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Football frenzy: How two alumni climbed the NFL ladder

Thursday, September 10 2015 12:00am

Ohio University’s sports administration alumni Chad Estis and Kevin Abrams talk about their career trajectory, OHIO, and football

It’s that time of year again. Leaves are falling, and footballs are flying. Although the NFL kicked off its season Thursday night, the real game of the weekend for Business Bobcats is today, when the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys showcase two of our most esteemed alumni. Read more about them, below:

Ce2 Copy (1)Alumni: Chad Estis

Current roles: Executive Vice President, Business Operations, Dallas Cowboys and Executive Vice President, Legends

Home base: Dallas, Texas

What’s your role with the Cowboys like on a daily basis? 

I work closely with our brand and sales teams to generate revenue for the team. Sometimes that means being involved in sponsorship sales discussions. Other times it means pitching a strategy about future ticket and suite sales. Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time on The Star, a new 91-acre development project that will house our new headquarters and training center.  

How did you get to where you are today?

Prior to the Cowboys, I worked for the Cleveland Cavaliers for six years and Tampa Bay Lightning for two years. All of my career moves were strategic: I wanted to gain more responsibility, continue to grow, and be increasingly challenged with each one.

You’ve been with the Cowboys for eight years now. What keeps you there?

Multiple things, but getting to work with owner Jerry Jones and his family is paramount. They’re the best owners in sports: entrepreneurial, forward thinking, and involved on a daily basis.

What is best part of your job?

The people. The team that works for me is very talented and engaged, and I love working with the Jones family.

Do you have any advice for students trying to break into the sports industry?

Relationships are the best way to break in, and that’s where OHIO really excels, because the alumni are so engaged and want to help current students. Don’t be afraid to use that network – and once someone gives you a chance, be prepared to work extremely hard. Patience is required early on because you have to work really hard to wait for your next opportunity.

How has OHIO’s sports administration program impacted your life?

During my first eight or nine years out of the program, three OHIO alumni hired me – so I’d say pretty significantly. I don’t know if you can have more influence than that. I also had two OHIO alumni as mentors, who pushed me to grow and learn.   

Why do you continue to support and stay involved with OHIO?

The program had a significant influence on my success. I think about the group of alumni that gave me opportunities and helped guide me as I found my way in the field, and it makes me want to give back. I’m proud to be an OHIO alumnus.

Cipriani 2Alumni: Kevin Abrams

Current role: Assistant General Manager, New York Giants

Home base: New York, New York                    

What’s your role like on a daily basis?

I work closely with our general manager on all areas of our football operations: player evaluations, contract negotiations, salary cap management, and coordinating our sports science/analytics initiatives.

How did you get to where you are today?

After completing my undergraduate degree, I was advised to pursue my masters degree in sports administration at OHIO, which opened a lot of doors for me . After graduation, I completed four internships with the NFL clubs and the league office, which led to a salary cap analyst position with the Giants. Over time, my role evolved to include contract negotiations, scouting, and other football operations responsibilities.

You’ve been with the Giants for 17 years now. What keeps you there?

I love the game. I love the organization. I love whom I work with and who I work for, and I believe in what we’re doing.

What is best part of your job?

Game day. It’s really exciting to see players you helped bring into the program on the field developing, competing, and hopefully winning.

Do you have any advice for students trying to break into the sports industry?

OHIO provides students with the education and resources they need to be contenders for entry-level positions in the sports industry. Breaking into the NFL is a little different, so be prepared to do multiple internships. Know your geographic and financial flexibility prior to pursuing opportunities. Know what sacrifices you’re willing to make and the extent you’re willing to go to in order to find that first full-time opportunity.  

How has OHIO’s sports administration program impacted your life?

It provided me with great resources, opportunities, and practical experience. There is no better network in the sports industry than our alumni. We are all available as resources and to mentor the current students, just like the alumni who came before us.

Why do you continue to support and stay involved with OHIO?

Like just about every industry, the sports business has become global and more sophisticated, it requires more collaboration between departments; we no longer work in silos. Professionals in the field have to be fluent in more disciplines, and OHIO’s business-focused curriculum really helps the students in that respect. OHIO continues to produce better, more prepared, and more competent sport professionals. Its graduates maintain a healthy balance between ambitious career goals and focusing on their present role with humility and professionalism, and I like that.