"Let the light that shines in you be brighter than the light that shines on you." - Dabo Swinney
For women, changing the landscape of American football has been a difficult task. Although we have made strides in officiating, coaching, front office staff and management in football, this is still a heavily male-dominated industry. Many times, women have an uphill battle just to get their foot in the door let alone have a seat at the decision-making table. Now with more awareness and opportunity, a new wave of females who are strong, confident, and dynamic remain ready to break barriers in America’s beloved game of football.
Meet Jessica Jefferson. A dynamic young woman that has made it her business to continue redefining the norms for women who work in sports. Thriving in this male-dominated boys club is tough, but game changers like Jessica have grown accustomed to breaking barriers and encompassing greatness. As we sat down over coffee, she shared her secrets to success and how she stays driven throughout adversity.
DS: What was your “ah ha moment?” This can be categorized as a time when you felt you realized your purpose or a moment where you realized that you could make a living pursuing your passion and purpose.
JJ: I remember this moment so well. I was sitting in history class at Clemson University, disengaged and uninterested in the subject matter. This was a common theme for me during this time in my classes. However, my interest and passion were working in the Clemson football office. During that time the coaching staff was reinventing the program into the Championship powerhouse that it is now. While working for the phenomenal and innovative Coach Elliott, I learned about recruiting and the general business of football. He would teach me little things here and there but mainly he was teaching me life lessons through the game of football. I remember, while in the office, he would get on me about making sure that I was doing my homework so I could graduate and not just work on football. During this time, I felt connected and truly passionate about this job and I wanted to pursue this life wholeheartedly. Football became my family. It became a safe haven, a space where I knew I could thrive and grow as a woman and as a professional.
DS: Your advice to young people (especially women) aspiring to achieve similar career goals as yourself? Words of wisdom to individuals that want to break barriers and achieve things that others could never fathom?
JJ: My advice to anyone pursuing their passion is to never give up on their dreams. Fight for them, daily. Never doubt yourself. Trust God. Continue to pray bold prayers and lean on God through every season. Especially during times of transition because His joy and love fills and sustains you. Many times, throughout my career I have had to walk into situations solely with a leap of faith. These are the moments that made me the strongest. Moments where I was uncomfortable, God was challenging me to grow and use my circumstances to push me into my destiny. Nothing great is ever birthed from a comfort zone.
DS: What are the most pressing goals and challenges facing a dynamic and intelligent leader like yourself?
JJ: Most of the challenges I face and have dealt with throughout my career arise from dealing with the insecurities of others. Many individuals are intimidated by a woman who is smart, intelligent and passionate. Many times I have been undermined, underestimated, and talk down to because I’m “too young to understand” or “too cute to work too hard.” This is sometimes frustrating because I thrive off of working hard and doing my best. Another challenge I face is not getting a job because I’m too young, too attractive and not worth the risk even though I’m more than qualified for a certain position. Granted that’s not the case for all jobs but that has been the case for some which has been my motivation to WIN. I cannot shrink because others are intimidated by my greatness and willingness to work hard.
DS: What is your ultimate goal as a trailblazing woman in the sports industry?
JJ: My goal is to become the Beyoncé of College Football Recruiting. When I think of this virtuoso performer, she has it all. She has phenomenal stage presence, she is a great mother, wife, sister, and friend. That’s something I truly admire. Being a boss in every aspect of your life. Professionally - you see her fierceness, her boldness, her greatness. She was never afraid to put in the work to obtain her level of perfection and she will be remembered as one of the greatest performers of our time. Those qualities of hard work, dedication and relentless pursuit of passion, transcend any field and are great characteristics to have. In every position that I hold in football, I want to be the best! I want other young women to benefit from the path that I have created. I want my work to transcend time and make it the norm for women to hold powerful roles in the sports industry.
DS: How do you define what it means to leave a legacy?
JJ: Leaving a legacy means creating opportunities for others to succeed. It also means making my Granddaddy proud by following my wildest dreams. At Clemson, Coach Swinney said that “the best is the standard” and I want my legacy to be the best representation of myself-bold, great and fierce.
For more inspiration from Jessica, follow her via social @JJTHATGREAT1
Edited by: Joy Davis