Oct. 28, 2009
Soon after his arrival, Cal head football coach Jeff Tedford was winning games at a rate not seen on the Berkeley campus in a half-century and graduating student-athletes at the high rate expected of the nation's top public university. But, he knew there was something missing from his football program.
"It was a situation where kids were doing a nice job both on the football field and in the classroom," Tedford recalled. "They were graduating on time and never lacked the opportunity to get job interviews after they had earned their degrees."
But being prepared for those interviews was a whole different story.
Most of the players were so busy with football and academics, they just weren't getting the real life experiences they needed to compete for jobs in the work force.
"I saw these guys out there on their own scrambling to get something done after our bowl game each year," Tedford said. "It made me think that we really needed to be proactive in aligning them with mentors, practical job opportunities and life experiences so that they could go out and start something meaningful, instead of just earning a dollar or two so they could survive."
"I felt like they were doing their part, but we needed to do our part to teach them about life after football, and to allow them to utilize their degree in a meaningful way," he continued.
For a couple of years, he pondered about how he could make his dream a reality when his path crossed one day with Cal alum Mike Andersen ('69).
Andersen had worked for over 30 years in the corporate world, primarily as a human resources executive. With lots of hard work and some good fortune when a Canadian oil company he was a part-owner of went public, he was able to retire in 2002 at the early age of 54.
"I was just kind of enjoying the retired life, playing a lot of golf," said Andersen.
Andersen enjoyed playing golf so much that he was the highest bidder for a day on the links with Tedford at the annual Haas Business School charitable fund-raiser golf tournament in the spring of 2007. The two talked a lot during their 18 holes together at the Blackhawk Country Club, and soon after Andersen found himself with a job offer to become the Director of Player Career Development for Cal football.
"He explained to me that he had been looking to fill this position for a couple of years and asked me if I'd do it," said Andersen. "I said `yes' and agreed to come in, set this thing up and get it going. I feel great about it. It's wonderful to be a part of a Tedford team."
Andersen and Tedford worked together to develop a curriculum that includes a wide array of life skills training, including sessions in managing money, dressing properly for a business affair and writing a resume.
"Coach Tedford wants the players to learn the necessary skills they will need to succeed in life during their time at Cal," said Andersen. "They all think they're going to the NFL, but he knows not all of them are. He wants them to gain those life skills here at Cal so they will be able to compete for a job in the work force when they enter the outside world."
Much of the focus of Andersen's job has turned into identifying meaningful summer internships and placing interested players into those opportunities.
"Those are the types of experiences that go into building a great resume," emphasized Andersen. "Having a summer internship can show a prospective employer that a guy does indeed have some work experience."
Andersen admits that many of the team's younger players don't show a lot of interest in finding jobs but as they begin to move closer to graduation, their interest increases.
Senior safety Brett Johnson is a prime example.
"I really didn't pay much attention at first," admitted Johnson. "But, I was going into my senior year and didn't really have a lot of real world experience. Mike was always telling us that he has internships for us if we were willing to work, so I thought maybe I should get an internship so that when I do have to finally write a resume, I would have something to put on it."
Now when Johnson graduates at the end of the current semester this December, he will have a two-month internship at commercial real estate consulting firm Colliers International to put at the top of that resume.
Johnson received plenty of practical training during his internship, but what the Las Vegas native really learned was the value of networking.
"I had people tell me that they knew people in Las Vegas, and if I ever needed a job there to call them, and they would work something out for me," said Johnson, who was hired as an intern this past summer by the company's senior vice president and Cal alum Ken Meyersieck. "Everybody always talks about networking, but it really showed itself to me last summer."
Three other players also had what Andersen called "meaningful work experiences" last summer.
Derrick Hill could hardly wait to get going. The junior defensive lineman was interested in Andersen's program before it could really help him.
"Derrick Hill is the example that I would point to of somebody that recognized the value of what we're doing right away," said Andersen with a strong sense of pride. "When I first came here, he was a redshirt freshman and immediately came up to me and said that he wanted a career in real estate."
The Oakland native was hoping to get started as early as possible with his dream of going back to the low-income community he grew up in and building affordable housing.
"He was very young when he first approached me and a lot of the more notable firms usually ask for juniors or seniors, because they've typically got a little more seriousness to them and kind of know what they want more than the younger guys," Andersen remembered. "Because Derrick was younger, I wasn't able to get an internship for him that first summer."
But, that didn't deter Hill and this past summer he struck gold when Andersen found Hill the experience he yearned for with Rue-Ell Enterprises, a local real estate firm in Berkeley co-founded by Cal classmates Dave Ruegg and Bob Ellsworth nearly a half-century ago.
Hill hopes he can make life growing up a little easier for some of the people in his neighborhood.
"Everybody wants to make money off real estate, but I also want to help people out in the long run," said Hill. "I feel like that's my calling, and I want to use real estate to do that."
Boskovich worked for criminal attorney Christopher Shea, helping the San Francisco lawyer and Cal alum on a large felony case, even making visits to the courtroom.
"Although my dad is a lawyer, I had never actually been to court before," said Boskovich. "It was really interesting learning their language and seeing what they actually do."
Mohamed spent his summer working as an intern for Kent Johansson, a wealth advisor for UBS in Walnut Creek and Cal alum. He spent most of his time assisting Johansson facilitate an investment seminar, but arguably his most valuable lesson was the importance of hard work.
All four were also appreciative of the interest that Tedford and Andersen have shown in their entire development as people.
"The fact that they're trying to help us with our careers beyond football means that they really do care about how we do in our future," expressed Boskovich.
As successful as the program has been, both Tedford and Andersen know that it can be so much better and are calling on Cal alumni to become more involved to help create additional opportunities for Cal football players in the future.
"We have been successful at working with our alumni and asking for their assistance, but that is an area that remains largely untapped," said Andersen, who is urges Cal alums to get in touch with him about the program.
Both plan on tapping into Cal alums much more in the future as the program moves out of its infancy.
"I would just hope that the program and our database of Cal alums continue to grow both regionally and nationally," said Tedford. "There are so many Cal alums out there with connections throughout the country that can provide more opportunities for these guys."
"It is critical for Cal alums to be involved," continued Tedford. "When we recruit, we recruit to the strength of the Cal alum and the power of the Cal degree. Those connections are pretty deep, and it's critical to tap into them and have their support as we fulfill our obligation to these guys for doing well in school, on the field and as individuals."
What's next for the program? Andersen and Tedford are on the same page.
"I asked coach Tedford what his dream for the program was and his view was consistent with mine," said Andersen with a gleam in his eye. "We want to see it make a difference in somebody's life."
Take a good look guys, it already has.