I completed my hours back in October but I still continued to follow the FAU football team. The last home game was against The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders and I was not able to attend due to an illness. When an illness is present, that person is not allowed anywhere near the facility because it can place the coaches, staff and players at risk of becoming ill. It was not required of my hours to attend since I did complete my time but I kept a commitment to the team and staff to continue the season with them. Everyone was notified of me being ill and I stayed in constant communication. I even have continued to assist from home with simple assignments on spread sheet organizing some recruiting information or basic information that does not violate any NCAA rules or place anyone in jeopardy of any penalties. I enjoyed my time and learned a lot about college football in the office and on the field. I stated before but I will again that this experience confirmed my career path but guided me towards collegiate over professional football. I enjoyed speaking with recruits but also realized how much of a mentor I can be to our youth which one day will be our future leaders. I never had the mentorship guidance while making a college decision since I was injured but I have learned enough to help guide a younger student athlete looking to make their next step into college. The team finished with a record of 3-9 and finished with a victory over Old Dominion (33-31). It is always positive to finish with a victory but the team had a defining moment the week before (November 21st) by almost upsetting the number 8 ranked team in the country on their home turf, The Florida Gators. The Swamp is one of the top 25 toughest stadiums to play and the Owls gave the Gators all the could handle by having to beat the owls in overtime. I still stay in communication with Graham while they are recruiting because I am interested in knowing who they end up signing when it comes to National Signing Day. I am on the job search as well and hoping I can land a position. My top three programs are FAU, USF, and Miami. I am pretty open to any college to work with but these set three that I will try my hardest to attain a position with.
The next day was very tough because it is never a good time after a defeat but more so when the season is not going anywhere near planned. It places pressure on the coaches because this is their job and the school wants to win games. In the end, it is still a business and any company will want their business to be at its best. I learned how to communicate and be comfortable in the office while being productive and helping anyone who needs assisance. Silence at times can be the best method but productive silence can bring comfort to the office. There were many meetings and film time but there is also preparation for the following week. Once a game is complete, preparation for the next games always begin immediately. Film brought me more on the defense this week in learning the different secondary coverages in depth but also recognizing more how teams try to disguise them. Many teams try to shift out of zone coverages by sending a blitz or playing to a certain weakness of the opponents or the weak side of the field. Typically the Safety and the middle linebacker can give clues to either running a cover 0,1,2,3,4 or 6. I learned how to view feet and hips more because in college, the players are not as gifted in hiding what direction they will be going in as they are in the professional level. Many coordinators use a variety of disguises to confuse the offense. The first process is evaluating the previous game of the opponents, which was a defeat against Florida International. UTEP enters the game next week with a record of 2-4 and currently in 5th place in the West Division of Conference USA. The team will depart on Friday and the game is on Saturday at 7pm.
Game day has arrived and we first set up the recruiting room and the staff begins to talk general football until we have to begin checking in high school coaches and recruits. I had very intriguing conversations with some recruits as they entered but the most memorable, were with the coaches. Many of the coaches were very inspiring and supportive. I did meet a coach who is from my area and he began to talk to me about some of the student athletes he has which really shows how many coaches do really care to help their athletes. I stayed till half-time assisting with compliance on checking in our guests and I had a great conversation about how he attained the position in compliance and if he enjoyed his position. I like to communicate with other people who are in similar fields to learn more because there are endless opportunities for someone to attain a position in a University. Next, I assisted in setting up our recruiting room for the student athletes on the FAU roster who do not dress with half time snacks and drinks. We also set up the players lockers with hydration supplements for after the game is over. It is very important to hydrate after any activity especially in Florida. I got to finish watching the game in the second half and the game did not go well for the Owls. Marshall was playing well and doing all the things needed to leave Florida victorious. The final score was 33-17 in favor of Marshall. This brought FAU’s record to 1-5 and in 6th place in the East Division of Conference USA. There was a feeling of disappointment from the coaches and the players but there was still plenty of games left to play. The most important mental aspect I have learned by listening to the coaches on the sideline and after the games is to erase what happened and focus on the next play or game. It sounds easy but it does require a strong psychological mind to easily move on.
The Marshall Thundering Herd comes to town and it is also just past mid-season for high schools. This time frame is perfect to check mid-season statistics and film for commits and for student athletes who are on the border of being offered. Hudl is one of the most important tools in being able to follow high school prospects and it is mind boggling how some prospects do not update their profiles. This point in the season is also great to check social media and checking for potential character flaws with frustration from prospects. I also got to experience more with compliance as I was there for one of the meetings to understand even more of what is allowed on game days in the recruiting room and what is not to make sure there is no confusion or penalties. I also got to learn more about the concussion protocol and how serious the school and NCAA are about the protocol. I have read about it before but the specific details were very enlightening, especially with the importance all levels are placing on the subject. After the meetings, I began to prepare lanyards and organize the all the check-in sheets. I got to enjoy dinner with the team this game which feels like I am making more progression but I decided not to stay with the team. I am learning quite a bit from every aspect of the game on the field and in preparation and this is the last game I will be preparing for. The team has another home game left against FIU but it did fall on Halloween and I have a promise to keep to my children. I have been working hard and this year in my eyes, this will be the final year I will have the opportunity to be with my children on Halloween because I plan to have a full time job next season where my dedication to the program is above everything.
The day after brings more meetings and film breakdown of not only the Rice game but Marshall. The film work is highly important because it helps recognize where the weaknesses are on the team and also where the let downs in the second half and fourth quarter are coming from. I begin to wonder if it is play calling or players just running out of energy at the end of the game. Fatigue is a common problem with most athletes in Florida but it takes proper conditioning and discipline for athletes to weather the humidity and heat. That also plays into an advantage when schools or teams from other states, especially northern states visit Florida. The biggest challenge is keeping everyone focused and while I was listening to the staff communicates with the players; I learned how important the tone was and the focus on correcting mistakes. Some coach’s admitted to their mistakes and others pointed out where the players were making the mistakes. They also noted how some practice changes needed to occur and energy level needed to be increased. I always learned you play a game like you practice. Defeat is never easy to deal with but in football there is a bond of trust and brotherhood that can help any team grow from a defeat. If the bond or brotherhood is not present, it can damage the locker room. The coaches are working together and placing their strategy in place for the following week against Marshall. I got to learn more about the offensive line this week in film. I learned about their base, feet, elbows and hands, shoulder placement, head and neck extension and playing physical but smart is vital. Depending on the play, there are different gap assignments and double teaming but workings up the field to the second and third level during running block schemes. Maintaining positional leverage is important for an offensive lineman. Another long day in the books and I feel like I am gaining some trust around the office. I did come with experience at the high school level and professional arena level but college is different. These long days reassure me how much I want to be involved in college football and one day win a National Championship.
Florida Atlantic is favored over Rice and playing at home also gives FAU an edge. Both teams share the same mascot, Owl, so it draws the attention as the Owls game. The check in process for the recruits and high school coaches runs smoothly and I do get to talk to some recruits as they enter. A list is always given of the highest prospects but I recall many of the names just by doing prep work and watching game film to evaluate high school players. This game is not drawing as much of a crowd but that happens from time to time. That does not take any focus away from the players or the staff in making sure the game is played to the best of their abilities. I was able to sit in the pre-game speech this week and learned some new strategies on how to motivate players and keep them focused on this game only and not the past of future games. There weren’t any new recruits that attended this game but I did start to recognize more of them as they approached me for check in. I did have the opportunity to meet a scout for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at this game because he was not sure where to go for check in. I assisted him but he also learned more about his schedule and the demand the team has of him. It was reassuring to me that I would prefer college because I do enjoy being able to see my children more but I also want to be able to impact the lives of our younger generation. The game is going very well and Florida Atlantic goes into half time tied 14-14 but gains a large lead with 13minutes left in the 4th quarter, 26-14. There is a long rain delay which stops the game for almost two hours and the team finally returns to complete the game. During the rain delay, I just sat in the recruiting room helping the players who did not dress to play with snacks and just sat around talking. The coaches were in the locker room coaching and reviewing items with the team but we were not allowed to join them. The final quarter did not go well and Rice pulled a victory of 27-26 by scoring the go ahead touchdown with just over two minutes left in the game. It is a tough loss for many reasons but the next week brings another conference game against Marshall. The team still has 6 conference games to play and has a great chance to play for a conference title.
A victory over Charlotte and a bye week brings us to the next game against Rice. The day before the game have similar preparations and organizing all the events for game day to ensure everything pans out smoothly. The greatest challenge is yet to come and that happens on game day. The team was very focused and rested following the bye week and it also gave the team an extra week to prepare. The game against Rice is important because it is a conference game. The best way to salvage a season is to win the conference because it places you into a Bowl game. Though a National Championship is always the goal, Bowl games are exciting for the fans and a great experience for the staff and athletes. Bowl games also draw extra revenue to the program which can help build practice facilities or upgrade any equipment or any need for the school or program. I helped in all the usual preparations but I did have some more hands on help which included me running some errands for the coaches and operations manager. I am always willing to help but I did learn more about the team’s credit card. I never knew how the expenses worked because that was not in my department but I learned some on how the card is managed and how the school is able to manage the use of the card. All the expenses have to be recorded and all receipts are required. The team continued their usual days in the hotel the night before but I did learn the coaches are not allowed to use the team card for personal expenses and are required to place a personal credit card for their own expenses in the rooms. This leaves no room for error or misuse which I find very intelligent.
The next day was similar to the previous week with meetings and film work but the next game was the first conference game against Charlotte. I now was learning how to deal with a loss even though there is really no true way because not one person ever enters an even or challenge with the intention to lose. I did learn how to manage and keep control of the staff and team. Coach Partridge showed his integrity and control by keeping everyone focused on conference play starting. Winning the conference is a major goal because it can lead to a successful season even after a slow start. I learned more about the running backs in film in regards to their field vision, leverage, pad levels, blocking schemes and being able to read some tendencies due to stances. I enjoy this aspect because I continue to learn and I also get to express my interest but display my knowledge of the game I love. Another long day is over but I still feel energized and now my usual 4 hour drive home.
Game day arrives and I had an easier time arriving to the stadium but I also planned to get there earlier to miss any possible traffic. The staff and I prepared the recruiting room and set up all the manikins with the FAU jerseys as well as placed the helmets on the table for recruits to see. I really enjoyed one helmet that had reflective red chrome paint with the owl logo decorated as the American Flag. All the recruits and their guest also receive a complimentary meal from the University for attending the game as well as entry to the game. I was in the same station checking in recruits and having conversations with recruits and their parents as they entered the stadium. I enjoyed seeing the faces on some of the recruits because it shows how valuable their decision on where to attend college would be and it brings back memories to when I was in their shoes. I enjoyed the process during high school but tearing my ACL placed a large problem on my recruiting. I did talk to a recruit who tore their ACL and we connected and I also connected with his parents. His parents did show concern on their son not being recruited anymore by certain schools but I did give them confidence and spoke to them about alternatives that I have learned by learning the NCAA rule book. One thing I learned was the power of recruiting the mom because they are very influential over the final decision on where their child goes to play football. I was still in the check in area when the game started and I got to listen to the game. The owls came out to a fast start by leading 9-0 while driving just before half to try and add to their lead. A costly turnover in the final drive changed the landscape of the game since Buffalo scored off the turnover and the score at half was 9-7 with FAU leading. I was hoping they would adjust and come out the second half on fire but similar mistakes and fatigue began to set into the Owls. Turnovers in the second half would again be the issue for FAU and Buffalo capitalized on every opportunity. The final score was 33-15 with Buffalo being victorious which would drop the owls to 0-3 in the season. It was very quiet in the locker room after the game and I knew the next day would be the same. When you are selected to win and lose, at home, it does not leave a good taste in your mouth. I helped again with distribution of meals and then departed after but mentally, I was replaying the game and the conversation with the recruit who injured their knee.
The team had a few extra days to prepare for Buffalo since the previous game against Miami was on a Friday night. The team looked prepared and ready to get their first victory of the season. The office work preparations for the game actually busier because more recruits were planning on attending this game. Many wondered why since Miami was the first game but it was also on a Friday night and high schools play their games on Friday nights. I was in charge of making sure the list for coaches, recruits and guests were all up to date and each recruit had their lanyard printed and laminated. The athletes were in and out of the office the day before the game because of last minute meetings but they had to report to the facility by 5pm to prepare to head to the hotel. The whole team and coaches stay in a hotel the day before a game for last minute meetings, meals as a team and to make sure everyone is in bed by curfew. The most important aspect for athletes the night before an event, is to get a good night rest and a good meal. Florida Atlantic does a good job of preparing their student athletes for a game and our football operations does a stellar job making sure it is executed to perfection. I did learn more about the new recruits that were expected to come and I began to do my own research on them to know more about them for conversations. Compliance also was in our office and I got to listen in on the conversation which included some ways we can steer away from any violations as well as what to be careful with mentioning in conversations with recruits. I did a good job staying away from those items but it is imperative to be concise and clear.
The Owls are now 0-2 and next face Buffalo at home which should land the team’s first victory if they play as hard and well as they did against Miami in the first half. The day after the game was full of meetings and reporting to our supervisors on how the recruiting process went as well as game day assignments. I learned some questions to ask and ways we can gauge interest based on certain answers. We all are allowed to place any suggestions on how we can improve as a unit outside of the football team. Upon the completion of the meeting, I took the liberty to break down the Miami game and also help prepare the team and coaches for the game against Buffalo. Film breakdown can take a long time but it also depends what portions are being broken down. I broke down the whole game which can take quite some time but other coaches just break down their side of the ball (offense/defense/special teams). I did learn some new things to look for such as tendencies of coverages and reading the safety more because they tend to give away the defense if it is not already known. I learned more about the 4-3 defense in combination with secondary coverage. I knew most of it but did learn the “Over and Under” aspects as well as a better understanding of gap alignments. The 4-3 front is a “one-gap” scheme and sometimes a “two-gap” technique. Each defender in the front is responsible for a gap versus the run game. These gaps are identified by letters (A,B,C, etc.). When the offense breaks the huddle and lines up, the defensive will then “set” the front with a “closed” call to the tight end side. This is just a small set of information but there is a lot more to go in depth. Once I finished the film, I helped sort the papers that are sent to compliance and ticketing along with sorting out which recruits attended the game. We created a list for future use because those are subjects that can be used in writing letters to commits or recruits. We did not have a large showing which was not a surprise since the game was on a Friday night.
Game day arrived and I was lost for words at the atmosphere. It took me longer than expected to arrive at the stadium due to traffic. I saw seas of green and orange which touched my inner love for Miami but I also saw lots of red and blue which gave me a sense a pride for the school I working with. As I approached the stadium, I could hear chants inside and outside for both schools. It was a great experience for me because it was my first college game as an employee and not a fan. It was an extra blessing to be wearing red and blue because it was September 11th. I was working the recruiting room which was a great experience because of all the different backgrounds the recruits come from. I got my first hand experience of recruiting South Florida. I learned how to listen more than talk to recruits because they will tell you what they are looking for without even asking. Typical conversation is always a plus and football is easy for me to talk about which is an easy ice breaker. I also check-in the recruits so I did get to meet some parents, high school coaches and the recruits “entourage”. I did not get to see the first 8 minutes of the game due to helping at the check-in desk but once I entered the stadium, I had a realization in knowing I know my career path. This moment was the first time I realized I had a passion for college football which was stronger than my passion for the NFL. I did not get to speak to Graham much since he is also helping on the field but I did get to learn more about his on field work which I cannot discuss since it is confidential. I can state that analytics is becoming a large part of football. Florida Atlantic is a heavy underdog in this contest but you could not tell in the first half. The Owls were battling with all they had and entered half time only being down by 3 points (20-17). I was in a state of shock but also excitement because if FAU pulled out this victory, I would witness history being made for the program. The second half did not favor FAU as turnovers and exhaustion began to set it. It seemed as the team lost focus and was unable to regain the composure they possessed in the first half. The final score was 44-20 and FAU only score 3 points in the second half but had too many turnovers to win a highly contested game. After the game was over, everyone was told to be silent because the coaches do not want to hear any conversations or laughs because they just left their heart on the field. I helped the players after by handing out their post game meals and drinks. The night ended later than anticipated because of a rain delay but I was proud to be an Owl.
After a disappointing loss in week 1 at Tulsa (44-47 in overtime), the team began to focus on one of the programs biggest games which also plays a role into the recruiting battle with the University of Miami. I found myself in a challenging position due to the passion I have for the University of Miami but I have learned to separate business from pleasure. I grew up idolizing the program and now it was my turn to be on the opposite side cheering on the Owls. Game week was full of a variety of game day preparations because it would be a sell-out crowd as well as the first game recruits could attend. I found myself taking extra time to reflect on all the preparations for not only the coaches but also the staff in the office working extra hard to have everything prepared for the season home opener. There was plenty of “busy work” such as preparing lanyards for the staff, scouts, recruits, and game day staff. Our office is also responsible for communicating with compliance to make sure all of the student athletes are cleared and to make sure there are no NCAA violations when recruits are at the game. I also took the time to evaluate our opponent’s film from their first game against Bethune Cookman and I also reviewed some games from last year. These notes were then given to one of our graduate assistant coaches to use at their disposal. I learned more how to use the XOS Digital platform and how much easier it makes to watch game film. I enjoyed being able to make notes on the screen as I watched and using the remote to rewind or place plays in slow motion. I spoke to some of the coaches briefly to learn how they prepare for a big match up and many gave different answers but the similarities were focus and stick to the plans. This day left me with also a variety of office work such as laminating, sorting credentials, finalizing guest lists. I also made sure everyone received their copy of the itinerary. I did some work today with the Football Operations Director, Heather Henderson, and she broke down how she prepared the orders for hotels, post meal, pre game meals and all of the game day locker room needs. Tomorrow is the big game and the hours are long but move quickly.
Yesterday was just the beginning of learning about the NCAA guidelines and today I am looking at a more in depth view. I have realized how easy it can be for teams to stumble on regulations because there are so many of them but every team wants to try to keep an edge over the other when recruiting student athletes. Know that I am more involved, I also have to be careful on some of my interactions and I am no longer allowed to attend any high school games at all. I found it interesting because I used to watch local players and went as a fan of the game but now it is conflict of interest. I also have many friends who are coaches around the state and my communication with them has to be carefully monitored and kept strictly on a friendship basis and not involving any of their student athletes. It is also very comforting going through this process with an athlete I recruited while I was a General Manager for an Arena/Indoor Organization. Chris Rutledge was named the offensive line graduate assistant which is a drastic step in his career because he just started coaching 6 months ago. Chris played at the University of Miami and had opportunities in the NFL and CFL. He has a great football mind and I know he will do a great job and earn the respect from all his colleagues. The days have been very long this week but I enjoy them because I do not feel like I am working when I am involved in football. I truly love this game and looking forward to my next days on campus. The first game is away at Tulsa and this is the time to begin to prepare for the season and opening game. I got to write some more letters to recruits today which included some inspirational quotes as well as my touch of motivation to do well on the field but also in the classroom. I have seen some paperwork enter our office from recruits that do not meet the grade point average or are borderline which can stir FAU from spending time trying to recruit them.
Practice two begins and my focus today was viewing an athlete who is being highly recognized by the NFL and there are scouts already scheduled for visits. I also will be assisting the NFL scouts with any needs while they are in the building which is something I am looking forward to. I am also working on projects to keep in contact with recruits by writing letters, assisting with social media and also learning what the NCAA guidelines are for what is allowed because there are very particular rules that apply and if broken, it can hurt the program. I did learn today how Twitter is one of the leading social media methods used with student athletes today. We were also working on posts and game planning for what prospect or commit to contact and when. The coaching staff is getting busier now that practice has started so there are more office needs that I have also been working on. I got a few minutes to talk with the Head Coach (Charlie Partridge) and it was very enlightening. I did learn by speaking with him to never hold back on your career and never give up and the small things always seem to be overlooked but they are not. We also talked about how he game plans practice during the off-season versus in season. I enjoy speaking to coaches because there is truly no book or webpage that will teach you how to coach. Learning on the experience is very common and being mentored by other coaches happens quiet frequently. I also expressed my interest in the program and expressed my thanks for the opportunity.
Today marks the first day of training camp and it denotes the beginning of football season. I feel very blessed to have this opportunity to be working with such a great staff but also with a program that is working its way up the charts to be one of the elite football programs in the country, The first portion of the day started with watching practice and analyzing the type of talent the team contained as well as what talent has the ability to continue their careers beyond college. Upon finishing practice, the next action for the day was the start of putting together information for recruits for high school student athletes that graduate in 2017 and 2018. There was also a recruit that decided to visit the school unofficially with his mom to see if there would be a potential fit. The family mentioned they did enjoy the trip and the school visit. There were also a variety of meetings throughout the day with the coaches and others with the whole team. I also was in charge of watching some game film on prospects and writing a reports on them. The day started early and finished late but I am looking forward to the next day to work with the team.
Today was strictly busy work. All the camps are now completed and preparations for the season are starting and the next two recruiting classes are the focal point. Many players are already verbally committing for 2016 and coach Partridge and his staff are doing a great job building this program to become one of the top in Conference USA and in the nation. I would not be surprised if the program will in conversations with some of the other in Florida. The talent level in Florida is high and many colleges recruit here and for coach Partridge to have a solid foundation in South Florida is beyond helpful for the program. Most of the assignments today involved me organizing some papers and entering data into their program called JumpForward. This program is very interesting and it helps to keep the program organized and updated with high school student athletes around the country. It can organize anything from height, scouting reports, twitter or Instagram accounts, address and much more. The hard part sometimes with athletes is when they transfer schools because if they do not announce it or someone directly in the program knows of the transfer, some athletes can get lost in the “system”. Our office is also organizing everything that needs to be done along with the top recruits for 2017 and 2018 classes.
The final day of camps for high school athletes to come learn and also showcase their talents was today. I will be helping in a capacity today that is more of what I want my career to fall in which is player personnel and to view athletes. The best part is my input can make a difference and I have always enjoyed viewing athletes in person and being able to ask questions and also learn from the coaches as they put them through a variety of drills. There were more players from all over and today I met a family from San Antonio and from Nevada that planned their vacation around this event to help their son get exposure. I started out helping with shirts again and then I received my player assignment for the day from Graham who runs player personnel for the program. I was assigned to a few athletes that were all tight end. The hardest part I encountered was being able to judge if the athlete is capable of playing at this level which is a first for me because I have been used to judging the capabilities of an athlete who can play at the NFL or CFL level. I watched them very closely and also took into consideration the weather because it was another hot day but that also brings out the fight in athletes as well as a heart test. If a player has heart is the hardest characteristic to judge and critique. The main athlete I had to watch showed good characteristics and athletic ability but he did need to work on his ability to read a coverage, use his size to his advantage and how to create separation from his defenders. Upon the camp completing, I was able to talk with Graham about what I saw and I also began to get more information on my following assignments.
Today was a great start to continue my education on the collegiate level. FAU held their camp for players around the country to participate in. I assisted in the beginning with providing the participants with their shirts but the most interesting portion was listening to the coaches engage in conversation with these student athletes. Some were local others were from all parts of Florida and a few were down from Indianapolis. Upon completing my first assignment, I then took the field with the coaching staff and listened to the head coach (Mr. Partridge) make his speech to the athletes and motivate them for the day. I first worked with the 40 yard dash, then I went to work with the Offensive Line. I did have the choice to work with any position and I selected the offensive line for two reasons which was to work with a friend who is in the process of becoming a graduate assistant and to learn more about the position and what to teach. I believe it is one of the hardest position on the field and the most important for an offense to succeed. I finished off the day by playing quarterback while the offensive and defensive line were going one on one and I was the target. The offense did a better job than what I anticipate but there were not any athletes that jumped out to me that I believe were ready to compete at the next level. It was a very hot South Florida day and once the camp was completed, I had a meeting with the director of player personnel to game plan for the next day. Tomorrow is the final camp the program is holding and they anticipate around 120 to 130 athletes. Today they hosted 179 athletes.