We often talk about the value of showing up, and on Monday, a great example of what happens when you show up for an opportunity got to walk in the Commencement ceremony at Columbia University. Four years ago, we ran into Andrew Hawkins, just getting his career going in the NFL, when he was on a panel at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. He was funny, engaging and dedicated in his pursuit of learning and when we crossed paths in the hall, we asked him if he would like to stop by the Happy Hour at that our group, NYVC Sports was hosting that night at a nearby hotel. It was cold, it was a bit of a haul, and a wide receiver with a growing NFL pedigree certainly didn’t have to make the trek; there was more than enough to do with the big names that float in and around Sloan every year.
But there he was that night, alone at the Happy Hour, sharing drinks and telling stories with many he had not known just a few hours before. Out of that evening came a conversation about grad school; Hawkins mentioned some programs he was talking about and what his business interests were, and I mentioned he should consider our program at Columbia. Being in New York, I thought it offered all that he was looking for and then some. Andrew said he would, and when we crossed paths again the next day he said he was going to take the offer seriously. I passed the information on to Vince Gennaro, the head of the program at Columbia, and when Hawk applied, Vince could give the information a fair shake, not because of his ability to catch passes, but because of his ability to make a difference and impact others not just at Columbia, but in the years to come.
Some time passed, we went about our normal business and the lives we lead, and the next spring there was Andrew Hawkins flying one day a week to New York during the Cleveland Browns offseason, mixing with our global quilt of students in Morningside Heights.
He continued the process every Monday this spring, leaving his wife and three young children to get on a flight from Los Angeles to New York at 6 a.m. Hawk would take a weeks’ worth of classes and then turn around and get on the 11 p.m. flight back to LA for his week of training, parenting and homework. He supplemented his course work with an internship with Maverick Carter and a few online classes, and completed the run the past few weeks, finishing as a proud graduate of the Lions, despite a career to date with the Browns.
Now where Andrew goes next in sports business is his call; we all think it will be to the front office once his playing career is done. However, who know where he would be if he didn’t just show up. He didn’t text or email, and he didn’t come just for a pay check. If he would have had more time he probably would have been volunteering and learning even more.
For sure the program at Columbia, and the bright students and staff continue to grow every year. The opportunities for those who choose to take them are endless, but it’s not because of the brick and mortar of the University on the West Side of Manhattan. It is because of the people in and around the school. And if you show up and take advantage, amazing thing happen not just in school, but in life. Sitting on the sidelines and watching has its place, but being engaged will get you places.
Just ask Andrew Hawkins.