Varsity Knights Leadership Council Showing Power of Former UCF Student-Athletes

Aug. 21, 2012

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By Doug Richards

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - For student-athletes, opportunities at UCF no longer end at graduation. The Varsity Knights Leadership Council is part of UCF Vice President and Director of Athletics Todd Stansbury's vision for creating a Center for Student-Athlete Leadership which will provide former student-athletes an outlet for business networking, professional development and mentorship options.

"UCF has an incredibly powerful network of former student-athletes. Our student-athletes are going on to have success in virtually every professional field imaginable," Stansbury said. "This council will help develop programming for our former student-athletes that will serve them throughout their professional careers and unleash the power of their network. I have said all along that our program will be defined by the success of our student-athletes and that includes what are they doing five years after graduation."

Stansbury noted that around 50 former members of the UCF football team are small business owners in the area. A business network that included this group could provide current student-athletes with information about job opportunities, the hiring process and information on business trends. Former UCF quarterback Kyle Israel, who is an owner of Terrace 390 in downtown Orlando, a partner in Problem Solved, a full-service on-line marketing firm, and a member of the leadership council, is excited about the mentorship opportunities, which he wishes existed during his time as a student-athlete.

"One of the most difficult aspects of being a student-athlete is preparing yourself to be a strong business professional for when you graduate," Israel said. "Due to time restrictions and a busy schedule, student-athletes don't always have the opportunity to partake in internships and networking opportunities. Our goal is to build relationships with business professionals in the community and help provide more opportunities and mentoring for student-athletes. This will help in career development and will also allow a platform to educate our student-athletes about what it takes to be a business professional."

Community service will also be a staple of the program. Stansbury envisions both current and former student-athletes working together on various projects in central Florida and on service trips overseas as part of UCF Athletics' "Knights without Borders," a program also in development.

Director of administrative operations Mike O'Donnell, a former UCF men's basketball standout, is serving as the UCF Athletics liaison to the leadership council, which includes former student-athletes like Erin Campbell (volleyball), Claire Frenkel (rowing), Shelly Frick (softball), T.J. Harnden (football), Darcy Johnson (football), Angelica Mealing (women's basketball), Rocky Ross (football) and Taylor Young (men's basketball).

"The Varsity Knights program will be able to create a culture that encourages former UCF student-athletes to stay active, not only in the UCF community, but the region as well. Being a UCF student-athlete should not end on the playing field. We are here to create that bridge between student-athlete and young business professional," O'Donnell said.