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NFL jobs forum opens minds of Morgan State, Coppin State students to opportunities beyond playing field

Ian McBorrough began playing organized football at age 9, and his dream of playing football for a living crystallized after watching the Indianapolis Colts defeat the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI on Feb. 4, 2007. The Essex resident eventually became a standout two-way player at Eastern Tech.

Now a junior outside linebacker for Morgan State who led the Bears in sacks with six and was named a first-team Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) selection, McBorrough is expanding his quest from playing in the NFL to working for it.

McBorrough was one of five Morgan State students to attend the third annual NFL Careers in Football Forum as part of the festivities surrounding the Celebration Bowl played Saturday in Atlanta. About 90 students from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) took part in the event, including the Morgan State group and four students from Coppin State.

“Playing in the NFL is obviously the first goal, but I feel like I’m very versatile, and events like this open doors to the other side of the NFL besides just playing,” he said Saturday. “I’ve learned that the NFL is way more than just football. As much as there’s the football team, there’s a stadium team, a corporate team. There are so many different outlets in the NFL, and I felt really comfortable learning all of that this past weekend.”

The forum was a continuation of the league’s partnership with HBCUs, which send students to the event to learn how to prepare for job interviews and gain employment in the NFL. Seventeen team representatives also attended the forum, which has acquainted more than 180 students from 23 MEAC and Southwestern Athletic Conference schools with career opportunities in the league.

NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent, who conceived of the idea along with senior vice president of football strategy and business development Damani Leech, said the aim is to foster “real inclusion.”

“We talk about being the best in class, we talk about the league being a league of opportunities, and the forum allows us to inform, drive awareness to what’s available, center on a population that may not be aware of career opportunities in the sport outside of the playing field,” the former Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles cornerback said Friday. “So when we talk about Morgan and Spelman and Grambling and Prairie View [A&M], when we talk about the best in our community, the brightest minds among our young people, the forum gives us, the National Football League, an opportunity to share, ‘Here are other opportunities that exist in the field that you might want to be in — beyond the playing field.’”

Last weekend’s attendees interacted with a panel of football executives who discussed their paths to their current positions and introduced the students to other departments such as operations, marketing, strategy and media production. They also met with human resource representatives to refine their resumes and get tips on the interview process.

The students also gave presentations on case studies they were tasked with before the event. McBorrough’s group worked on a marketing and promotions strategy for the Carolina Panthers that was awarded first place by the panel of league executives.

“This is a great experience for students, especially student-athletes, to show them that there’s more to life than just playing,” said McBorrough, who is majoring in business administration. “A lot of student-athletes struggle with that transition of being a college athlete and having your schedule filled up all the time and getting free gear and stuff like that. And then they get to the point where they begin to understand that nobody’s going to do all that stuff for them anymore. So events like this really help with that transition. You have to start networking now and look at where you want to find a job in the little bit of free time that you have just to show that when the playing career is over, you won’t be stuck. You’ll always have a Plan B or something to jump right into.”

Devin Rivera Ozuna, a senior pitcher for the Coppin State baseball team who is majoring in business management with a focus in sports, took part in the event for the second consecutive year and said the experience continued to pique his interest in joining a club’s marketing team.

“I think the idea of selling the image and portraying something really amazing and telling that story is something that I’ve always been interested in because I do it myself by promoting myself to other people,” he said. “So I think I’m capable of doing that for another company.”

Vincent, who said his godparents are graduates of Prairie View A&M, said he hopes that the forum prepared participants for the job search process even if they go outside of the NFL.

“We’re giving a picture of the sports industry through the football eye, but these same opportunities exist in the NBA, MLS, Major League Baseball, USA Track and Field,” he said. “So we just want to give them exposure into the sports industry through a football lens, but we share with them that these career paths exist in each one of the institutions.”

McBorrough said he was intrigued by the Los Angeles Rams, who have to compete with 10 other sports franchises in the city for fans. McBorrough said he was especially interested in the club’s plans to build a smart highway between the planned Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park, which is scheduled to open in 2020, and Los Angeles International Airport, which is about three miles away.

“And it’s L.A. Who wouldn’t want to go to L.A.?” he said with a laugh.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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