1.Unless you’ve been off the grid for the past 72 hours, you’ve heard that ESPN’s iconic college football preview show, ESPN College GameDay, will make its first-ever appearance at UCF this Saturday. We are PUMPED!
The ESPN College GameDay set will be positioned in the southeast corner of Memory Mall, as identified in the photo below. For details on all things GameDay, follow along with UCF Knights on Twitter for the latest news and updates.
Speaking of Saturday, our Knights kick off against Cincinnati at 8 p.m. in front of a SOLD OUT crowd at Spectrum Stadium! If you can’t be there for this prime-time matchup, the game will be aired on ABC, so find a UCF Watch Party near you.
2. In other football related news, two of our favorite #BuiltByUCF Seahawks got some love this weekend on 60 Minutes. On Sunday night, CBS aired a feature on Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin‘s childhood pact to succeed together, all the way to the NFL. Spoiler alert: they made it, against all odds.
3. Last week, thirteen UCF alumni were honored at the Orlando Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Awards. OBJ’s 40 Under 40 is an annual celebration that recognizes successful professionals who have created a big impact within their industry and in the local community. You have to check out this stellar slate of alumni who are making an impact in Orlando. Congratulations, Knights!
4. This holiday season, Give Thanks, Give A Bear! The UCF College of Nursing’s “Give A Bear” campaign offers the opportunity to sponsor pandas in custom UCF scrubs that will be distributed to children in local hospitals during the week following Thanksgiving. All funds raised from the campaign help fund priority areas within the College of Nursing, including student scholarships, faculty research and medical mission trips.
5. We’ve had a really fun season of Indoor Tailgates so far, and are looking forward to our next one this Saturday from 5-7 p.m. at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center! Did you make it to last week’s tailgate? Find photos from the event in our online photo gallery.
ORLANDO, Fla. (April 30, 2018) – While four Knights fulfilled lifelong dreams of hearing their names called during the 2018 NFL Draft, another pair of Knights were working behind the scenes to capture every moment.
Alumni Eric DeSalvo ’09 and Brandon Naidus ’12 are the maestros of the social media accounts for their respective teams.
The two share more than a similar job. In fact, Naidus was an undergraduate student intern for UCF Athletics Communications when DeSalvo took his first job out of graduate school in 2011 as the UCF assistant director of communications for the baseball and volleyball teams.
They keep in touch often, and that was certainly the case over the weekend as they both worked to churn out quality content worthy of viral numbers.
DeSalvo and UCF were one of the select college brands whose digital content teams were invited to the draft at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Meanwhile, Naidus and his department covered the draft remotely from the media conference room in the Arizona Cardinals facility.
They still might be slightly sleep deprived from the big weekend, but they took some time to share a glimpse into the strategy, the creativity and the heart it takes every day to do their jobs.
You both have covered drafts before in some capacity. How did you apply what you’ve learned from those experiences and adapt your strategy for success this year? DeSalvo: “The first draft I was really involved with was when Blake Bortles was drafted in 2014 and went third overall. We had a template created for a graphic that allowed us to interchange the team he was drafted to. It also had the round and the overall pick. People might not remember, but I screwed that up. I put he was taken sixth overall because I had put that in the template as a placeholder, and when he was picked third, I forgot to change it and didn’t realize it until about three minutes after I tweeted it. A coworker spotted it, and I had to delete the tweet with well over 100 retweets. I fixed it and put it back out and all was OK.
“That actually happened again the following year when Breshad Perriman went in the first round. It said the 25th pick when he was the 26th. So, we have learned, you don’t worry about rounds and picks. It’s all about what team the the guy is going to. After that, I measure our success on how much original, on-site content we can get and if we can get video or photos straight from the guys to show that these lifelong dreams that came true. We knew we were going to have our stuff prepared, but success in my mind, was getting more of the stuff that hits the hearts of our fans and the NFL team’s fans.”
Naidus: “My first draft I was wide-eyed, not sure what to expect. I was in charge of updating the website and handling all social media postings for the Jaguars in 2013 when I was an intern. In 2014, I still did that and that was the year they took Blake and Storm (Johnson). This year was the sixth draft I have been a part of, and I was responsible for leading the charge of what kind of social content we created and put out there. It’s interesting to see how things evolve. In 2013, I was preparing headshots for the website. Now I’m preparing graphics and tweets that can be shared by our current players to welcome our draft picks to the team – which a few years ago wasn’t even a thought. We want to be informative and engaging. Our fans have a lot of outlets they can go to for news, but we want them to come to us first.”
What kind of preparation do you need to do before a big event like the draft? DeSalvo: “Twitter is always going to be first because it’s the immediate news. Before the draft, we uploaded 32 versions of a highlight video for each player, for each team they could potentially go to. We had seven guys who could have been drafted. So seven guys multiplied by 32 possible teams meant we uploaded 224 into the back end of Twitter, before the draft, with the message of the post already crafted. I had Megan Herboth in the communications department send that out from Orlando because I was on site in Dallas. I don’t ever want to jeopardize connectivity because every second is precious when it comes to getting this post out. People can’t wait to celebrate big news. Having it out immediately and accurately is the biggest part to our success when it comes to those big numbers.”
Naidus: “I basically looked at every mock draft and said ‘OK, what are positions of need for our team?’ and created content based on the top few players at every single position. You try and do as much work on the front end to save yourself on the back end to keep from getting trampled. We had a whole list of content with all the pieces we planned on putting out leading up to the draft; the days of the draft; and the day after the draft. All the graphics, all the video elements. Could they pick someone we didn’t anticipate them to pick? Sure. But you prepare as best you can and then I assigned responsibilities to our social team so everyone knew what they were responsible for handling.”
Many have said they expect that this year’s draft will forever be known as the year of Shaquem Griffin. Eric, what was it like to be there to experience it? DeSalvo: “It was pretty incredible to see the amount of coverage he got. He was a day-3 pick that received top-5 pick coverage. It was a roller coaster because he initially wasn’t there to hear his name called. He was with his family at the hotel. So, I was determined to get crowd reaction from whatever team he went to. Seattle had two really close picks back to back in the fifth round, so I figured it would be his time more than ever, hedged my bet and waited by their section in the stadium. Sure enough, when he got picked they went crazy. Being able to get a different angle – that in-the-moment reaction – was awesome to capture. When he did get to the stadium, it was really neat just being able to see everybody yelling his name as he was riding in his golf cart to go to the ESPN and NFL Network sets. Everyone from security guards to producers wanted to say hi and congratulate him. A lot of people congratulated his mom. So being able to experience that and just see the love he received from every single person first hand was pretty incredible. ”
What does the average person not know about your job? DeSalvo: “The amount of people you collaborate with. They don’t understand how many people are contributing to what we’re putting out there. The amount of edits that can happen. The amount of stuff that’s done on the fly. You have to be so reactionary in this business. You always have to be on. I mean, I had no idea when Alabama was giving their rings to their players, and all of a sudden, we’re getting bombarded by people, including Alabama players, tagging us in pictures of their rings. I’m flattered they are thinking about us, but to be able to pivot on the fly and come up with some replies to people, it’s a lifestyle. It’s not just a job. There’s a lot more to it than just having fun and posting messages, and sometimes it’s very tough to turn it off. Social media can consume your life. Shout out to my wife, Jessica, for putting up with me in this field. I know she enjoys seeing me love what I do, but I can’t appreciate her enough.”
Naidus: “Probably the amount of hours that go into it. I’ve had drafts where I’ve worked over 50 hours in three days. The preparation that goes into it from a content perspective – how prepared you have to be on the front end in order to succeed as everything is happening. It’s not just grabbing a cool video as a guy walks by. I would be shocked if any team has a heads up on who their picks are. I had no idea who we were taking this year. In the six years I’ve done this, I’ve only had a heads up once for a first-round pick. People probably think, ‘Oh if he works for the team, he probably knows.’ Not really. It doesn’t really work like that.”
Your role means you’re often the voice of your team. How do you feel about having that responsibility? DeSalvo: “I’m in a unique position because I’m an alumnus of the school I work for. People give back to their alma maters in different ways: monetarily, service and by working there. I feel like this is the biggest way I’ve been able to give back to UCF – a school that’s been a part of my life since day one with my dad graduating from the Class of ’75. I’m able to utilize my passion on a daily basis because I’m a fan, too. Whenever we’re putting out messages and we’re ‘yelling’ in all caps, it’s because we feel that way. I’m not just putting that out to fake emotion. It’s real. And that’s what awesome because there are so many people who work here and graduated from here who feel the same way. Being at the controls of us in our golden years right now, that’s something that I wouldn’t change for the world. It’s my way of giving back to my alma mater in maybe one of the most unique ways possible.”
Naidus: “There’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of pressure, so it’s a little nerve-wracking, but it’s exciting, too, and it has offered me a lot of unique opportunities. Last year we drafted Haason Reddick, and I was sitting at the press conference next to his mother, who was crying because her son realized his dream. In that moment, it’s hard not to get choked up. Being a part of such a special day for people who have worked their whole lives toward something, it’s really cool to be a part of that.”
Share your most memorable behind-the-scenes moment from this year’s draft. DeSalvo: “I think it was riding in the freight elevator with the Griffin family and getting the picture where I said, yup you guys broke twitter. It was just so quiet. Nobody was really talking, and they decided to go through their phones and check social media really quick. I’ve always wanted a picture like that because I was envisioning in my head it would look cool in black and white. Weirdly, two of the top moments of my career have happened in a freight elevator. The other was my first trip to New York City last year and riding in the freight elevator at Madison Square Garden standing next to Johnny Dawkins. I remember thinking to myself, he’s probably ridden in this elevator so many times, and knowing the kind of people who have gone through this elevator. So it came full circle again this weekend. That moment was definitely up there.”
Naidus: “The coolest aspect for me was how quickly and efficiently our social media team produced content. The person that leads our efforts with social media videos, Jesse, was working his first NFL Draft. While this was the second draft for our social graphics guy, Jackson, this was the first time he was responsible for creating the bulk of our graphics for the draft. Over the three days, there is so much information and so much content, it can get overwhelming at times. I thought they handled it incredibly well. Their sense of accomplishment after the last pick was made was a great moment. I thought our entire broadcasting/digital department, which we fall under, churned out great content pieces for various mediums leading up to and during the NFL Draft.”
1. UCF’s Shaquem Griffin ’16 will attend the NFL Draft at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium in Texas on April 26-28, as he looks to join his brother Shaquill ’16 (Seattle Seahawks) in the league. Griffin was featured on Monday’s TODAY show on NBC.
2. The UCF programming team finished first place in North America and 10th worldwide in the Association of Computing Machinery’s International Collegiate Programming Contest held in Beijing. UCF defeated teams from Harvard, MIT and Stanford, among others, en route to earning the program’s highest finish in more than three decades of competition.
3. Renovation of the Reflecting Pond is nearly complete, and the iconic spot on campus is expected to be back in action by April 30. The Reflecting Pond was drained in October after Spirit Splash and has been undergoing an extensive renovation ever since. Pro tip for graduates looking to snap some photos: in order to maintain the pond’s beauty and functionality, please do not throw glitter in the pond.
4. Everyone’s favorite Jeopardy! contestant, UCF sophomore Hannah Sage, finished third in the game show’s College Championship finals, collecting $25,000. Sage received a resounding welcome from fans in Spectrum Stadium at the UCF football team’s Spring Game.
5. Although there are still sports to be played throughout the spring, UCF clinched the War on I4 trophy against rival USF for the second year in a row. The women’s golf team’s runner-up performance at the American Athletic Conference Championship last week sealed the deal, giving the Knights bragging rights for another year. #ChargeOn
1. On March 29, the UCF community — alumni, parents, students and friends — will come together and give generously to the academic or athletic programs most meaningful to them. UCF Day of Giving is the day to support what YOU love about UCF, too.
At UCF we dream BIG, so we’ve set a goal to reach 1,000 donors in 24 hours. Whether you’re a first-time donor or a loyal annual donor, we need your support to achieve this ambitious goal that will help to ensure a strong future for UCF.
2. If you’ve been keeping tabs on Shaquem Griffin ’16 at the NFL Combine, then you’ll know the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Defensive MVP ran away the competition — quite literally. Here’s a recap of Griffin’s record-breaking performance.
3. It’s March, so bring on the madness! Post-season basketball is already in full swing with the women’s basketball team set to face USF in the American Athletic Conference semifinals at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut today at 4:30 p.m. on ESPNU. The winner of the matchup will advance to face either UConn or Cincinnati on Tuesday for the league title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, the UCF men’s basketball team clinched the sixth seed in its conference tournament, which will be held in Orlando at the Amway Center starting Thursday, March 8. The Knights will tip off against ECU at 9 p.m.
If you’re planning on heading to Amway to cheer for the Knights, stop by Ember for a reception from 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by alumni organizations from the American Athletic Conference. This event will offer drink specials, first-come-first-serve appetizers and best of all, is free to attend! UCF fans should register online and check in on site with UCF Alumni for an opportunity to win a special prize pack, including two tickets to the Knights’ opening round game against the Pirates later that night. You can also buy game tickets through UCF.
4. The UCF College of Nursing is accepting nominations for its Outstanding Alumni Awards Program. Through this program, five distinguished alumni and one student will be presented an award at the 2018 UCF Alumni All-Class Nursing Reunion on April 14. Applicants and recipients of these awards have demonstrated remarkable work in the field of nursing in one of six categories: Community Service, Education, Innovation, Mentorship, and/or as an outstanding UCF College of Nursing faculty member, or Senior Noble Knight.The deadline for nominations is Friday, March 16.
5. The UCF Board of Trustees aims to select the university’s president-elect this Friday. Three of the four finalists are on campus this week for their interviews – Matthew Wilson, JD, president of Akron University, was the first to complete his visit on Friday, March 2. Once the trustees makes their selection on March 9, the Florida Board of Governors will vote on the decision March 28 or 29.
1. Black Friday is upon us, and all eyes will be on the War on I4. Fresh off its 10th-straight win, the No. 12 UCF football team and No. 19 USF will not only battle for bragging rights in the rivalry series, but the winner will also move on to face Memphis in the American Athletic Conference Championship game on Dec. 2. UCF Alumni’s Indoor Tailgate will open doors at 12:30 p.m., and the Future Knights Fun Zone will be held in the Dr. Hitt Library of the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center this week.
2. Speaking of football, senior linebacker Shaquem Griffin ’16 is up for the prestigious Senior CLASS Award, and you can help him become the first UCF male student-athlete to win it. Fan voting accounts for one-third of the total award process, and fans can vote once per day. Vote for Shaquem and while you’re at it, read this recent Sports Illustrated feature that is getting a lot of love.
3. For the sixth consecutive year, a computer programming team from UCF has advanced to compete in the top collegiate programming contest in the world, to be held next April in China. Out of the 40,000-plus students and 13,000-plus teams from more than 100 countries that began the competition this year, 128 teams are expected to meet in China to test their programming skills. Way to go, Knights!
4. In case you missed it, National Philanthropy Day took place last week, and we heard directly from Vice President for UCF Advancement and CEO of the UCF Foundation Mike Morsberger about what service and philanthropy means to UCF. You can make a difference again when Giving Tuesday rolls around on Nov. 28.
5. On Monday, the UCF Presidential Search Committee holds its first meeting at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center from 10 a.m.-noon. The search committee meeting is open to the public and will be broadcast live at the UCF Presidential Search website: www.ucf.edu/president-search.
1. Everyone’s favorite honorary UCF cheerleader was on hand Saturday at the Knights’ football game. Julianna Linton, who received a prosthetic arm from Limbitless Solutions this year, was decked out in Black and Gold and joined the UCF spirit team on the sideline in her hometown of Houston. She also met her favorite player UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin after his career day on the field. It’s a story that will give you all the feels. We suggest you check it out. Want more good vibes on to start off your week? Then you must read this.
2. UCF’s College of Medicine is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this Saturday in style with a progressive dinner through the state of the art facility, cocktails, live entertainment and interactive demonstrations by faculty and students. Learn how you can be a part of the special evening.
3. President Barack Obama visited UCF’s campus on Friday. His appearance was just the second time a sitting U.S. president has visited the university. Here’s a rundown of the day, courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel.
4. Ten UCF staff and alumni were named by Orlando Business Journal as the area’s 40 top professionals under 40 years old. Congrats to our #AlumKnights!
5. In case you missed it, kickoff for this Saturday’s rescheduled football game is slated for 5 p.m. Tickets and parking that were purchased for the Oct. 7 scheduled date (postponed due to Hurricane Matthew) will be accepted for the Nov. 5 game. If you are still in need of tickets, you can purchase them here. Of course, we’ll be hosting our UCF Alumni Indoor Tailgate, starting at 2 p.m. #UCFansWear black to the game.
Finally, UCF Alumni wishes everyone a safe and Happy Halloween! PSA: You can have a chance to win every 2016-17 Knighto Bobblehead by submitting your best UCF themed pumpkin on Instagram tonight by midnight. Tag your photo with #UCFcarveon!