Most people, myself included, tend to roll their eyes when they hear the recruiting advice “follow your passion.” Their eyes roll even further when you say you want to work in sports. However, working in sports is truly a passion of mine and one that Fuqua has helped me to pursue.

This summer I am interning with the Club Business Development (CBD) group at the NFL. Some of my best memories growing up involve going to NFL games with my dad to cheer on my favorite team, the Carolina Panthers. I love the excitement and the palpable energy that persists throughout the stadium on gameday starting from the tailgate lot to the very final whistle. Now, in my role this summer, I work for the group tasked with ensuring that all 32 NFL clubs continue to provide the best possible fan experience in the world.

Billed as an “internal consultancy” for the clubs, the CBD team runs an important initiative called the Fan Experience program. One of my projects this summer involves enhancing the structure of the program by analyzing feedback from quantitative and qualitative survey results provided by the fans and by the clubs. Each season, every NFL game is attended by a league employee who provides assessments to each club on all aspects of their experience, including gameday entertainment, concessions, security, and stadium amenities. I am working on several data-driven strategies for clubs to better utilize in-stadium technology and to promote best-in-class practices. By providing a superior experience, the clubs help to further a key tenant of the NFL strategy, which is the development of the next generation of fans.

Furthermore, I have had opportunities to assist with additional projects that fall under the scope of the CBD team. The CBD team is involved with all league level events including the Draft, Pro Bowl, and Super Bowl. For presentations around these initiatives I’ve leaned on the skills taught in “Management Communications,” most notably how to best structure my arguments. Additionally, a finance-heavy spring course load at Fuqua helped to prepare me for the budget analysis and modeling required to support some of the major NFL initiatives.

Working on major NFL initiatives has been highly rewarding and the HR team has supplemented the experience with a top-tier educational program. The internship class regularly attends “lunch and learns” with different departments at the NFL. During one of these sessions we met with the Officiating team in their massive control room where all games are monitored on Sundays. The officiating team walked us through several examples of the difficult decisions they must make when a coach challenges a call on the field. Our internship class also had the opportunity to visit the LinkedIn New York office to learn about building our personal brand and maximizing our profiles for networking opportunities.

Another highlight of my summer was participating in an office-wide flag football tournament, sponsored by the Youth Football department. We spent the day at a local park going through different drills and warm-ups before playing in a five-on-five tournament. Each team of employees was coached by an EVP and a former NFL player. I was lucky enough to be coached by my coworker, who also sits next to me at work, Chris Ogbonnaya. Chris played running back in the NFL for six seasons including a stint with the Carolina Panthers (Chris is my new favorite Panther player of all time). Chris got his MBA from his alma mater, the University of Texas, and we’ve enjoyed comparing our graduate school experiences.

This summer my internship experience has already exceeded my high expectations, and I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity. I’m also indebted to Fuqua for putting me in the position to intern at the NFL. The Fuqua Sports Business Cohort (FSBC) helped me narrow my focus to the business and the operational side of sports while also educating me on specific trends that are impacting the sport. During my interviews with the NFL I drew on my experience with the FSBC to help me clearly articulate my desire to work in sports and to use examples from our classroom discussions on industry trends. Our FSBC session on digital media was especially helpful as we learned about the shift in viewership from traditional broadcasts to over-the-top platforms and the potential impact on media revenues and stadium attendance.

This fall I look forward to watching games with a better perspective on the behind-the-scenes work that goes into providing the best fan experience in the world. I also now know who I need to butter up for Super Bowl tickets when the Panthers inevitability go at the end of the season.