Sewanee Connections Helped Knight Open Doors

October 28, 2015
by Jane Bartlett Pappas, C'15

Alfonza Knight (C’12) found the resource of connecting with alums to be helpful during his time on the Mountain. After graduating, those connections became even more important. Soon after college, Knight connected with Kenneth Adams (C’07) for a year long internship in equipment management with the Tennessee Titans in Nashville. Knight claimed that this internship was the “segue to my path” working for the National Football League. This opportunity got his foot in the door in the sports industry, leading him to his next internship.

Phil Savage (C’87) is the Executive Director of the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. In March 2013 following his internship in Nashville, Savage took Knight under his wing, teaching him how to scout talented players as part of an internship. Knight traveled in order to pick football players for the Bowl, watching them practice and examining film. Knight worked for the Senior Bowl for two years. “Phil was my mentor,” Knight said, “He was really good to me.”

Knight created a contact with another helpful alum outside of the internship realm. Robin Henderson (C’89) is a financial advisor for NFL players in Nashville, Tennessee. Knight made this connection through Mr. Robert Black, Director or Major and Special Gifts at Sewanee. Mr. Black said, “I have spent more than 25 years in the world of education as a teacher, coach, administrator, and now a fundraiser.  Without a doubt, the most special aspect of this world is coming to know young people like Alfonza, whom I have known since he was 12 years old.  To see him grow, change, and mature over these years has been a great gift to me, and I am thankful to have been and be a part of his life.  Alfonza has taken advantage of his opportunities in education from Montgomery Bell Academy and then to Sewanee.  I look forward to seeing just what this young man will accomplish in the near and the distant future.  I have great faith that it will be meaningful to him and to others around him.” 

Although the connection with Henderson did not provide an internship, Knight received other benefits from this relationship. “He gave me advice on everything—how to handle myself in interviews and in the NFL. He was my advisor on all things, not just financially.” The opportunity at the Senior Bowl led to Knight’s current position as a Scouting Assistant for the Arizona Cardinals, starting in June 2014. Here he evaluates college talent and free agents, and watches pro and college film of potential players. “A regular day for me with the Cardinals consists of getting in the office at 5:30 a.m. During the season, I help create our scouting advances for the week,” Knight explained. These “advances” are an in depth study of the upcoming team the Cardinals are going to play. Starting and backup players are studied, and Knight, along with other scouts are assigned different players to study. “The advances are then given to our coaching staff to help them prepare for the upcoming team,” he explains. Knight also does airport pickups of players the Cardinals bring in for tryouts throughout the season. During the off-season, Knight watches a lot of NFL film of free-agents. Knight, along with other scouts, watch film of the potential players then meet with the coaching staff and “discuss potential free agents that we are thinking of signing.” Knight also helps with the scouting of college players; “Various scouts go out to various schools across the country and get information about players and evaluate the talent of these players.” The scouts write final reports on the players and send them into the head college scout who determines the final grade of the players. “We have a scouting system that all of our reports go into,” said Knight, “All of this is preparation for the NFL draft in April.”  

So as a scouting assistant, Knight helps with both NFL and college scouting. As he gains more experience, he will either focus on one or the other. “I am very thankful for being on the mountain and reaching out to the guys that went to Sewanee. Also, the ladies in the career service office were so helpful during my time at Sewanee. Everyone has been so helpful.”