Jose Jefferson is a Director of Team Operations in the XFL and the Executive Director and Founder of the College Gridiron Showcase. A former All-American track and field athlete at the University of South Dakota, Jefferson went on to play five seasons in the Arena Football League, spending time with the Arizona Rattlers and Iowa Barnstormers. During his time with the Barnstormers, Jefferson was roommates with his teammate and future Hall of Fame quarterback, Kurt Warner.
We caught up with Jose for this week’s Friday Five…
Who is your biggest mentor?
Darren Arbet, former Head Coach of the San Jose Sabercats of the Arena Football League. He’s a guy who really didn’t have to take me under his wing, but he did. Since then, we’ve grown a 20-plus year friendship, and I never would have thought I would be in a position one day to return the favor. He’s been great. He’s one of the first African American coaches to win a professional championship and he’s won several. He’s one of the most winning coaches ever. Like I said, he’s a great friend, and the kind you can talk to for hours if needed.
What is the one piece of advice you find yourself giving to young people trying to get into the football industry?
I’m always telling young people: It’s great to sit there and apply for jobs and get your resume out, but everybody’s doing that. When there’s not a job, sometimes you have to find a job by creating a job and creating value. Case in point was with the College Gridiron Showcase. I had coached for years, and due to family situations and life, I hadn’t been able to be in football full-time for 16 years. With CGS, I wanted to create opportunities for players like myself when I was in college. I wanted to coach and it’s ironic, we’ve been doing CGS for nine years, and I have not coached one player because of operations. By running the event and bringing people together, I created a job, which has led to other opportunities.
What is the most rewarding part about the football grind that outsiders/fans would never appreciate until they experience it?
The relationships you build with people. We’re all tired. We all want to do the best we can. We all want to win. So, you really get to see the true colors of people. When you’re grinding or it’s late or it’s early morning with the same people, you really build a great bond and they truly do become a family that is a family by choice. I don’t think people see that. People are enamored with the finished product. Nobody wants to be a part of the process. They want to be a part of the result. That’s the beauty of the process. People don’t want to devote the 20 hours a day.
Are “the kids today” that much different from when you started?
Absolutely. Sometimes, you want to call your own coaches and just apologize but the difference between when I was competing and now is that today it’s about rights and privileges and what kids feel they’re entitled to. Back when I was going through it, it was about obligations and responsibility. That’s the biggest thing I really see. You know, when you’re talking to kids — especially going through CGS — it’s really been an eye opener, and I’m not saying that they’re bad or it’s bad. That’s just what I’ve noticed.
I can’t emphasize the fact enough that we’re not saying it’s right or wrong. It is just a different kind of coaching. For instance, when you got a concussion in my era, you just “got your bell rung.” You get one now, there’s a protocol for it. I mean, they never had a protocol for concussions with us. Maybe we questioned less than we should’ve questioned, but like I said, we were obligated.
If you could invite any three people in history to dinner, who would they be and why?
The first one would be Martin Luther King Jr., because he’s just so inspirational and positive. I wasn’t even born when he was assassinated — it was two years before I was born — but with the tone of the country today, those words can be used now. I would want to know the struggle from a guy who wasn’t overly political. He was impactful, and you have to admire that. There was no political game. He wasn’t trying to run for president. He wasn’t trying to get power. He was trying to unite people. I think it’s amazing.
Another one would be Jackie Robinson. He was both a sports figure and a political figure, but he was a political figure just because of his sport. I don’t think he wanted to do anything except have the opportunity to play sports. Connecting to the last question about “privileges” and “rights,” he had the right to play, but he wasn’t given the privilege to play. To be as good as he was, and still be shunned? Wow, that would be interesting to hear about.
The last one would probably be Denzel Washington. Once again, a guy who is inspirational. The movies aside, it’s how he lives his life — his outlook on life. I am inspired by people who do that 24/7. That’s how I’ve tried to live my life and I’m not perfect. I guarantee you that these three people, they’re the same people when they’re by themselves. That’s always been my goal.