2018 NFL Draft: Brought To You By UCF Alumni

Photo of UCF alumni Brandon Naidus and Eric DeSalvo
Brandon Naidus ’12 (left, Arizona Cardinals) and Eric DeSalvo ’09 (right, UCF Knights) are social media managers who covered every big moment of the 2018 NFL Draft.

By Jenna Marina Lee

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.

DeSalvo, who majored in interpersonal/organizational communication within the College of Sciences, is the assistant athletics director for #content within the UCF Athletics brand advancement office.

Naidus, a management alumnus from the Burnett Honors College, is the social media manager for the Arizona Cardinals and previously worked with the Jacksonville Jaguars’ social media department for four years.

Photo of UCF alumni Eric DeSalvo and Brandon Naidus
Eric DeSalvo (left) and Brandon Naidus (right) during ChargeOn Tour

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.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Jan. 18, 2016

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UCF Cheerleading claimed the runner-up position at this weekend’s national championships! (PHOTO: Chris Schubert)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. The UCF Cheerleading squad was the runner-up at this weekend’s College Cheerleading National Championships at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. This was the Knights’ 11th-straight top-four finish. Congratulations to all of these amazing student-athletes! Go Knights! Charge On!
  2. U.S. News & World Report ranked UCF’s online programs as among some of the best in the nation, including the university’s online bachelor’s programs, which jumped from No. 50 last year to No. 20 this year.
  3. Two teams of UCF students are each designing a subsystem for passenger pods, which would be part of a 760 mph “Hyperloop” transportation system proposed by entrepreneur Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla Motors. The system could transport passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in just 30 minutes.
  4. UCF is partnering with LinkedIn to launch a new app focused around students entering the workforce. The app will allow students to network with employers and search for jobs from both LinkedIn- and UCF-specific platforms, such as KnightLink.
  5. Nine-year-old Alvin Garcia Flores is the latest recipient of a 3D-printed bionic arm from UCF’s Limbitless Solutions. Flores was surprised with the “Star Wars”-themed belated Christmas gift on Thursday, when Darth Vader himself presented it to Flores in front of his classmates at Gateway Elementary in Omaha, Neb.

These Guys Know what they Want for Christmas

A group of UCF student-athletes is spreading Christmas cheer with the help of Mariah Carey, some jolly dance moves, and a video that’s making its way around the Internet.

When seven Knights, including four UCF cheerleaders and a former UCF baseball player who met through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, posted the above video to YouTube, they had no idea it would attract more than 20,000 views in less than a week!

“We honestly just wanted to make a fun Christmas video for something to look back at when we have kids one day, and be like, ‘Hey, look, your dad was cool!'” explains UCF junior Joshua Gicker. “We’re all single, so, maybe before it’s over, we could meet our future wives through this!”

Guess you never know! Happy holidays, Knights!

This information was originally published Dec. 10, 2015, by Brigitte Snedeker on KnightNews.com. It has been edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original post.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Aug. 24, 2015

Knightro-Trideck
Entrepreneur James Wurst, ’05 (shaking hands), presented Knightro with a new ride on Friday —
a three-wheeled “skateboard” from his company, Trideck.
(PHOTO: Michael Callahan)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. New projects and construction will greet students, faculty and staff headed back to campus today. They include a Garage C expansion, UCF Health Center expansion, the Carl Black & Gold Cabana, the Wayne Densch Student-Athlete Leadership Center and the Libra Drive expansion.
  2. On Friday, UCF alumnus James Wurst, ’05, presented Knightro with a new ride — a three-wheeled skateboard from his company, Trideck (see photo above).
  3. PBS “NewsHour” premiered a segment on the Direct Connect to UCF program, which is helping more students to graduate, as well as save thousands of dollars for low-income students who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to earn a four-year degree.
  4. UCF marketing lecturer Carolyn Massiah will speak to College of Business alumni in Tampa on Tuesday about protecting their brands in the social media economy.
  5. To help students become excellent doctors with the kind of bedside manner you’d trust your elderly grandmother to, a private foundation provided the College of Medicine with a $116,225 grant that will establish the “Chapman Humanism in Medicine Initiative” at UCF.

UCF Alumni Hosts 2015 Chapter & Club Council

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During the annual AlumKnights of the Roundtable: 2015 Chapter & Club Council, chapter and club chairs were presented with
framed photos of the Reflecting Pond as a token of thanks for all of their hard work and dedication to the UCF Alumni Association.

On Saturday, June 13, following the previous evening’s 8th Annual UCF Jefferson Awards & Alumni Volunteer Reception, nearly 60 regional, college and special interest chapter and club alumni volunteers — from Central Florida and across the nation — attended the UCF Alumni Association’s AlumKnights of the Roundtable: 2015 Chapter & Club Council at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.

The morning began with a keynote address and Q&A by Anthony Jenkins, Ph.D., UCF’s senior associate vice president and dean of students.

Next, alumni staff presented this year’s Chapter & Club Awards, which included:

  • The College Chapter Challenge Award tasked college-based alumni chapters to engage in professional development activities within their chapters that add value to their degrees and make meaningful connections back to the university. This year’s winner hosted an evening to provide alumni with a tool that’s invaluable in the industry in which they work — customer service training, provided by best-selling author Tim Miles. Congratulations to the Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter!
  • The Regional Chapter/Club Challenge Award tasked regional chapters with executing events with a strong university connection — which isn’t always easy when you’re not in Orlando! However, this year’s winner impressed the selection committee by working on events with local businesses in their community, while also working with the UCF regional campus closest to them on their signature event, Starry Knights. Last year, Starry Knights raised more than $6,000 for scholarships and, after this year’s event in July, they will be one step closer to their goal of endowing their chapter’s scholarship. Congratulations to the Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter!
  • The Constituent Chapter Challenge Award tasked special interest chapters with creating opportunities to create meaningful connections with our student population. Chapter volunteers participated as panelists for the 4EVER KNIGHTS Alumni Speaker Series and served as mentors in the 4EK Connect program. Their signature professional development conference, PRO CON, raised $8,000 this year and allowed the chapter to engage with students in various stages of the UCF experience. Congratulations to the UCF Young Alumni Chapter!
  • The Chapter or Club of the Year Award was presented to the overall chapter or club that covered all of the bases in not only event programming, but in communicating with alumni and building meaningful connections. The selection committee was impressed by the winning group, not only for their philanthropic events — participating in multiple events through the year in addition to UCF’s annual day of service, Knights Give Back — but also in the goals they set and how they reached them. They’ve grown their LinkedIn following from just 10 members to nearly 300, while becoming a chapter only two years ago. The judges were thoroughly impressed! Congratulations to the Denver UCF Alumni Chapter!

Chapter and club leaders then participated in breakout sessions on the alumni association’s strategic plan goals of communication, engagement, relevance and funding. After lunch, they continued with roundtable discussions on board management, social media, student engagement, professional development/career-focused events, and partnerships.

Before wrapping up the day-long conference with a catered happy hour and UCF Bookstore merchandise sales, attendees got to meet and participate in a Q&A with Mike Morsberger, the new vice president for alumni relations and development, and CEO of the foundation.

Thank you to all of our dedicated alumni volunteers! Go Knights! Charge On!

VIEW EVENT PHOTO GALLERY

UCF Alumna Crowned First Miss Florida World America 2015

(Photo: Central Florida Future/Courtesy Barón DaParré)
Kailyn Perez, ’13, dancing during the talent portion of a pageant
(Photo: Central Florida Future/Courtesy Barón DaParré)

By Marina Guerges
Central Florida Future

Most shoppers enter a mall to window shop, try on clothing or purchase items. UCF alumna Kailyn Perez, however, received a little more than what she bargained for.

In February 2013, Perez, a UCF student at the time, and her sister entered a Bloomingdale’s with the intention of trying on sunglasses. They instead walked out with a career-changing recommendation for Perez.

Jewelry consultant Peter Morales spotted Perez in the store and immediately complimented her beauty, asking her if she had ever modeled. He then suggested she try out for a beauty pageant, and little did Perez know what she thought was a simple compliment could ultimately lead her to being crowned as the first-ever Miss Florida World America 2015 in April.

Morales, who has been working as a fashion designer for more than 20 years, said when he saw Perez, he knew that “this is a girl who is not going to be overseen.”

He suggested Perez attend a preliminary round for Miss Florida USA, which was being held in Kissimmee, and offered to design her pageant dress because he specializes mostly in beauty pageant gowns and couture dresses.

Although she never thought about entering a beauty pageant, Perez said she didn’t want to miss what could be a great opportunity.

“Kailyn has the ability to communicate through a way of talking and projecting herself that is very unique and very powerful,” Morales said. “Everything she does, she does with a big smile.”

When Perez decided to take part in the pageant, her ambitions, enthusiasm and personality shined through. She eventually won runner-up and gained a new perspective on how she could connect her personal goals to the pageant world.

“Through pageants, I realized I can reach people and have an influence in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise,” she said. “I have that drive to make a change in my community and be able to spread a message of positivity to young women and to people in general.”

Although she didn’t win Miss Florida USA, she realized how inspired she became while experiencing the pageant world.

Last March, with the help of Morales, Perez decided to apply to a newly formed pageant, Miss Florida World America 2015.

She used her innate flair in public speaking, her personal experiences and her dance background to showcase her talent and make her way to the top.

Growing up in a single-parent household, Perez gained a special appreciation for her family.

“I have the most amazing mom and family in the whole world,” Perez said. “I couldn’t imagine not having that kind of support in my life. I couldn’t imagine that for children.”

Working with organizations such as A Kid’s Place and the Faine House, Perez focuses her platform on foster youth and providing homes, education and life-long skills to children in need.

The Tampa native started at UCF in 2010, majoring in political science, while also working as a freelance model.

During her time at UCF, Perez was involved in the Student Government Association, taking on the roles of senate representative and chair of the Elections and Appointments Committee.

With the dedication toward different outlets in college, Perez was unsure about the path she would take after graduation.

After graduating in December 2013, Perez was accepted to law schools in and out of state, but decided she wanted to model full time and pursue a business endeavour. She will, however, go back to that dream as she pursues a corporate and Internet law degree at Stetson University this fall.

“If you have a goal or dream, and you’re not sure exactly the plan, take advantage of every opportunity, especially at UCF.”

In the intermin, Perez has launched a start-up company called Sociover, which focuses on teaching proper social media etiquette and offers services that can revamp social sites.

“Through pageants, I realized what a source social media is,” she said. “I use it to promote my platform and my personal brand.”

While continuing to work on her company and modeling, Perez plans on fulfilling more accomplishments in the pageant world. On July 3, she will compete against 50 other young women in Washington, D.C., for the chance to be crowned Miss World America 2015. The winner will represent the country at the esteemed Miss World 2015 pageant.

“I hope I can represent Florida well,” Perez said. “I hope I can represent our school in the best way possible.”

While some students go into college without the vision of what their career path will look like, Perez says it’s important to soak in every opportunity that is presented.

“If you have a goal or dream, and you’re not sure exactly the plan, take advantage of every opportunity, especially at UCF,” Perez said. “As long as there is some kind of good that can come from it, go for it because you never know where the opportunity can lead you to one day.”

This article appeared in the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited for style. See original story.

Oviedo Native Makes UCF Baseball Team after Helping Alumna Mom Battle through Breast Cancer

SamBates+Mom

By UCF Athletics

She calls it the “scream heard around the world.”

UCF led 17-2 against Presbyterian on March 22, when the Knights’ No. 12 came up to the plate as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning. Big picture, this one at-bat would go down as a 10-word blip toward the end of the game story.

But for the Bates family, this moment was six months in the making.

After Oviedo native Sam Bates gave up his guaranteed spot offering from a Division II baseball team to stay at home and help care for his mother through chemotherapy and radiation treatments for breast cancer, he successfully walked on to UCF’s nationally ranked squad.

Now, here he was with a chance to register his first career hit with the Knights.

First pitch: Ball. Next two: Fouled off. Organ music pumped over the loud speaker. Then came an off-speed pitch and the ping of ball meeting bat. After that, the sound of his mother’s high-pitched “Aaahhh!” was followed by a giddy laugh as Sam dashed down the line safely to first base.

“It’s just so nice to finally see when you work so hard for something that sometimes it happens,” Mary Lou Bates said, while trying to hold back tears. “And, it happened for him.”

Mary Lou Bates and her husband, Chris, met at a local church as high schoolers. They both attended UCF — she was an education major, he, computer science — and married six weeks after graduation. The couple settled into a housing development called Stillwater, just two miles from the heart of UCF’s campus.

Their son Danny arrived first, and five years later came Sam. Like any little brother, Sam wanted to do what his big brother did. That meant baseball.

Sam started as a 4 year old with his father as the head coach of his Little League team. The family members were regulars in the stands at UCF cheering for the black and gold during the next decade of Sam’s life.

“He was the kid that was running the bases afterwards. He was the kid holding up his baseball trying to get it signed. He was that kid,” his mother said. “Baseball has always been his passion.”

While Sam always dreamed of attending UCF, he thought he had a better chance to continue playing baseball at a smaller program after he graduated from Hagerty High School. So he headed to Daytona State College, where he was a starter for two years and was named the 2014 Baseball Student-Athlete of the Year.

Around the time Sam was looking into schools following his junior college stint, doctors informed Mary Lou that she had a small, malignant tumor in her breast.

“It seemed like every test I had,” she said, “more bad news would come.”

An MRI showed another tumor on the other side of the same breast. It also revealed that cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.

Her original course of action — a lumpectomy and six weeks of radiation — now turned into a double mastectomy, radiation and five months of chemotherapy along with a five-year maintenance drug.

Sam turned down a guaranteed spot with Florida Tech’s program and decided to stay home to help with his mother’s treatment.

“I was hoping he wasn’t doing it just for me. He was,” she said. “Of course, I felt badly about that, but it was his decision. We kept asking him, `Are you sure you want to do this?’ He said, `You know I’ve always wanted to go to UCF.'”

So, he stayed by her side, supplying the fix of her new addiction, Coca-Cola Slurpees, and preparing meals for her. When she decided to go to Eden Spa at Florida Hospital to have her head shaved, Sam and his friends shaved their heads in support.

Between her husband and two sons’ shifts, Mary Lou was never alone.

“Seeing her go through chemo was tough, but she was a warrior about it. She kept me going,” Sam said of the walk-on process. “You don’t know. Am I going to get cut today? Should I just quit? And seeing her not quit chemo really helped me out.”

Sam started classes in fall 2014 and, after earning a spot with the club baseball team, attended walk-on tryouts for UCF Baseball on Sept. 15. Five ground balls, 10 swings and a 60-yard dash.

“There was a lot of pressure on those five ground balls and those 10 swings,” he said.

Head Coach Terry Rooney said Sam’s qualities as an infielder, a left-handed hitter and an experienced player thanks to his junior college years are what initially caught the staff’s attention. A day later, they called Sam while he was at home to tell him they wanted him to stick around for further evaluation.

Sam’s spot on the team wasn’t official — it would be another 135 days until that happened — but for now, he had made the cut.

Sam went into his parents’ room where he found his mother in her walk-in closet. She started to cry when he told her his news and enveloped him into a hug. He said it was the happiest he had seen her in the previous three months.

Rooney said as the weeks went on, the coaching staff was taken by Sam’s love of the game, his work ethic and infectious positive attitude.

“You could just tell that not only was he a good player, but he loved being around the guys and being a part of UCF baseball,” Rooney said. “That was something that was really important [to us].”

The coaching staff and team didn’t learn until Jan. 29, along with the rest of the world via Twitter, of the Bates’ saga:

“In the last 8 months my mom has found out she had cancer, has had 3 surgeries and 16 chemo sessions and now I get to go home and tell her I’m a UCF baseball player! Nothing beats that feeling!”

By Sam’s standards, the tweet went viral, with 58 retweets and another 179 favorites.

His parents attend games rain or shine. Sam leaves tickets for his older brother — also a UCF alumnus — at will call every night. His father, who works on Research Parkway, drives through campus every day right by the baseball stadium where his son now plays for the hometown team.

The ball Sam hit is stashed in his room. (Although the ball stayed in play immediately after Sam’s base hit, senior JoMarcos Woods was able to keep an eye on it until he could snatch it up and hand it to his teammate.)

Sam describes the past several months as a dream come true. Sam’s family and friends are overjoyed that he suits up for not only their favorite team, but a team that reached its highest national ranking in school history this season.

The experience reaffirms to him that his faith helped him to never lose sight of his path.

“This is where I’m supposed to be right now in this moment. I know it. I can feel it,” Sam said. “And, maybe my mom getting cancer in some weird way down the road led me to my dream. And, her dream was for me to follow my dreams. It’s just cool how all that stuff works out.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — May 4, 2015

EdSheeran2
Ed Sheeran rocked the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center on Monday.
(Photo courtesy of Briana Morrison)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran hosted a master music class and performed an intimate, acoustic set for about 300 lucky UCF students on Monday, May 4, thanks to the university winning the #EdOnCampus social media contest. The contest’s organizer, Chegg, also presented the UCF Department of Music with a $10,000 grant as part of the win.
  2. On Thursday, Andrew Kirk will be the first graduate of UCF’s new Bachelor of Science in Photonic Science and Engineering program. The degree enables students to analyze and design optical and laser systems for a broad set of applications. And, on Saturday morning, May 9, UCF’s 250,000th graduate will cross the stage during one of six commencement ceremonies at the CFE Arena. Learn more about some of this semester’s graduation stories.
  3. The annual Leadercast conference returns to UCF on Friday, May 8, with headliners that include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Navy Seal Cmdr. Rorke Denver and Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, among others. The live broadcast from Atlanta will be hosted locally for viewing by UCF’s Human Resources office at the Live Oak Center on the main campus.
  4. The UCF Downtown Leadership Team has proposed a list of academic programs that could relocate to the new downtown campus over a period of time. State funding has yet to be decided.
  5. The Baltimore Ravens selected UCF Wide Receiver Breshad Perriman as the No. 26 pick in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft over the weekend. Safety Clayton Geathers was also drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the fourth round. In addition, four players signed NFL contracts as free agents: Linebacker Terrance Plummer (Washington Redskins), Tight End Justin Tukes (Philadelphia Eagles), Wide Receiver Rannell Hall (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Offensive Line Torrian Wilson (Detroit Lions). Go Knights!

GRAMMY-nominated Artist Ed Sheeran Visits UCF for Exclusive Behind-the-Mic Music Session

Ed Sheeran presented a check for $10,000 from Chegg to UCF Department of Music faculty (left to right) Jeff Moore, director; and Dave Schreier, assistant director of bands. The money will be used to fund music student scholarships. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Huie)
Ed Sheeran presented a $10,000 check from Chegg to (left to right) Jeff Moore, director of the UCF Department of Music;
Tina Fleming, marketing assistant for the UCF School of Performing Arts; and Dave Schreier, assistant director of bands for the
UCF Department of Music. The money will be used to fund music student scholarships.
(Photo courtesy of Nicole Huie)

By Angie Lewis, ’03

Hundreds of students lined up outside the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center on Monday, May 4, for an intimate performance by GRAMMY-nominated artist Ed Sheeran. This special event was made possible thanks to Chegg’s #EdOnCampus social media contest, which UCF won in March, giving 300 lucky students an exclusive music class with the superstar, as well as a $10,000 grant for the UCF Department of Music.

The contest launched in late January and was open to all college and high school campuses across the nation. In just one month, more than 225,000 votes were cast by students representing more than 8,000 schools, generating 65 million social media impressions.

During his Music 101 class, “Professor” Sheeran performed acoustic versions of his hits “Don’t,” “I See Fire” and “Thinking Out Loud” in between answering students’ questions — everything from his favorite song he’s ever written (“the newest because it’s the most fresh”), to his dream collaboration (“Beyoncé,” with whom he got to perform at a Stevie Wonder tribute in February), to his advice on getting over stage fright (“just do it”). One student even asked him for a date, to which he immediately replied, “Where do you want to go?”

It was an unforgettable afternoon for all of the students who got to attend, and a great day for the UCF music program.

(Photo courtesy of Bianca Sabrkhani, '08)
Ed Sheeran played three songs on acoustic guitar during an exclusive performance and Q&A session for 300 UCF students.
(Photo courtesy of Bianca Sabrkhani, ’08)

More Info

See the social media response, with more photos and videos of Ed Sheeran’s visit to UCF: Twitter | Instagram

Ed Sheeran is a six-time-GRAMMY-nominated, multi-platinum singer/songwriter. At 24 years old, the British-born artist has seen his latest album, “x” (pronounced multiply), go to No. 1 in 14 countries, including the U.S. and his native, U.K., where it was both the biggest- and fastest-selling album of 2014. “x,” which features back-to-back platinum hits “Sing” and “Don’t,” as well as the current single, “Thinking Out Loud,” was nominated for Album of the Year at the 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards and won Best British Album at the 2015 BRIT Awards. This summer, he’ll perform for three sold-out nights at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — April 6, 2015

UCF-Celebrates-the-Arts-2015
Click on the image to watch the YouTube video.

Here are five things you need to know this week:

  1. A UCF scientist developed a $1 prostate screening test that’s more accurate than the standard PSA test currently being used for early-stage detection.
  2. On Wednesday, alumni and students will take over Tallahassee for the annual UCF Day at the Capital, where Knights Advocates and SGA will meet with our lawmakers to discuss UCF’s legislative priorities and ask for their support.
  3. Aerospace engineering graduate Matt Harrison, ’13, established a leadership scholarship in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. “My goal is to not only give back, but also to inspire others to see their full potential,” he says.
  4. UCF Celebrates the Arts is a free, seven-day festival celebrating Central Florida’s performing and visual arts. It takes place April 10-15 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and will showcase UCF theatre, dance, film, and more.
  5. Starting Wednesday, members of the 2015 senior class will take part in #MyUCFStory on Instagram — a photo challenge started by the alumni association to increase social interaction with our newest alumni to be! Click on the hashtag above to follow along!