Feb. 21, 2014
STORRS, Conn. - All the UConn football players were in the team meeting room of the Burton Family Football Complex on the night of Tuesday, February 11. There was passion, excitement and a look to the future - and not one mention of first downs, scoring points or sacks.
That will be for a later day.
Instead, the team heard from former Husky players, NFL veterans and representatives from several student service departments around the UConn campus. It was the first phase of a career preparatory series that the UConn football team will have under new head coach Bob Diaco.
It is the beginning of helping Husky players prepare for their future once they graduate from UConn and their football playing days are behind them. The team also held a career fair last Tuesday to continue the program.
The first evening included a question and answer session with five former UConn student-athletes from various eras and Dave Szott, who played in the NFL for 14 years after graduating from Penn State and is now the Director of Player Development for the New York Jets. The former UConn players were - 2003 team captain Uyi Osunde, now an assistant vice principal at Manchester (Conn.) Middle School; Brian Usher, who played in the 1970s, coached in the 1980s and later worked in the admissions office at UConn; Matt Nuzie, a former Husky kicker from the early 2000s who is now currently one of the top real estate executives under age 30 in Fairfield County and also runs his own kicking academy; Ryan Griffin, a 2012 UConn graduate who just finished up his rookie season as a tight end for the Houston Texans; and Kashif Moore, a 2010 UConn graduate who is a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The panel guests relayed very positive advice to the team and spoke about networking, the value of a UConn degree and utilizing the skills and traits of a student-athlete to pursue professional endeavors. Their messages were personal, applicable and impactful for the young men on the current team.
Whether their next step is to see their name on an NFL roster or to land a full-time position with a Fortune 500 company, every UConn player in the room walked out with tangible knowledge and insights from successful men who were once in their shoes.
The evening began with the team hearing words of encourage from various people representing student services areas, who graciously gave of their time on a Tuesday night. The bottom line message to the football student-athletes was that they are here to help them and WANT to help them.
Scott Brown, UConn's NCAA Faculty Representative and a professor in the highly-regarded Neag School of Education, led off and explained his role to the players. Brown said he is here to make sure players in all sports are able to succeed academically by helping to facilitate things like class availability and tutoring services.
Stephanie Bohannon, the Community Outreach Coordinator for the Division of Athletics explained to the football team the various opportunities they have to give back to the local area. Bohannon, a former student-athlete here at UConn herself, told of various programs in the athletic department that provide chances to visit local elementary and middle schools to encourage those students to be high-achievers both academically and athletically.
Nancy Bilmes, the Director of UConn's Center For Career Development, explained the role of her office and how UConn football student-athletes should engage in planning their future as soon as they arrive on campus. At the Center For Career Development, the football players can get guidance and support in preparing resumes and cover letters, developing and practicing job interview skills and finding employment opportunities.
The UConn Alumni Association was represented by interim director Scott Brohinsky and Josh Proulx - the director of Husky Alumni Network. There are more than 230,000 UConn alumni around the United States and the world, and Proulx explained that the Alumni Association coordinates programs to help current students and recent graduates secure intern and employment opportunities. This is accomplished due to the incredible bond of UConn alumni who want to help and reach out to fellow members of the Husky family.