College seniors Jada Strickland and Marqeisha Nelson will be the first students from Johnson C. Smith University to participate in an NFL mentoring and professional development program starting this month.
The Golden Bulls were two of 32 HBCU students selected for the NFL Events and Club Business Development Experienceship Program. More than 180 students applied for the competitive opportunity that provides hands-on experience in sports management, business and event production. Through the program’s two-prong approach to mentorship and professional development, students will gain exposure within departments that touch all facets of the NFL, from the league office to all 32 clubs.
Strickland, a business administration major and member of JCSU’s tennis team, said it felt pretty good to be selected, even though she doesn’t know what to expect in the coming months.
“I’m just grateful I got the opportunity to be a part of such a big organization, even if it is something minor,” she told QCity Metro during a phone interview Friday.
She initially hesitated to apply for the “experienceship,” but decided to go for it after the application kept popping up in her school email. Now, she can’t wait to connect with her mentor and learn the ins and outs of the NFL. She dreams of continuing with the league after graduation.
Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams says she’s excited for all of the deserving students. In total, six students from CIAA schools were selected to participate in the program, which runs through the end of the NFL league year.
“This is a great opportunity to assist moving our students into the pipeline for leadership and gain invaluable access to the business side of sports while working with an industry leader,” McWilliams said in a statement.
Marqeisha Nelson, a sports management major at JCSU, wants her and Strickland to become the face of Division II HBCU schools.
“A lot of programs are doing things for HBCU students, but they don’t have a lot of DII representation,” she said.
Nelson mentioned how JCSU students feel overlooked for programs like these, even though the campus is located near Bank of America Stadium where the Carolina Panthers play.
Like Strickland, Nelson is also looking forward to the mentorship aspect of the program and making professional connections.
Both admit that football isn’t their top sport but want to help get more JCSU students accepted into the program in the future. Strickland hopes she does well enough in the experienceship that the NFL will look to recruit different students from her HBCU.
“I’m excited to see what the future holds with this,” she said.
The experienceship program is part of the NFL’s “Strength of HBCUs, Impacting Pro Football Since 1948” initiative, a partnership with the CIAA, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC). The initiative works to celebrate the history of players from HBCUs, increase opportunities for students and athletic administrators from these institutions, and equip HBCU students with the skills needed to work in the league.