Promising Pathways for the NFL Experienceship Program's Sidney Brown '23

Promising Pathways for the NFL Experienceship Program's Sidney Brown '23

Launched in 2016 as part of the "Strength of HBCUs initiative," the NFL Experienceship program has engaged over 3000 students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Focused on empowering students in career development, exposure, and networking, the program includes initiatives like Campus Connection, NFL + HBCU Open House, HBCU Battle of the Brains, and the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline. 

The NFL Experienceship connects college students exploring sports and entertainment careers to the industry through training and shadowing. With only 32 spots available, HBCU students and recent graduates gain invaluable insights by networking and learning from NFL leadership across various departments. 

Bethune-Cookman University alumnus Sidney Brown, who aspires to be a sports broadcaster, secured one of these coveted spots. We recently interviewed Brown to learn more about how his B-CU experience prepared him for the NFL Experienceship program. Here's what he said.

B-CU: Where are you from originally, and how did you decide to go to an HBCU? 

Sidney: I'm originally from Hendersonville, North Carolina, where there are no HBCUs nearby. However, I did grow up in a very "HBCU" type environment. Growing up around very successful HBCU graduates, I just wanted to follow in their footsteps. 

B-CU: How did you decide to attend Bethune-Cookman University? 

Sidney: When looking at Bethune-Cookman University, you can't ignore the greatness of Mary McLeod Bethune. She founded this great institution. I remember going to the Florida Classic [during] my freshman year of high school, and I remember how much the marching Wildcats stood out, and the school had nice colors. I knew then that I wanted to be in this band when I graduated high school. I did [it] for four years, and it was an experience that I am grateful for. 

B-CU: Being a member of the Bethune-Cookman Marching Band, "The Pride," and balancing academics is no easy feat. You successfully balanced school, the band, and also career networking activities. How did you do it? 

Sidney: I balanced it all with lots of discipline, making sure that I limited my distractions. I don't think that was hard for me to do; I just set a goal and accomplished it. You have to be willing to do the work that others aren't willing to do. It takes saying no to a lot of things because they would take away from school. I didn't have time for things that were not helping me grow or leading me to a successful future. Time is valuable, and being in activities, and balancing school, I [had] to keep in mind that whatever time I have to use. [G]otta' use it wisely. 

B-CU: Firstly, we want to congratulate you on your acceptance into the NFL Experienceship Program. How did you learn about the program, and what made you stand out as an applicant?

Sidney: I first learned about the NFL Experienceship program back in 2021. I had two close friends [who] had been accepted. I figured, at the time, that next year was going to be my senior year, and it made sense to apply for the 2022 cohort. When I didn't get accepted, I thought that I had missed my opportunity. Then, in October 2023, I happened to look at the application and saw that they were accepting recent grads. So I tried again. I was promoted to the second round, and my transparency in my interview, as well as having a broad knowledge of the sports industry helped me stand out as an applicant. 

B-CU: You've participated in several programs and internships thus far. What makes this one special? 

Sidney: This particular program is very special to me because I get to represent Bethune-Cookman University, my alma mater, in a billion-dollar industry that everyone watches. Nobody can ignore how great the NFL is, and being able to attach Bethune-Cookman University's name to it is very special to me. I definitely don't take it for granted. This internship is tied with the Torch Leadership Basketball Program as my favorite internship. What's cool is that when I found out that I was accepted to the NFL Experienceship program, I was at a Torch Leadership banquet. [I]t is cool because it was the first ever professional sports organization that I've worked with. So, being able to celebrate the end of my first internship with the beginning of my current one was great!

Promising Pathways for the NFL Experienceship Program's Sidney Brown '23

B-CU: What challenges did you experience in your previous internships, and how did they prepare you for this internship?

Sidney: The main challenge that I really had was trying to stand out. When thinking about how to stand out, it's like carrying a weight on your shoulders in a good way because you're thinking, you know, I'm representing Bethune-Cookman University, I'm representing my HBCU. I've been fortunate enough to get into these rooms that a lot of people that look like me have not been able to get into. So, I think that this is my opportunity to be able to make a name for myself as well as make a name for Behtune-Cookman and other HBCUs to pave the way for people [who] want to come behind me. 

B-CU: The NFL Experienceship is open to thousands of HBCUs, but only 32 people are selected. What did you do to stand out?

Sidney: I realized that you have to be willing to network and meet different CEOs and make sure that you're networking both laterally and horizontally. Just knowing how to make the right connections, being in the right place at the right times is so important. And sometimes even that can be a challenge because you don't know when the right time will be, so you have to always stay ready. Always listening and always being aware of your surroundings. Once you learn to" read the room," everything else you're able to find more success when you know how to conduct yourself and be as efficient as possible. 

B-CU: What are you looking forward to as you begin the NFL HBCU Expereinceship program?

Sidney: Connecting with other HBCU selectees that were involved in this process. There were 32 of us that were selected and we're split into groups of eight to present a group project for the NFL.

B-CU: Have you been able to connect with your group yet?

Sidney: Yes, and I just wanna say that I have the best group. We've already connected a couple of times, already. We've talked about the Lord, we've talked about so many different things, and we have a natural, great connection. We have students from Clark[-Atlanta University], Southern [University and A&M College], North Carolina [A&T State University], Morehouse [College], and some other schools involved as well. And I'm really, really excited to continue to get to know them and continue to network with them and grow together as a family. 

B-CU: What advice would you give current Bethune-Cookman University students who want to chase after their dreams but need help knowing where to start or who fear beginning their journey of dream-chasing?

Sidney: I want them to think about it this way, a realistic view. You can't drive a car forward if you're parked, in neutral, or [in] reverse. So when you really think about it, first of all, you need to go head first into whatever you're doing. Your mindset has to be like, I need to floor it. Because you already know that there are gonna be some obstacles that come your way, but despite it, whatever you're going to have to do, you either have to go through it, above it, you can go around it, you can go under it, or you can move it. But that's how it is. And don't ever be closed off to trying different opportunities or accepting help.

B-CU: Is there anyone else you would like to thank or mention who helped you reach this point? 

Sidney: Absolutely. First, I have to give honor to God, my Lord and Savior; I really wouldn't be here without him. I also have to give credit to my father, Earl Brown. He definitely played a huge role in my success. I also wouldn't be here without my professors: Ms. Clements, Mr. Shaw, Mr. Walker, and Ms. Whitney. I also want to give a huge shout to Mr. Harold Ford, the operations manager at WELE. And finally, thanks to CateyeNetwork, particularly Eugene Robinson IV and Neilani-Seville Russ. And I'm very, very grateful to be a graduate of Bethune-Cookman University. Hail Wildcats!