I’m always looking for crazy stories of pure work ethic that espouses the will, persistence and sheer single-mindedness that characterizes people who succeed in football. Fortunately, in my correspondence with former Jets Director of Football Administration Ari Nissim, I was able to find a great one. He relates a story of a project he worked on during his internship that was probably integral in that internship turning into a paying NFL job.
At this point, I’ll turn it over to Ari.
“It always amazed me the people that got an internship and thought just by getting the internship they made it. Nope, you haven’t made anything; you got your foot in the door. Now, what are you going to do with it?
“I remember during my internship, I was asked to do this study on playtime in the preseason which at that point could only be done by watching every single play of every single preseason game and jotting down every player’s number on each play, and they asked me to do it for the entire league. It literally wasn’t possible to do in the time frame wanted, but I was like, ‘screw it, we are going to get it done anyway.'”
Now before you say to yourself, ‘I’m a football junkie, and I’d do this for free,’ think about what this job would entail. This would involve accessing the NFL Films film bank for every game played in the preseason (about 130 games) and breaking them down, play by play, to log in numbers for each team. And by the way, you would have only a few weeks to do this.
We return to Ari’s story.
“One night, it was about midnight and in walks Herm Edwards (the Jets HC at the time). He looks at me and was like, ‘What you doing?’ And so I tell him about the study, (and) he looks at me, kind of scratches his head like I’m out of my mind, and turns around and walks out of the room. So it’s midnight and there are two people in the facility, the head coach and this out-of-his-mind intern.
“That’s the passion I look for in my interns, and I’m happy to say that two of the people that interned under me at the Jets are currently working for NFL teams, and another works for a sports agency, and it’s because you could tell they loved it.
“There are a lot of smart people in this world. What makes you stand out? Because trust me, when you don’t think we notice, we do.”
I think this story is excellent for two reasons. One, it illustrates what an UNPAID intern is asked to do. Two, it illustrates that the head coach — the guy who gets all the glory (and the $$$$) when the team wins — is also keeping intern hours.
I think this is something to consider if you’re really dedicated to working in the NFL. This is what it takes.