From Dominating NFL Front Offices to Everyday Life: Michael Huyghue has Been a Pioneer in the Sports Industry


    VCG Sports Communications: Aaron Randolph


    Former NFL General Manager, Michael Huyghue utilized his talents and thirst for competition in sports to dominate all areas of his life. Huyghue participated in multiple sports growing up in Windsor, Connecticut. He did not play sports in hopes of playing on the professional level, but to use sports as a launching pad to reach his career aspirations.


    Sports gave him a sense of confidence that enabled him to navigate his way through the competitive business side of the sports industry. Huyghue is a lawyer, businessman, and former Commissioner of the United Football League. Within the last 30 years, Huyghue has been one of the most prominent and well respected figures in the sports industry.


    Michael Huyghue grew up in a suburban community in Windsor, Connecticut where he attended Windsor High School. While in high school, he took on a role as a contributing sports writer for the school newspaper. In addition to his responsibilities with the school newspaper, Huyghue was also a four sport athlete. After graduating from Windsor High School, Huyghue went on to enroll into Cornell University where he majored in Communications and was a member of Cornell’s baseball and football team.  


    After graduating from Cornell University, Huyghue went on to earn a law degree from the University of Michigan. During our interview, Huyghue discussed why he decided to pursue a career in law.


    “Many of the people in the sports industry had law degrees. I always had the confidence and belief in myself to get a law degree, but I wanted to make sure I had the tools and talent to support that. Getting a law degree from one of the top schools in the country to me was another step in building my arsenal so when I stepped on that stage to compete I had all of the ingredients.”


    After graduating law school, Huyghue was hired by the NFL Players Association as a Legal Assistant. Huyghue would rise to stardom in the sports industry in 1994 when he was hired by the Jacksonville Jaguars to run their Football Operations Department. His first hire was Head Coach Tom Coughlin who led the franchise to two AFC Championship games. Huyghue served in his position until the conclusion of the 2001 season. He held other major roles with the NFL such as: Management Council Executive Committee, College Advisory Committee, and Senior Member of the Committee on Minority Hiring.

    Huyghue discussed why he believed it was important for African-Americans and minorities to see someone like him in a front-office position in the NFL.


    “It was exciting because we were building something new. I was able to put my thumbprint on how we did it, the direction we went and how brought the players in. I enjoyed putting out of the fires that people usually look at as a negative. At the core of it, the relationship with the players was important. The players trusted and believed in me and that made it such a great organization.”


    As Huyghue had success in the NFL, he also succeeded in another upcoming football league. Huyghue was Commissioner of the United Football League (UFL) and was able to bring a franchise to Hartford, Connecticut: The Hartford Colonials.


    In 2001, Huyghue founded a Sports and Entertainment Agency, Axcess Sports & Entertainment. His agency has represented or partnered with plenty of big names from Magic Johnson, Vince Wilfork, and Snoop Dogg.


    Huyghue released his book, Behind The Line Of Scrimmage: Inside The Front Office Of The NFL in late August. The book details his experiences as one of the first African-American and one of the youngest executives in professional football.


    “The book was an opportunity to really give some insight into what that challenge is for people who look like us to be successful and the obstacles we may face. Using the NFL as an example of an entity where the playing field may look one color, the management and leadership looks another and how we could effect change in those types of environments not just in the NFL but in corporate America. The book was a way for others to gain insight and help them in career planning.”


    Huyghue offered advice to former and current athletes on what they should do after they are finished with their careers.


    “You have to find what it is in life that motivates you the most and gives you the most satisfaction. It can’t just be earning money because playing football has a limited time to it. You have to think about the things that will motivate you, challenge you, and drive you and pursue those things.”


    Huyghue discussed his advice for aspiring front office executives. “We have to have other people in positions speak out. We have to hold leagues and organizations accountable when they miss the mark on diversity. Diversity doesn’t happen when you whisper it happens when you shout. We have to work hard and get others to agree that we have to provide quality on and off the field.”


    As for plans in the future, Huyghue is working on various projects. He has some book projects he’s working on along with continuing to teach law at Cornell University. He is also actively involved in his community as well. He is Board Chair of the Boys & Girls Club in his home state of Florida.


    Huyghue created a path for other African-Americans to follow. Huyghue showed you can be more than just a player. You can create a league and also lead a franchise. Huyghue has made amazing strides in the sports industry. He’s taken his talents, lessons, and experiences on the field and has translated that to Corporate America. He’s displayed that with the right amount of self-belief and confidence you can accomplish anything.


    About Aaron Randolph, Contributing Sports Writer 

    Aaron Randolph was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia. He is a recent Class of 2018 Media Studies and Production graduate from Temple University. Aaron has always had a passion for media and sports production, as well as film production.  He is currently an intern for Fox 29 News and producer for a media company called MyNewPhilly. As he progresses throughout his career, he hopes to build a community center for at risk youth and women who have been victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. 


    Twitter: @ForeverAcee

    Instagram: @iamaaronr


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