GLENDALE, Ariz. — One week ago, Delaware State University junior Chris Webb was in Dover, learning administrative skills and public relations skills in sports and business management inside a classroom.But the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Webb and 12 other students from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) got an exclusive look at the business side of Microsoft and the NFL.
[caption id="attachment_229689" align="alignleft" width="197"] Chris Webb | PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS WEBB[/caption]
Webb was named a finalist in the third annual EA SPORTS Madden NFL x HBCU Tournament, and won an all-expense paid trip to Arizona to compete in the final round of the video game. The tournament, focused on the Madden NFL video game, is geared to HBCU students, and those who rose to the top got the chance to compete in a final round, broadcasted live, from Arizona.“I’m just blessed to have the opportunity,” Webb told the Delaware Business Times. “I mean, I’m always up for the video game so I was already on it. I feel like there’s plenty of opportunities, and I’m networking to see what I can learn and who I can get to. I’m just learning about different opportunities right now, and just now starting to lean one way or another for a path. There’s a lot of things I didn’t know were possible.”This is the second time Webb has participated in the tournament and the job shadowing opportunity. Last year, he qualified in the Madden NFL x HBCU Tournament and came to Los Angeles ahead of the Super Bowl.In addition to being in town for the Super Bowl faceoff between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs, Webb and other winners had a week of job shadowing and exclusive career coaching from NFL executives and other stakeholders.“I’ll tell you this: there’s a lot of security to go through,” Webb joked.Aside from playing the video game, Webb said by Thursday afternoon he and the others visited Microsoft offices in Tempe, and learned about day-to-day work that looked like a top technology company and how to break into the business. Other breakout sessions included career development sessions led by Microsoft’s EA Next Generation Talent team that focused on LinkedIn profiles, resume building, networking skills and other career advice.“Those talks were focused on what we could do with our majors, and general advice,” Webb said. “I see how Microsoft and the NFL go hand-in-hand with sports management, and it’s very hands-on. There’s a lot of conversations and information being shared. For people that look like me and other HBCUs, sometimes we don’t even get that opportunity. So to even be provided the opportunity is incredible.”DSU Dean of the College of Business Michael Casson noted that soft skills like networking can be a challenge for students that may not have had the exposure to the working world, and even in today’s world, the career paths are changing at a pace it may be hard for a young professional to wrap their minds around the next steps.“Job shadowing gives the exposure to help our students see what opportunities are out there, see the skills needed and the culture of even working that job,” Casson said. “It’s an opening for our students to organically engage in these settings, and you have to realize, 80% of a student’s time is outside the classroom. We need to be intentional in that exposure.”While Webb’s experience is unique, DSU has been focused on offering mentorship opportunities, such as grouping students and groups of mentors together from notable partnerships including, but not limited to, Barclays, JPMorgan & Chase, Capital One, M&T Bank and more. The College of Business also hosts the Delaware Executive Exchange Program (DEEP) Day where students can network with representatives from 30 local and national organizations, as well as develop soft skills.“Job shadowing and these opportunities allow them to expand beyond their comfort levels to see what they need to get to that next level, and find those opportunities later down the road that are hard to pass up,” Casson added. Of course, the trip and tournament for Webb isn’t exactly all work and no play. There’s some side benefits he’s enjoying: like meeting Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons, who is hosting the tournament, as well as Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson.“[Parsons] offered us some words of encouragement and just coming to the hotel where the media is staying where we met Justin Jefferson, it’s been unreal. It’s all been unreal,” Webb said. “I just hope to continue this momentum and bring more attention to HBCUs like DSU.”And when it comes to the big game? Webb is a Los Angeles Chargers fan, so he’s not pulling for any particular team. Although he believes the Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is special, the Eagles would have to be the better team.“If I had to pick one, I’d pick the Eagles, but I wouldn’t be too upset if they lose,” he said.
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