By John Ingoldsby, Player Engagement Insider
The NFL Draft has so many moving parts that even those working behind the scenes need help behind their own scenes. So when former player Brad Fichtel saw his opportunity to have do job shadow during May’s Draft assisting the NFL’s Special Events staff, he jumped at it.
“It was a great opportunity that I saw through a former player newsletter, so I called the Player Engagement Department, had an interview by phone, and it turned out to be a good fit,” the former Los Angeles and St. Louis Rams center said.
A perfect fit in fact as the Chicago native brought his hometown knowledge to his job shadow experience.
“I had all access before, during and after the Draft for four days and saw what they did behind the scenes,” said the Eastern Illinois graduate. “I helped out by getting people to certain places, including shuttling the draftees from the auditorium to Selection Square and helping line up the guest stage appearances by former players.”
That led, he said, to meeting with former players from his time on the field in the mid-1990s.
“I was drafted in 1993 by the (Los Angeles) Rams, whom I was with for two years, and then went to the Washington Redskins training camp before failing a physical with the Dallas Cowboys in 1996, so five knee surgeries later my career was over,” he recalled.
But that time in the League has proven fruitful for Fichtel.
“It’s great what the NFL is doing for former players and hopefully the League will continue with these types of programs,” said the former NFL Teacher of the Year finalist. “This experience was good stuff.”
Not only good stuff for Fichtel, but also for his students at Cain Middle School in Heath, TX, outside Dallas, where he teaches physical education and also coaches football after moving there when he married a Texas native.
“I brought the Draft experience back to my classroom by chronicling my days through pictures, Tweeting and Facebook,” he said.
“The kids enjoyed it and thought it was really cool, especially when I met the Cowboys first pick, (running back) Ezekiel Elliott.”
But Fichtel made it more than just cool, he also turned it into a teaching moment.
“These seventh and eighth graders love the fact that I used to be an NFL player, so even though I encourage their playing football in football-mad Texas, this job shadow showed that there are other ways to be involved in the game so they have something else to fall back on,” he said.
He highlights prioritizing education, where he walks the walk by currently pursuing his Master’s Degree online at Canisius College in upstate New York.
Just one more way his pupils can relate to him as Fichtel casts his own long shadow over his students, much like “The White Shadow” basketball coach who inspired his pupils in the iconic television show.