It started with a communication from Pat Narduzzi.
His objective? To help players set themselves up for success after leaving the Pitt football program and, in particular, during a difficult time to enter the job market. After all, for every Paris Ford, Jaylen Twyman and Patrick Jones II -- players with professional playing careers in their future -- are handfuls of athletes whose football days likely are over when they leave.
That's where Jeremy Darlow enters the picture. His goal is to help student-athletes after "they take the jersey off."
So what does Darlow do? Well, he makes his living helping athletes and celebrities build their brand in the days after the NCAA ruled student-athletes could profit off their image. We're talking beyond the world of Instagram, Tik Tok and Twitter, though social media platforms certainly can provide a big assist. A leading expert in brand marketing, Darlow began his partnership with Pitt football in late May and his client list seemingly grows by the day.
Pitt Football x @JeremyDarlow
Proud to announce that the Panthers have partnered with branding expert and best-selling author Jeremy Darlow.
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) May 26, 2020
Marketing consultant and author Jeremy Darlow has developed a personal branding strategy to help what he calls "the other 99 percent" of college football players across America. https://t.co/EYDMGCf7QK
— WVU Football (@WVUfootball) May 7, 2020
West Virginia and Georgia Tech football and Wisconsin volleyball are just a few of the programs to partner with Darlow as a brand consultant in recent weeks. Count Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas A&M and UCLA among those who use his services.
But his client lists extends beyond college athletics. The former director of marketing for adidas football, baseball, hockey, lacrosse, tennis and volleyball has worked with rappers Snoop Dogg and Kanye West, soccer star Lionel Messi and former NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. He authored "Brands Win Championships" and "Athletes Are Brands Too."
So why Pitt?
"So Pat reached out a couple weeks back. His whole focus was trying to figure out how to help these kids and set them up for success under the circumstances," Darlow said recently on a video conference call. "Obviously, it's going to be a tough market out there in terms of finding jobs post graduation, and he was very much concerned with how do we keep these kids on a trajectory that we want them on? You know, how do we make sure that they're set up for life after sports. So he reached out to me, and, you know, it took about five minutes for me to realize his mission was very much aligned with mine."
That mission? Helping Pitt's student athletes for the long haul. Darlow, a self-described die-hard sports fan, doesn't want to just set them up for immediate success, his plan is to have sustained success.
"At Pitt, the young men in our program are far more than just football players. They are students, leaders, citizens and future professionals who will make their mark on the world in many different ways," Narduzzi said. "We want to equip our student-athletes with skills and knowledge that will serve them for the rest of their lives."
That's where the Darlow Rules, an online course dedicated to showing college student-athletes how to develop and grow their personal brands, enters Pitt's picture.
The course is broken into short weekly segments because Darlow, an Oregon State graduate, knows time demands on student-athletes can be considerable. Pitt players will be asked to work on a plan, to think about where they want to be in 10 years and how do they plan to get there.
There are three phases: situation analysis, building a personal strategy and bringing the strategy to life. Darlow said the final phase is when the fun begins -- the time when Twitter and Instagram come in handy.
"Everything that I've put together is easy to consume. It's short and snackable," Darlow said. "Every lesson that I put together is less than four minutes long. So I don't care how busy you are. I don't care how many practices coach asks you to go through. Every single person can care out four minutes a day, four minutes a week, to learn and grow.
An advantage Pitt holds over many of Darlow's partners is its Cathy and John Pelusi Life Skills Program, which helps student-athletes with career development counseling, graduate school preparation, community service initiatives, financial education and various leadership and personal development activities.
Darlow said a big reason why he was attracted to Pitt was its life skills program is the largest in the NCAA.
"They're very much concerned with the well-being of the athletes," Darlow said. "I'm going to work with them hand in hand throughout the process."
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