tracey Savell Reavis

Joby Branion, Co-Founder & Executive Director at Athletes First

For Joby Branion, the route from athlete to agent was about as predictable as going undefeated for an entire season in the NFL. Youth football in his hometown of Wareham, Mass., led to a scholarship to Duke University, where he played four years and earned All-ACC honors. But when the former Blue Devil defensive back got cut by the Washington Redskins, what followed was 10 years in a school administrator’s job, grad school and law school, and a stint as a corporate lawyer.

It wasn’t until 1996 when a friend of a friend informed Joby of an opportunity to work with Leigh Steinberg’s sports representation firm.  His perception of sports agents up to that point had been that they were enablers who told their clients whatever they thought they wanted to hear. Since that was not his makeup, Joby initially wanted no part. It took more than a little research before he decided to give it a try. It was a decision that would turn out to be a wise one.

Today, Joby is Co-Founder & Executive Director of Athletes First, a bicoastal sports representation agency that opened its doors in 2001.  As the agency’s name suggests, they focus on personalized service. For Joby, that means not only being there for clients, but being honest with them. Even if it’s not what they want to hear. In addition to big name NFL players like Mark Sanchez, Matt Hasselbeck and Ray Lewis, Athletes First reps baseball and basketball players and a number of coaches. Among the services Athletes First offers its clients are contract expertise, a pre-draft training program, PR, and negotiating marketing/endorsement deals. It’s this work that gives Joby the opportunity to do something he loves – sharing his life experiences so that he helps young men navigate life’s minefield of important decisions.

Post-draft, post-lockout and, finally, post-season kickoff, Joby spoke with us about some of the benefits of focusing less on a specific destination and instead on enjoying the journey.

Can you describe what the atmosphere was like at Athletes First during the 135-day NFL lockout?
The biggest difference from normal years was that there’s usually more communication with general managers and teams. And we didn’t have that during the lockout. And we take our relationship with our clients seriously. We keep them informed, give them the best advice. It was harder to do that during the lockout. So for us it was a challenge, a new landscape.

And when it was over?
A mad rush of deal making that had to be done in an extraordinarily condensed period of time. Free agency was a very intense time with so many contracts being signed when normally there’s plenty of time to prepare. It’s not back to normal yet.

Were there any priorities your agency set as soon as the lockout ended?
No, no priorities. All deals were just as important – free agents, veterans. Every individual client believes their situation takes priority – so we do also. We worked around the clock to get everything done.

Athletes First client Von Miller of the Denver Broncos


One of Athletes First clients is Von Miller [drafted second overall by the Denver Broncos]. Can you talk a little about him being named as a plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit filed against the NFL by the Player’s Association?

 

He was approached at first, informally, before the lawsuit was even filed. It came up, if I remember correctly, at a cocktail party, in the abstract. Then there were follow up discussions. We talked to him about what the plusses and minuses would be for him. We pointed out that a general manager might look at this as a negative. But at the end of the day, Von was excited to join the other players. He was doing it as a way to keep the lockout from happening or to stop it if it did happen. Not anti-NFL, but saying I’m “pro” playing.

In the end it showed him to be a thoughtful man, who can take a stance on something. It turned out a positive, a good move on his part.

What do you think of the new, 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement? Which side made out the best?
Well, in any negotiation there are trade offs. But I think both sides are happy. There is a long-term labor agreement in place now. And I think that says stability, and it adds to the value of the sport from a fans point of view. I’m glad it’s resolved.

Do you think the play in the league this season will ultimately be affected by the lockout?
It’s hard to say. There was some rumbling before about players not being able to participate in offseason training, that they’d be out of shape, at higher risk of injury. I don’t think we’ll really know until the end of the season.

What importance would you put on sports in your life, and the role it has played in shaping who you are?
Growing up it was difficult being around a stepmother and with no father. Football became like a surrogate father. It was my source of self worth and confidence. Football helped get me from childhood into adulthood. It is such an intense feeling playing football – the cheering, coming out onto the field, being with your teammates. There’s nothing in the real world like that. I tell people all the time, ‘You will always remember the last day you play’. I can still remember the last time I put on a football helmet. It took me several years to get that feeling out of my life. It was very hard to walk away from the game.

Can you talk about the career decisions you’ve made that eventually led to you to being a sports agent and doing something that you love?
Well I wanted to play pro football. Everybody wants to be a pro – in sports, in music. But that didn’t happen.  I got hired as the Director of Minority Admissions at Duke. I had a lot of interaction with faculty and staff and students. I got to travel. I got to grow and learn. Then I moved to the west coast to go to grad school at UCLA, and the experience was dramatically different. But the move improved my network. Each step I’ve made was an effective way to improve skills that I could always use in life. I think I got a much richer set of life experiences because of the choices I made.

What kind of skills do you think are important to have in order to be successful?
Expose yourself to things. Network. I harp on the importance of networking. But it’s not to be hyper-focused on a specific number of friends on Facebook. The quality of relationships is more important. And challenge yourself. Those are the cornerstones to happiness and success, and to waking up everyday feeling good about what you’re doing.

What lessons about work and life have you learned that you share with others?
I would encourage everyone to have as many diversified experiences as possible. I counsel young people all the time, don’t feel like you have to make a permanent decision about your career early on. If people ask you what you want to do, or what your plans are, it’s okay to say I’m not sure. Don’t feel like you’re a loser at 22 if you don’t know what you want. Just whatever you do, always look to make decisions that will increase your options.

Is there anything you haven’t done that you wish you had, or anything you would have done differently?
Yeah, there is – that I didn’t take as much advantage of the chance to study abroad.

And in some ways I wish I could have done Duke without being an athlete, just to see what that would have been like.

Joby Branion


GET TO KNOW JOBY

 

Favorit Sport after Football: Lacrosse
On His Nightstand: The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
Hobbies: Whatever my three young sons happen to be into at the moment – today it is Call of Duty on PS3!
Favorite Musician: Prince
In His Music Library: Aside from his majesty Prince, everything from Lil Wayne and Adele to Stevie Wonder and David Sanborn
Favorite Movie: Pulp Fiction
Daily Newspaper: The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post
Favorite Quote: “If you can be bought, you can be sold!” ~ Anonymous

Follow Athletes First on Twitter @AthletesFirst and find out more about Joby, Athletes First, and their clients on the A1 website www.athletesfirst.net.

Follow NetWorks Sports Consulting on Twitter @NetWorks_Sports and sign up to receive the “Changing the Game” Newsletter today!

Let us know what you think of this NetWorks Sports Spotlight Interview with Athletes First Co-Founder & Executive Director Joby Branion, in the Comment section below!

NetWorks Sports Spotlight Interview with Curtis Symonds, CEO of The HBCU Network (@HBCUNetwork)

NetWorks Sports Spotlight Interview with….Curtis Symonds, CEO – The HBCU Network
By Tracey Savell Reavis

Curtis Symonds (foreground), CEO of The HBCU Network

Are you ready for some football? SWAC or MEAC Conference football? Then get ready for blanketed coverage, as the new HBCU Network, set to launch later this month, will air a full slate of games such as the Howard vs. Morehouse rivalry, and more. And we have network CEO Curtis Symonds to thank for it.

Symonds is a cable-broadcasting and marketing veteran, who has been an executive producer, a VP and a COO for such companies as BET, ESPN and the WNBA, in a career that spans more than 25 years. He wants to bring attention to the 105 historically Black colleges and universities situated in 20 states mostly across the mid-Atlantic and south. He’s hoping to capitalize on the fact that no one else is providing programming on HBCUs for an HBCU audience. Aimed at African American students, young adults and HBCU alumni, the 24-hour cable channel will provide sports, entertainment and original programming, and help create awareness of the culture of HBCUs. In addition, the schools themselves will hold a 20 percent interest in the channel, providing incentive for its success. Symonds, an Oberlin, Ohio, native hopes with this month’s ‘soft launch’, and some much-needed grassroots support and word of mouth, the channel can count 10 million subscribers by the Feb. 2012 official launch.

We caught up with the busy executive, who’s been collecting a ton of frequent-flyer miles traveling between his home in Fairfax, Va., and Atlanta, Ga. where the cable channel is based. Symonds talked about how passion, sweat equity and confidence led him to this opportunity at this point of his career.

What are we going to see when the HBCU Network launches?
Sports will make up about 28 percent, with live game coverage. But it won’t be just sports. There will also be entertainment programs, lifestyle programming. We want to create more exposure for historical Black colleges. We want a platform of programming that really focuses on the history, the legacy, the lifestyle, the culture of historically Black colleges. We want to be authentic, we want to be aggressive, and we want to be audacious in our programming.

Why is it so important that there be an HBCU Network?
Because there is a lot of heritage there. This is our heritage. We feel that the fact that no one is really doing anything on historically Black colleges and universities, that we have a big window here.

And would you say not enough is being shown now, or is it that it’s not being shown in the right way?
I don’t think it’s being done at all. Right now ESPN does some Black college football and basketball games. But sports is only one element of historical Black colleges. There’s so much more than that. With this network and the programming, we want to expose why it makes sense to go to a North Carolina A&T, which has one of the best engineering divisions, or a Hampton, which has one of the best NASA programs in the country. We want people to become more aware of how great these places really are.

So your research has showed there is an audience for this?
No question. I think what is overlooked is how really big that audience is. The cable operators don’t understand how big the alumni base is across the country. I think this channel has the opportunity to be one of the biggest history makers in cable television that there has ever been.

What’s the vision of the HBCU Network, and what do you want to accomplish with the channel?
Really, we want to create more exposure for historical Black colleges. We want to showcase the 174-year history and heritage of HBCUs. We want to increase distribution, and drive more revenue to the colleges.

You sound pretty passionate about what you’re doing? Why do you believe so strongly in this channel, and why this project now?
The reason I believe in it is because I’m a baby of HBCUs. My mother taught at Central State University for 40 years, I graduated from Central State.  I’ve always believed in historically Black colleges.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in trying to launch this and how have you been successful in overcoming them?
The challenges have really been educating white cable operators on the value of this network and why this product makes sense. Many of them are not willing to take a chance, or they’re not willing to put themselves out there politically. It amazes me that in today’s world of cable television, no one has a problem with multiple Hispanic channels. And yet they want to limit the African-American channels to single digits.

What, if anything, would you say has been a key to your successful career?
There’s one thing that I can point to over my lifetime, one thing that has driven me. Back when I was in high school, I didn’t make the basketball team. And I told the coach then that was not going to stop me from playing college basketball. And it didn’t. I played four years. And that just told me that if I really want to do something, if I really put my mind to it, I can do it. That’s the same objective that I have for my life. I don’t stop striving because no one can tell me no.

What advice do you give young people starting out about how to reach their career goals?
First of all, today’s kids feel a certain sense of entitlement. They don’t understand sweat equity. But that’s what it’s about. I worked my ass off to be where I am today. No one gave me anything. I had to earn it. Today’s kids think, “I got a four-year degree, you owe it to me.” No I don’t. I don’t owe you shit. At the end of the day, you have to show me why I should hire you.

What do you think young people needed to focus on most starting out in their careers?
I tell kids to connect with people who can help you down the road on your career path. And sometimes that means stepping out of your comfort zone. Building your network is key. And investment. At the end of day it’s about ownership. Instead of dumping a million dollars on that house, invest in our community. We have to start thinking ownership.

You’ve worked for BET, ESPN, the WNBA, and I’m sure had a number of accomplishments along the way that you are proud of. What would you say has been the highlight of your career?
Well a highlight certainly was what I was able to do at BET. But I’d have to say this is it. This is what I’m proud of. To be able to run my own cable network … this is lager than life. I don’t think there’s a better opportunity out there. This is history making.

GET TO KNOW CURTIS
Daily Newspaper: Washington Post & USA Today
Top Vacation Spot: Hawaii
Favorite Place to Visit: Chicago
Favorite Sport(s): Football and Basketball
Favorite Type of Music: Jazz
Favorite Musician: Grover Washington, Jr.
Favorite Movie: Remember the Titans

Follow The HBCU Network on Twitter @HBCUNetwork and find out more about what he’s doing on his website www.hbcunetwork.com. You can show your support for The HBCU Network by Signing the Roll!

Follow NetWorks Sports Consulting on Twitter @NetWorks_Sports and sign up to receive the “Changing the Game” Newsletter today!

Let us know what you think of this NetWorks Sports Spotlight Interview with The HBCU Network CEO, Curtis Symonds, in the Comment section below!

NetWorks Sports Spotlight Interview with Jason Mayden (Director of Innovation @Nike Digital Sport

NetWorks Spotlight Interview with….Jason Mayden, Director of Innovation – Nike Digital Sport
By Tracey Savell Reavis

 

Jason Mayden Director of Innovation, Nike Digital Sports

Jason Mayden could talk about carbon fiber arch plates and laser etched tongue details all day. His goal, from the young age of 12, was to design sneakers, specifically Air Jordans. He chased his Nike dream with a laser-like focus, and landed a summer internship at Brand Jordan, while in his third year of design school.

But it was six years later, when the impossible dream, at least for a kid growing up on the Southside of Chicago, came true: He was named the lead designer on the new Jordan shoe. Drawing inspiration from the sport of fencing, from the propulsion of a Paralympic athlete, and from the legendary ball player himself, Jason created the Air Jordan 2009 with a design described as both conforming to the brand’s storied history, and demonstrating a fresh and forward-thinking approach. Since then, he’s spearheaded the design of signature shoes for Derek Jeter and Chris Paul.

More than just a former athlete – he turned down football scholarships to pursue a career as a designer – and more than just a creator – he considers himself an illustrator and graphic artist – Jason is also an innovator who can see the big picture for business. He just completed his Masters of Science at Stanford Graduate School of Business as a Sloan Fellow, where students are chosen based on their past accomplishments and their potential as future senior leaders. When Jason starts his new position on August 15th, one that was created specifically for him, there’s no doubt this is yet another chance for him to make an impression and to leave his unique footprint on the world of sport innovation.

So first question, what exactly will you be doing as the Director of Innovation at Nike Digital Sports?
[Laughing] Well, at Nike our core strength is the ability to innovate. This position is a way to implement technology into the sports world and to give the consumer a brand new experience. It’s a really fun, creative role, part design, part product development, and part business development.

And how did you find yourself on the receiving end of a newly created position?
I knew digital sports was a hot topic. And it was being in the environment at Stanford. It was a collaborative process, based on my interest and the company’s needs. I would say the process took the whole year. I basically went to class, and then this is what I would do 2 or 3 hours at night. This was my pet project. Then [this past] January I put together a presentation, and it morphed into the role that I now have.

It’s really about where the company is going, and where your core competencies and talents can fit in with that strategic vision.

You seem pretty proactive when it comes to your career. Would you say that has been a key to your success?
Yeah, ten thousand percent. But not even proactive, I would say I was curious. I pursued Nike because I learned at an early age that no one is going to come to your doorstep and give you a magic ticket. So I took the initiative. I remember someone telling me, Somebody has to design shoes. Why can’t it be you? And that stuck in my mind. Why can’t it be me? Why can’t I be that kid?

I asked for help early. I exposed myself to different conversations, different concepts. I had books that gave me a different perspective. I escaped through books. Reading Lord of the Flies, and Peter Pan gave me a chance to dream of a world outside of Chicago. That helped build my vision and that helped give me the confidence to take that first step.

What is it about sneakers that has captured your attention? What made you want to design shoes?
I’ve always loved shoes. When I was a kid, I had shoes that were literally un-wearable. I used to put duct tape on my shoes. So every time I design a shoe, regardless of how much it’s being sold for, I try to really pour my heart and soul  into it and give the kid more than just a piece of leather, but a story and value. Because I know there’s a kid out there, who was just like me who saved up their money, and this is their first pair of shoes, that really will make them feel confident and good about themselves, and I want them to take my shoes out of the box and put them on their feet and feel like they can do anything.

You consider yourself a designer, and yet you were interested in attending Stanford and pursuing an MBA?
I’m the type of person to turn my weakness into a strength. I applied, took my GMATs, and interviewed. But I don’t have an economics or finance background, and never worked as an analyst. And a lot of people said you’ll never get into business school being an artist. But I said, you know, creativity has purpose and a place in corporate America. I played it up as my strength. I said, “this is why I should be here”, because I’m completely different.  I knew this would be a chance for me to understand the conversations that were going on in [meeting] rooms and for me to contribute in my own unique way.

Michael Jordan at Press Event for 2009 Air Jordan Release

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I got was from my former big boss Michael Jordan. And he told me early on, when I was an intern, always under promise and over deliver.  And I live by that. I never over promise. I never try to sell someone on more than what I can do. I think being understated, being humble and being honest about your capabilities upfront then people start to build a trust and respect for your work and your work ethic. I live by that advice and I pass it on.

What advice would you give to people starting out about reaching their goals and achieving a seemingly impossible dream?
First thing, don’t tell yourself that it’s impossible. [Laughing] Tell yourself that it is going to take a lot of hard work and that it will be difficult. But with faith and the right team around you, nothing is impossible.

Dreaming is a free ticket to your final destination of where you want to be. I’m constantly daydreaming, about where I want to go in my life. I encourage myself; I’m constantly pouring positivity into my life.

And do everything you can to arm yourself with knowledge.  If you remove the notion of impossibility, be prayerful, and surround yourself with a positive group of people, the sky’s the limit.

What kind of career advice would you offer to anyone wanting to get into the sports industry, especially about the amount of work?
People look at hard work as if it is degrading or that it will take too long. I look at it from the framework of there’s heart work, h-e-a-r-t, where you have a passion and you’re going to do it anyway, and hard work, h-a-r-d, manual labor, where you’re doing it because you have to, because you need to take care of your family. I grew up watching my parents do hard work. They did what they needed to do to give us opportunities.  Now I’m in a position to do heart work, something that I love, a passion. And when it’s something you love, it shouldn’t matter how long it takes. You should be doing it because it makes you feel complete.

What does giving back mean to you and how do you support young people?
Giving back to me means giving time. I try to make myself available to as many people as possible. You can give money and resources, and that’s all necessary. But for me, in the type of world that I’m in, I try to spend time talking with people. And it means the world, because I had key people talk to me, and I never forgot it. Because everybody has gifts, whether developed or not. Sometime it takes just one person to let you know that they see it in you. So I try to be that one person for a lot of people.

If you weren’t designing shoes, what do you think you would be doing?
My other dream job besides designing the Jordan while working at Nike was to be in the movie industry, in special effects. And if that didn’t work out, probably an art professor, or coach. I just really love any way to interact with the young generation. At some point in my career, I want to go back and teach.

Get to Know Jason
Favorite Artists: Czech illustrator Alphonse Mucha and American concept artist Syd Mead

Favorite Clothing Designers: Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs

Favorite Shoe Designers: Manolo Blahnik, Tinker Hatfield

On his nightstand: Warrior of the Light, by Paulo Coelho

Most influential book: Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

 

In his music library: Anything from Bjork, Joe Henderson, Miles Davis

Follow Jason on Twitter @JayMay_ChiCity and find out more about what he’s doing on his website www.megamayden.com

Follow NetWorks Sports Consulting on Twitter @NetWorks_Sports and sign up to receive the “Changing the Game” Newsletter today!

 

Let us know what you think of this NetWorks Sports Spotlight Interview with Jason Mayden in the Comment section below!

 


NetWorks Sports Spotlight Interview with Jason Mayden (Director of Innovation @Nike Digital Sport

NetWorks Spotlight Interview with….Jason Mayden, Director of Innovation – Nike Digital Sport
By Tracey Savell Reavis

Jason Mayden Director of Innovation, Nike Digital Sports

Jason Mayden could talk about carbon fiber arch plates and laser etched tongue details all day. His goal, from the young age of 12, was to design sneakers, specifically Air Jordans. He chased his Nike dream with a laser-like focus, and landed a summer internship at Brand Jordan, while in his third year of design school.

But it was six years later, when the impossible dream, at least for a kid growing up on the Southside of Chicago, came true: He was named the lead designer on the new Jordan shoe. Drawing inspiration from the sport of fencing, from the propulsion of a Paralympic athlete, and from the legendary ball player himself, Jason created the Air Jordan 2009 with a design described as both conforming to the brand’s storied history, and demonstrating a fresh and forward-thinking approach. Since then, he’s spearheaded the design of signature shoes for Derek Jeter and Chris Paul.

More than just a former athlete – he turned down football scholarships to pursue a career as a designer – and more than just a creator – he considers himself an illustrator and graphic artist – Jason is also an innovator who can see the big picture for business. He just completed his Masters of Science at Stanford Graduate School of Business as a Sloan Fellow, where students are chosen based on their past accomplishments and their potential as future senior leaders. When Jason starts his new position on August 15th, one that was created specifically for him, there’s no doubt this is yet another chance for him to make an impression and to leave his unique footprint on the world of sport innovation.

So first question, what exactly will you be doing as the Director of Innovation at Nike Digital Sports?
[Laughing] Well, at Nike our core strength is the ability to innovate. This position is a way to implement technology into the sports world and to give the consumer a brand new experience. It’s a really fun, creative role, part design, part product development, and part business development.

And how did you find yourself on the receiving end of a newly created position?
I knew digital sports was a hot topic. And it was being in the environment at Stanford. It was a collaborative process, based on my interest and the company’s needs. I would say the process took the whole year. I basically went to class, and then this is what I would do 2 or 3 hours at night. This was my pet project. Then [this past] January I put together a presentation, and it morphed into the role that I now have.

It’s really about where the company is going, and where your core competencies and talents can fit in with that strategic vision.

You seem pretty proactive when it comes to your career. Would you say that has been a key to your success?
Yeah, ten thousand percent. But not even proactive, I would say I was curious. I pursued Nike because I learned at an early age that no one is going to come to your doorstep and give you a magic ticket. So I took the initiative. I remember someone telling me, Somebody has to design shoes. Why can’t it be you? And that stuck in my mind. Why can’t it be me? Why can’t I be that kid?

I asked for help early. I exposed myself to different conversations, different concepts. I had books that gave me a different perspective. I escaped through books. Reading Lord of the Flies, and Peter Pan gave me a chance to dream of a world outside of Chicago. That helped build my vision and that helped give me the confidence to take that first step.

What is it about sneakers that has captured your attention? What made you want to design shoes?
I’ve always loved shoes. When I was a kid, I had shoes that were literally un-wearable. I used to put duct tape on my shoes. So every time I design a shoe, regardless of how much it’s being sold for, I try to really pour my heart and soul  into it and give the kid more than just a piece of leather, but a story and value. Because I know there’s a kid out there, who was just like me who saved up their money, and this is their first pair of shoes, that really will make them feel confident and good about themselves, and I want them to take my shoes out of the box and put them on their feet and feel like they can do anything.

You consider yourself a designer, and yet you were interested in attending Stanford and pursuing an MBA?
I’m the type of person to turn my weakness into a strength. I applied, took my GMATs, and interviewed. But I don’t have an economics or finance background, and never worked as an analyst. And a lot of people said you’ll never get into business school being an artist. But I said, you know, creativity has purpose and a place in corporate America. I played it up as my strength. I said, “this is why I should be here”, because I’m completely different.  I knew this would be a chance for me to understand the conversations that were going on in [meeting] rooms and for me to contribute in my own unique way.

Michael Jordan at Press Event for 2009 Air Jordan Release

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I got was from my former big boss Michael Jordan. And he told me early on, when I was an intern, always under promise and over deliver.  And I live by that. I never over promise. I never try to sell someone on more than what I can do. I think being understated, being humble and being honest about your capabilities upfront then people start to build a trust and respect for your work and your work ethic. I live by that advice and I pass it on.

What advice would you give to people starting out about reaching their goals and achieving a seemingly impossible dream?
First thing, don’t tell yourself that it’s impossible. [Laughing] Tell yourself that it is going to take a lot of hard work and that it will be difficult. But with faith and the right team around you, nothing is impossible.

Dreaming is a free ticket to your final destination of where you want to be. I’m constantly daydreaming, about where I want to go in my life. I encourage myself; I’m constantly pouring positivity into my life.

And do everything you can to arm yourself with knowledge.  If you remove the notion of impossibility, be prayerful, and surround yourself with a positive group of people, the sky’s the limit.

What kind of career advice would you offer to anyone wanting to get into the sports industry, especially about the amount of work?
People look at hard work as if it is degrading or that it will take too long. I look at it from the framework of there’s heart work, h-e-a-r-t, where you have a passion and you’re going to do it anyway, and hard work, h-a-r-d, manual labor, where you’re doing it because you have to, because you need to take care of your family. I grew up watching my parents do hard work. They did what they needed to do to give us opportunities.  Now I’m in a position to do heart work, something that I love, a passion. And when it’s something you love, it shouldn’t matter how long it takes. You should be doing it because it makes you feel complete.

What does giving back mean to you and how do you support young people?
Giving back to me means giving time. I try to make myself available to as many people as possible. You can give money and resources, and that’s all necessary. But for me, in the type of world that I’m in, I try to spend time talking with people. And it means the world, because I had key people talk to me, and I never forgot it. Because everybody has gifts, whether developed or not. Sometime it takes just one person to let you know that they see it in you. So I try to be that one person for a lot of people.

If you weren’t designing shoes, what do you think you would be doing?
My other dream job besides designing the Jordan while working at Nike was to be in the movie industry, in special effects. And if that didn’t work out, probably an art professor, or coach. I just really love any way to interact with the young generation. At some point in my career, I want to go back and teach.

Get to Know Jason
Favorite Artists: Czech illustrator Alphonse Mucha and American concept artist Syd Mead

Favorite Clothing Designers: Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs

Favorite Shoe Designers: Manolo Blahnik, Tinker Hatfield

On his nightstand: Warrior of the Light, by Paulo Coelho

Most influential book: Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

In his music library: Anything from Bjork, Joe Henderson, Miles Davis

Follow Jason on Twitter @JayMay_ChiCity and find out more about what he’s doing on his website www.megamayden.com

Follow NetWorks Sports Consulting on Twitter @NetWorks_Sports and sign up to receive the “Changing the Game” Newsletter today!

 

Let us know what you think of this NetWorks Sports Spotlight Interview with Jason Mayden in the Comment section below!

 


NetWorks Spotlight Interview with Charles Davis

NetWorks Spotlight Interview withCharles Davis, Sports Analyst, Fox Sports & NFL Network

By Tracey Savell Reavis

Charles Davis

The voice you hear when Charles Davis calls football games on TV sounds equally energetic when you speak with him one-on-one. The 13-year veteran announcer has covered college football, basketball and baseball, the NFL, NBA, PGA, Arena Football and has worked on both radio and TV. And he’s just been partnered with Gus Johnson, as the two become the lead team for Fox Sports College Football games this coming season.

Charles grew up in the small town of New Paltz, New York, but his roots are anchored in Tennessee. Partly because he was born there, and partly because it’s where both of his parents are from, he’d always wanted to return to college in the Volunteer State. Back when he was eight-years old he saw Condredge Holloway, the first African American quarterback to start at an SEC school, playing in a University of Tennessee game, and knew from that moment exactly where he wanted to play football. After four years as defensive back for the Vols, Charles left Knoxville armed with an undergraduate degree in Political Science and a Masters in History.

Since football season hasn’t started yet, you can’t tune in to hear the sportscaster’s voice. But you can read the story of how he achieved success, in his own words. It will have to do for now, while we all wait for the first Saturday in September.

In your career, you’ve had a number of different sports-related jobs. How did you end up in broadcasting?
I found out a friend told a TV exec that he thought I’d be good on TV. I never knew he’d had this conversation. Then two years later the TV exec called me, asked me to try out and I got my first assignment as an analyst with Fox Sports South.

Do you remember the first game you covered, and what the experience like?
Yes, it was August 1997, Memphis State at Mississippi State. I may have been awful, but I remember I had a lot of fun and that I thought I wanted to do more of it. Now I’m working on the craft.

What was the transition like for you going from playing college sports to not being able to play as a professional athlete?
My goal was always to be in the NFL. Fortunately to prepare for life after football, I did have a Plan B. I started grad school in my red-shirt year. Then I thought about politics, I thought about law school. But I knew I wanted to stay in sports. Sports has always had its tug on me.

What would you say to people who think it’s a given that a former athlete would be able to get a job in sports broadcasting?
Yeah, I say it takes 20 years to become an overnight success. It’s like that with actors. Someone will have a breakout movie and people will think they are new and say, ‘Where did they come from?’ When they’ve been there all the time, putting in
10, 15 years, getting better. And it happens not just in movies, but in all walks of life. If it were a given, I would have started right after school. I fought my you-know-what off to prove that I am capable. I’d say very few people will outwork me. And I’ve never taken it for granted that I’ve arrived.

Can you give us an idea how much preparation and work you put into a game week? Or is it just a 3-hour game broadcast and you’re done?
Wouldn’t that be nice? I don’t typically count the number of hours I prepare, but it depends on the game. I know the teams, but there’s extensive research. The number one thing is to know the players’ names and numbers. And I look at game tape to watch for a teams’ strength, for nuances, and to learn things about players. We’re looking to tell interesting stories. We’re ‘Taking off the helmet’ figuratively of the players, to tell you something different.

What kind of career advice would you offer to anyone wanting to get into the sports industry?
I’d say be prepared. Everyone always wants the answer that eliminates the hard work. But it’s the work that keeps you there. And probably not to take no for an answer. If one company doesn’t want you, try others. Go through the stages – anger, grief – then move on. Opportunity could be at the supermarket, or on the seat next to you on a plane. It could be anywhere. If something is your passion, figure out how to make it happen. There are other ways to get through, get over and get by it. Be a fighter.

Let’s talk about your new assignment and partner at FOX Sports. Are you friends with Gus Johnson, and are you looking forward to working with him?
No, we’ve never met. But we’ve already spoken on the phone a little before the announcement and chatted after as well. It is exciting and I am looking forward to it.

Do you think this is historic or worth mentioning the pairing of two African-American broadcasters calling a Division I College Football game?
I think it would be disingenuous not to notice. But it’s not the principle focus. We’ve both worked hard to get to where we are, and we’ve gotten there because we’ve merited it. The bottom line is it’s the work.

Do you think there will ever be a College Football playoff system with a championship game?
I don’t know. I don’t think it would necessarily be good or bad. I think the bowl experience is great for many kids who might not otherwise have the opportunity. Each one that I went to was distinctive. I don’t think you can put bowl games into a playoff system. I’d say if we ever go with a championship game, to know what you’re giving up – it could change everything.

Get to Know Charles

Sport he’d love to broadcast but hasn’t yet: Hockey

Favorite sport after football: Basketball

On his nightstand: The latest Harlan Coben thriller

All-time favorite film: Say Anything

Most influential book: The Autobiography of Malcolm X

In his music library: Old school, sounds of Motown

Tune in to FOX and the NFL Network as Charles offers his expert analysis on college football and the NFL.

Follow Charles on Twitter @CFD22 and find out more about him at www.charlesdavissports.com