By Aaron Tyson
January 15, 2018
" Right now I can say without a shadow of a doubt that my purpose in life is to help others identify, craft, and execute a game plan for success."
Daron, in his early years, ultimate goal was to immerse himself in the political arena. During his time at Harvard, he served as a volunteer coach at a football camp that altered the vision he had for his life. Fast forwad 169 letters to NFL coaches later, he finds himself rejecting an offer to work for a law firm and accepting a position with the Kansas City Chiefs. His journey through the NFL includes stints with the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns. In an interview with Daron we learn how he progessed against societies norms and carved out his own path to success.
Take us back to your early aspirations — What inspired you to get involved with politics initially?
Daron: I grew up in a family that was very in tune with government. My dad was a Baptist minister and my mom was an elementary school principal. We always talked about politics, government, and how decisions were made in Washington, D.C., Austin (Texas), Mt. Pleasant (Texas), which is my hometown, affected our daily lives. So I was intrigued by politics, watched it unfold both in print and television. I was enamored with it and chose it as one of my destinations that I wanted to go into.
You graduate from the University of Texas and then enroll into Harvard University. At this point in your life did you believe you were walking in your purpose?
Daron: Absolutely. After leaving the University of Texas, my first job was working with Senator Joe Lieberman in Washington, D.C. Loved that experience. I had applied to Harvard Law School and had been wait listed. So I was trying to find ways to make my application more compelling. I went to the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, was there for two years and finally on my forth attempt I got accepted into Harvard Law School. I felt like I was walking in my purpose. I thought that Harvard Law was a necessary step in my own view of life. A Harvard Law degree, combined with a University of Texas undergraduate degree would put me in a position to become Governor of Texas.
Who were some of your change agents when you made the decision to pursue a career as a NFL coach after graduating Harvard Law? Who guided you through that transition?
Daron: To be honest with you, I had a good friend named Alfonso Longoria, who was a high school coach. He helped me strategize on how to write letters and how to talk to coaches. David Wilkins, who was my professional responsibility professor at the University of Texas, he encouraged me to really pursue my dream. He said, "don’t worry about your friends who are going to work for big firms, or going to clerk for judges, you follow your passion and go into coaching".
What do you tell millennials who are “chasing their dreams”, instead of pursuing a traditional job?
Daron: Here is my viewpoint on life. Most people don’t find their purpose, if they find it, this happens in their mid- thirties. I tell students now that I teach on a daily basis, view your 18-30 year life as a Chinese buffet period of your life. You’re going to pay a little bit of money, you’re going to pile your plate up with all different kinds of dishes, some general tso’s chicken, some moo goo gai pan, orange chicken, and egg rolls. After you have that first plate you’re going to decide, “hmm I really like these three things”. Go back and get a little more of that to see if it is as good as you think it is. This is the time for students to taste test and experiment. This is not the time to focus. This is not the time to niche down. This is not the time to narrow ones options. I tell students, if you’re a business student you should go work for non-profits during the summer, if you’re an education major you should go work for an investment bank, or a start-up. Get an experience outside of what you think you would do, it will only make you a more well-rounded person.
" This is the time for students to taste test and experiment. This is not the time to focus. This is not the time to niche down. "
During your time as an NFL coach, what was the most transferable skill set you took with you?
Daron: Crisis management. Everyday in the NFL there is a crisis. There is something that could tip the scale. So knowing how to identify what crises are, strategize ways to limit the destruction and the downside, but also leverage those as opportunities was the number one thing I took away from my time as a coach in the NFL.
Now you’re the Founding Director of the Center for Sports Leadership & Innovation. Just started a new partnership with Kevin Durant. What’s the vision for the CSLI in 2018?
Daron: CSLI (Center for Sports Leadership & Innovation) educates the majority of student-athletes that come to the University of Texas at Austin. We are focusing our efforts on devising and creating tools that will help student-athletes become better at financial literacy. We are really building out tools that will help student-athletes to manage their finances better and to live lives where poor spending decisions do not hamper them.
You have referred to Steve Job's commencement speech at Stanford University where he say's, "you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect the dots looking backwards". Looking back on all of your success do the dots connect?
Daron: You know what I tell people? The dots always connect. The fallacy is that we think it has to be a straight line. So when I look back from my life trajectory, from Mt. Pleasant, Texas, to the University of Texas, to working in the Senate, going to the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, going to Harvard Law School, coaching for three NFL teams, coaching for college teams, and now at the University of Texas. They always connected because I see the thread for me has been teaching and helping people to become better versions of themselves. Right now I can say with out a shadow of a doubt that my purpose in life is to help identify, craft, and execute a game plan for success. That is what I am here on earth to do and all of the opportunities that come my way are filtered through that purpose.
Aaron Tyson currently works with VCG SPORTS aiding current and former collegiate/professional athletes with their career transition. Prior to VCG SPORTS, Aaron worked with organizations such as the NFL League Office, New York Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, MEAC Conference Office, and the Philadelphia Soul.