From Wearing Football Cleats on Saturdays to Getting Paid to Design Them at Adidas
What’s your story?
I graduated from Stanford in 2016. I majored in Product Design and played football. I now work as a footwear designer at the Adidas North American headquarters in Portland.
What was your experience as a student-athlete like?
I look back on Stanford as having given me the most formative years of my life. Of course being a student athlete was at the center of it all. I like to think the best part of being a fall sport is that you are only kind of thrown into the fire. I say that because you start your time on campus with your teammates and the guys in your recruiting class before anyone else arrives. It gives you a chance to ease into college, even though football is probably as far from easy that year.
Did you know you wanted to design shoes?
When thinking about what was next, I wanted a place that would push me and understand I’m competitive in almost everything. I also wanted a place that is as influenced by sport as I am. But drawing shoes for a living... I had no idea that was really an option. Of course I grew up with dreams of playing professionally. I held onto that dream throughout college and I knew I should have a back up plan but it’s hard to plan for things not to work out. To figure things out, I went to graduate school. The program was shared by my advisor, Bill Burnett, as something I would be interested in. I applied to the sports product design program at the University of Oregon and found my passion for sport went beyond playing. Being on the other side and now designing in game product for athletes to perform has been incredible.
Why grad school as opposed to other options?
I didn’t know. I think what I knew the most is I didn’t want to be home, sitting still, waiting for something to come to me. I went to grad school to buy myself some time and find out what else I was interested in. It was an expensive discovery, but definitely worth it.
Can you share more about what it was like completing a Masters in Sports Product Design at the University of Oregon?
Who knew you could just go to school?! Obviously joking, but wow no more 6ams. I think being able to fully devote myself to school was great. An experience that student athletes get maybe one quarter out of the year or even just 3 weeks. My masters program required me to design and sew apparel and footwear along with rendering hard goods and equipment. Being good with my hands, I loved this. Not to mention, my grandma and I bonded over sewing machines and was surprised at how good I was. In brief, the program challenged me a lot and taught me things I never expected to learn. And at the end of it, it opened me up to a career designing sports product.
In grad school, did you have any regrets about leaving the game?
I didn’t have any regrets. I definitely missed it. You miss your teammates, the routine, and of course game-days. I went to my first ever tailgate once I graduated and thought: this is dope! But also, I thought, why am I not out there? I kept training when I went to grad school. I wasn’t expecting a call or trying to stay ready; that was just the only way I knew how to stay active. I was lifting a lot, running tempo runs and cut 120s, and doing what was familiar to me. I eventually joined a flag football league in Portland. In the fourth quarter of a game, after a three touchdown two interception first half, I ruptured my Achilles. I thought, “f**k, I should’ve just left it alone.”
How has your experience been at Adidas?
Its been great! I work for a brand that at the end of the day makes kicks and tees and loves sports. I couldn’t think of a better place for me.
What advice would you give to yourself back then as a young person going through the transition?
Give it everything you have when you’re in it and you’ll have no regrets. Find a new routine of training or continue a familiar one. Don’t be afraid to try new things! And I always say, if you can get paid to figure it out, you’re winning. It could be a paid internship or a job that you take on a whim. Regardless, the fact that you’re trying to figure out what you want to do or be means you’re doing great!
Given where you ended up...what do you wish you knew about the transition away from football before it happened?
The transition wasn’t necessarily tough. I would say figuring out what to do with all the free time was a fun challenge. Its about finding new ways to be competitive and really push yourself the way you’re used to. I guess the only thing I wish I knew is that I’d tear my Achilles. Because when you aren’t a student-athlete, healthcare is really hard to figure out, trust me! Otherwise, I don’t really care for a crystal ball.
What is it about being a student-athlete that you feel helped prepare you to handle the transition to Adidas?
You know how to compete, and you know how to work for what you want. The biggest thing is knowing that you won’t be denied. You’re resilient and you take coaching and feedback better than a lot of people. Not to mention, a lot of people are impressed when you share you played D1 sports, so that helps.
I also learned goal setting and time management. It’s cliche, but I believe Stanford student-athletes are getting pulled in more directions than any other student athlete in the country. There is internal and external pressure to do well in everything. The ability to prioritize your goals and successfully build a plan to achieve them is something that has stuck with me even beyond my days on the farm.