For the past five months, I have had the privilege to work with ESPN Events as an Event Assistant (Intern) for the 2017 fall season. Through this internship, I had to opportunity to work on a number of basketball and football events with my primary focus being the MEAC/ SWAC Challenge and the Celebration Bowl. The road to this internship wasn’t easy.  Prior to being offered an intern position with ESPN I worked as a Recreation Specialist with Charlotte Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation. While with Mecklenburg County I experienced success in event planning and programming, however knowing that I had no intention on working in recreation long-term, I weighed my options and took a chance by leaving my full-time job to pursue my passion. I received this internship with much help from my Winning Edge network after expressing a want for a change. Once the position came available, I was notified by one of our mentors (Corinne Milien) about the opportunity to which she encouraged me to apply. After sending in my résumé for review I was offered an interview which eventually led to me being offered the internship.

As an event assistant, my primary role was to assist with a number of events by providing operational support, creating on-site materials, budget management, assisting in the development of marketing plans, and travel coordination. My first event, the MEAC/SWAC Challenge approached quickly as it was a kickoff game for the college football season. Taking place on the Campus of Southern University (SUBR) located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Having never been to Louisiana prior to the event I was extremely excited to be a part of the MEAC/SWAC Challenge tradition. Coming into this event just a month before it took place, I was put in charge of coordinating the Commissioner’s Dinner which was held at a local restaurant. In addition to the Commissioner’s Dinner, there were a number of other ancillary events that I assisted with to include the welcome reception and high school seminar. Most importantly, however, I got to experience a live TV game and how television affects the game.

After I returned from the MEAC/SWAC Challenge, I began worked with other members of the ESPN Events team to close the event by tying up financial loose ends and gathering all shipped materials.  I also began working on other events. We also began coordinating with the Atlanta office to begin planning the Celebration Bowl. During the time leading up to the Celebration Bowl, I participated in all meetings and calls for the bowl, attended site visits and continued to assist with other ESPN Events including but not limited to the College Football Awards, Champions Classic, the Phil Knight Invitational (PK80) and the Jimmy V Classic.

From this experience, I truly learned more than I could ever put into words. Gaining new skills like Photoshop and WordPress knowledge and what it takes to bring together these big events from an operational, financial, logistical, and planning standpoint, have opened my eyes to what I would like to do in the sports business. Additionally, this internship has taught me a lot about myself, from how I react to pressure and habits I may need to work on growth.  This internship has reiterated the importance of building and maintaining my network. For me the first step to building these relationships was simply being open to the help. Often not wanting to be bothersome, I found it hard to reach out for help from my mentors and others, however, I now see this as a necessity. To maintain these relationships I use email as my primary source of communication. I have continued to connect with others using LinkedIn and connections made through my recent entry into graduate school.

The Winning Edge has had a significant impact on me professionally. The connections that I have made through the academy have allowed me to explore my options in sports management. The Winning Edge is truthfully what led me to this internship with ESPN. Additionally, my mentor has had a significant impact on me attending graduate school.  While I knew it was what needed to be done my mentor played a substantial role in my application process since the process differed from others.

Through the Winning Edge, I have grown and had experiences that I learn from both personally and professionally.  


STUDENT VIEW: Mesha’s NFL Combine Experience

Written by Mesha O'Neal

When faced with the decision to select an enrichment trip, I had no idea of where I wanted to go, learn, or experience. Two of my fellow peers from the Winning Edge informed me about the Sports Management Worldwide Football Career Conference during the NFL Combine and encouraged me to tag along. I ended up arriving in Indianapolis, Indiana without my pals as they found other conferences that were better tailored to their personal interest.

On the first day, I attended a mixer along with the many attendees in similar positions as I. Some had aspirations of becoming an agent or scout, but all of us had the common goal of wanting a career in the sports industry. Thankfully at the venue we were surrounded with those who had our dream careers. We were able to introduce ourselves to NFL personnel in hopes of becoming one step closer to our dreams.

The second day arrived and this was the moment that I began to learn things that no one from my past had ever mentioned before. The words spoken by NFL legend John Wooten, Miami Dolphins VP Mike Tannenbaum, and former Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik, made a huge impact on my life. Within one day they answered every question that I couldn’t even think to ask. They helped me pave the road to my dream career and that it’s self is priceless.

I had the honor to talk with those mentioned above along with other NFL personnel that I bumped into at the combine, conference and even Starbucks. Those conversations reassured me that I was on the right track and whether I knew it or not, I was ahead of the game. They were happy to let me know that I was on the right track and had a bright future but they were kind enough to tell me things I needed to work on. Because they were kind enough to give me feedback that I wasn’t able to give myself, I now have a relationship with a handful of important people and now I know exactly what I need to do to take my career to the next level.

If you have the opportunity to attend I would highly recommend it!

Mesha O'Neal



Written by Darius Murray

Going into my 3rd year attending NCAAHPERD Conference in Winston Salem, North Carolina. My expectations where set high to come in first place either in the Case Study Competition, the Student of The Year Award Video Resume Competition or maybe even both.

The past two years at the representatives from my Johnson C. Smith have notwon either competitions. For myself I wanted this year to be different because I was a senior. Bringing at least one plaque back to JCSU was the only option.  Over the years, staying involved with campus organizations and having the opportunity to gain experience through working with different organizations in sports has been important to me.  Submitting my video resume for the competition was no different. I treated it as if it was a job interview.  I had to submit my best work. Participating in NCAAHPERD Conference has helped me with overall, but the area where I see the most improvement is public speaking. I learned skills through attending NCAAHPERD Conference that I couldn’t receive in the classroom.

This year’s case study question was, “How would we improve attendance from the Hispanic community for Charlotte Knights Games?” We had a week to come up with ideas and present it to the Charlotte Knight's VP of Marketing. I felt that our ideas where great and we presented then well.  Unfortunaley it wasn’t enough and we didn’t win. Overall, this was definitely a learning experience for me. Not only did we network with other students from other universities we got to network with the Charlotte Hornets VP of Marketing. After the first competition, he gave the participants some information about his background and some advice about life working in sports. Even though my team didn’t win the case study, we still won.  I say that, because we got to network with the VP of Marketing for the Charlotte Knight's.

Now that the case study was over with, it was time to announce the winner of the video resume competition. Before the winner was announced the speaker announced drum row please....and that’s when I became nervous. For a second I took a deep breath and thought about ways to improve my resume, win or loss. Finally the winner was announced. “Your first place winner is....Darius Murray.” I culd’nt believe it.  It was truly an honor.  The only expression I was able to produce was smile from cheek to cheek.  Understanding all the hard work I put in to improving my resume over the years, this award means so much to me, our sport management department, and my university.

This years NCAAHPERD conference was special not because of my personal awards but because of me and my colleagues represented our department and our university to the best to our ability. Moving forward I will motivate more students to get involved in attending conferences like this. Not only will they have a chance to come back with an award but they get to network with hundreds of people who are in the sport management field.

Darius Murray

STUDENT VIEW: Mesha O’Neal’s Eventful Path

Written by Mesha O'Neal

My introduction into the sports industry came on my 21st birthday in the pressbox of Neyland Stadium. One week prior, I emailed every public relations professional in the city of Knoxville and only one replied. Tom Satkowiak of the University of Tennessee’s Media Relations department replied and offered me a position to volunteer within the department to gain experience in the sports industry. I quit my paying job and began working for free in hopes that the outcome would pay me more than money. I knew nothing about sports communications but what I did know was how to listen and work hard.

Tom gave me access to work; he gave me material to learn and I soaked every bit of it up. I learned transcribing, press release writing, Adobe software, sports statistics, baseball scoring, developing web pages, led media availabilities, credentials, basketball scoring, HTML coding and so much more that I can’t even name. I learned skills within the Media Relations department that I couldn’t receive in the classroom.

I worked to learn all of these skills while balancing college academics and a reward came about six months later. Tom gave me the role of being the Sports Information Director over the men’s golf program. With this responsibility, I have learned even more. I used everything that Tennessee taught me to gain access to different events throughout the rest of the year.

I had the opportunity to work the SEC Women’s Basketball Championship in Jacksonville, Fla. I traveled to Florida and spent a week working the event. I applied all of the knowledge that I learned at Tennessee to this grand platform. I was granted the opportunity to sit down with the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, Greg Sankey, who gave me tons of advice on how to further my career in sports. While in Jacksonville, I paid the Jaguars a visit and was able hear how some of their communication staff paved their way into the professional league.

In the last days of the tournament, I met now SEC Nation co-host Maria Taylor. Tom previously mentioned that she was the co-founder of the Winning Edge so when we initially met at the tournament, that was the topic of discussion. I kept in touch with both Maria and co-founder Corinne Milien to stay up-dated on openings within the program.

The next event I worked was the SEC Baseball Championship in Hoover, Ala. While working the tournament, I used every skill that I had learned previously but I applied it to the game of baseball. I soaked up as much information as I could so that I would be equally knowable in baseball as I was in every other sport. I picked up more knowledge by conversing with assistant commissioners of the SEC, which has helped me navigate through the sports industry.

I went on to work the biggest game in college football history, the Battle at Bristol. I traveled to Bristol, Tenn. and worked a full 24 hours where 156,990 fans were in attendance. The experience was priceless and being under so much pressure definitely prepared me for the future.

Next, I got on the road to Georgia and arrived at Sanford Stadium. The University of Georgia hosted the matchup against Tennessee and I was able to take a seat in the pressbox. This was one of my favorite events to work because very seldom do students get to travel to away games. This gave me a different perspective and taught me the different ways that media relations is handled throughout the collegiate sports world.

Without access to these events I would not have met such influential people. I have networked with so many individuals and those casual conversations turned into great relationships. Working all of these events showed me so many different pathways that I could steer my career. I decided that I would continue to work in communications but that I wanted to pursue a career as an on-air talent. With encouragement from the Winning Edge, I’ve took on another job with Tennessee’s athletic broadcasting department, VFL Films. The film department has granted me the opportunity to develop my skills at their facility to help me secure a job as an on-air talent after I graduate in May. This would not be possible if it weren’t for the many hands that I’ve shook at the events that I’ve worked.


Mesha O'Neal
Tennessee, 2017