Friday, August 30, 2013

Leaving Your Mark: NFL Roster Cuts and Your Sports Career

The final NFL roster cuts are right around the corner as teams must get down to their 53 man rosters by Saturday, August 31 at 9pm EST.  Players learn of their fate throughout the day today and tomorrow after all of the off-season work that they put into it including OTAs, camps, and pre-season games.  Some will get the axe (pun intended) and continue to pursue their dream while others will give up and move on with their lives.  As it pertains to you, the reader, and your career in the sports industry, let’s look at this from the perspective of those players who want to keep the dream alive.

Let’s assume you are seeking out that ideal internship, Co-op, or entry-level job in the sport management field.  You’ve put together a convincing cover letter, a flawless résumé, your interview was smooth, and your references gave you glowing marks…but you get the dreaded email, letter, or phone call.  “Thank you for your application and your interest in this position but we have decided to move in a different direction at this time.”  Or if I can be so blunt, you didn’t get the job and they gave it to someone else.  Forget about it, there is nothing else to do…move on, right?  Absolutely not!

To keep the “dream” alive, consider doing the following:

Ask for feedback; what could you have done better or what were you lacking as compared to the person that got the job?  If an NFL player is cut and is told that they didn’t know the playbook well enough, they need to bulk up and gain some mass, or need to improve their agility, they will work on it and try out again the following year.

Stay on the employer’s radar screen and keep in touch with the people you interviewed with.  Network and build relationships.  See if you can secure a part-time job, volunteer role, or shadowing experience with the organization.  If an NFL player is cut and doesn’t get picked up by another team, the next best thing that can happen is to get a spot on the practice squad.  Someone gets hurt or they impress, they’re next in line.  Also, with the notion of practice squad aside, teams will often offer to endorse the skills of a recently cut player to another team if they think highly enough of that player.

Add other skills and become more versatile.  NFL players who are not stars must be able to play multiple positions and be willing to contribute on special teams.  Players like that are hard to cut!  You’ll see them making the 53 more times than not.

Remember- one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all-time Johnny Unitas was cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers after being drafted by them in the 9th round.  (In hindsight, both of those things sound ridiculous.)  He went on to have a Hall of Fame career with several league MVPs, nearly a dozen Pro Bowl appearances, and several championships. 

Good thing he didn’t give up to go bag groceries.


Mark Gress is the Associate Director of Employer Relations for Arcadia University with a Masters Degree from Drexel University.  Mark formerly worked as Co-Op Coordinator and Manager of Employer Relations for the Steinbright Career Development Center at Drexel University.  He also has experience with Turnkey Sports and Entertainment, Philadelphia Eagles, and Drexel Athletics.

Connect with Mark Gress on LinkedIn. 

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