I wanted to wrap our week-long interview with Ari Nissim with a few finishing touches. Let’s start with the downside. I asked the former Jets Director of Football Administration what he learned after his first year on the job. I wanted to know what his biggest misconception had been.

He said he’d had no idea that the job never really ends.

“The all-encompassing nature of the job is the part that is tough. People don’t realize the seven-day-a-week nature of the job, not only from August through January, but from January through May. With the Senior Bowl (late January), the combine (late February), free agency (early March), draft meetings (April), etc., seven days a week, there really isn’t much time off, and many of those days are 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.-type days if not longer.  I remember the first year at the Jets it was 7 a.m.–11 p.m. every day except Sunday. Talk about crazy times.”

It’s the kind of job no one takes for the pay, or the cache of working for an NFL team. It has to be a labor of love. Next, I asked Ari what the biggest payoff for the job was. When did he find himself saying, ‘man, this is fun’?

“There are so many. The job is all-encompassing, but it has so many amazing moments along the way.

“Being at Gillette (Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.) as we beat the Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs in 2011 was an amazing experience.  Many of the moments are just random.  Being on the field in Lambeau (Field in Green Bay) in 2006 as Brett Favre runs out for warmups was a cool moment, then being part of the night we traded for him two years later was another awesome moment.  Sitting and talking football with (Jets head coach) Rex (Ryan), or (other) coaches, can be surreal if you stop and think, ‘I’m talking football with NFL coaches.'”

So after a week-long interview with Ari, here, as I see it, are the takeaways:

  • Get into position to make as many relationships as you can.
  • Be on the lookout for a mentor (or two) who can advance your career and who is willing to help.
  • No matter how passionate you are about a career choice, there will be times when your passion is tested.
  • If you’re looking for a niche that is gaining in value in the football business, it’s analytics.
  • Getting an NFL internship, or job, or other professional toe-hold is just the start of the hard work. You have to continue to prove yourself and aggressively work to get ahead and/or stay ahead.
  • There will be a payoff, and maybe several, for all your hard work. They may not be headline-grabbing stuff, but they could be the kind of thing that you’ll remember the rest of your life.