Many of the nation's top college football players share an ultimate goal, to one day play professional football. Student athletes train to be in peak shape to succeed on the gridiron, hoping to embark upon a long, successful NFL journey. This spring, Bills center Christian Gaddis was busy training professionally off the field.
"(Bills Director of Player Programs) Paul Lancaster always recommends to guys to do internships, and the NFL has a program where they will search the city you're going to be in for the offseason, and find you something that interests you, or that you have a degree to work at," he said.
Gaddis, a third-year, unrestricted free agent signee last August, majored in communications at Villanova University, and said that his academic concentration helped land him a job shadowing opportunity with Travers Collins & Company, a marketing firm in Buffalo.
"I got to follow employees (at Travers Collins) around for a day and see what they do," Gaddis said. "It was just amazing seeing the fast-paced lifestyle in marketing of things that you wouldn't think are fast-paced, like health care."
His experience at Travers Collins & Company led to an internship with the New Era Cap Company, the official outfitter of Major League Baseball, located in downtown Buffalo.
"About a week or two after the job shadow, I was told the people at New Era had a opening in their marketing department, and I said, 'I love wearing hats,' so let me go in and give it a shot," he said.
While interns are often responsible for specific tasks during the duration of their tenure with a company, Gaddis was able to work closely with different facets of New Era's marketing campaign.
"One day, I came in and made copies of the contract from a photo shoot that they did with Evan Longoria, and other times it would be anything from contacting someone's agent or manager to see if we could send them some hats. In the music video for "Ride" by Ciara, I was in close contact with her stylist, and worked with them to get the hats that they needed for the video shoot."
"That was one of the cooler things about my job, being able to see the finished product of what I did, and what I was involved in," he said.
Gaddis began working at New Era three days per week on March 1, and finished his internship the week before the Bills began voluntary OTAs. He would work out at One Bills Drive in the morning, and then would often stay at the New Era office until the evening. It was the casual atmosphere of his surroundings that Gaddis said helped to foster his learning.
"For someone like me, who had no experience, I got to learn what it would be like in the office without having all of the pressure of being business perfect," he said.
The ability to network with others is often an added bonus of an internship, and Gaddis felt that he developed a good rapport with his employers. He believed any initial perception that he received the position simply because he was an NFL player was lost in the quality of his effort on the job.
"I think I first came in with, 'He got this internship because he's a Buffalo Bill,' but I like to think that over time I showed them that, 'Hey, this kid can work here and do some things, he's not just a Buffalo Bill,' that there is some more to me (than football)," Gaddis said.
While he does not see an end to his football career in the near future, the 6'1", 300-pound offensive lineman said he could see himself winding up in the business world someday, maybe even with New Era.
"It was just such an amazing experience to work there, and they all welcomed me in from day one," he said. "After being at New Era, and seeing what type of a company it is, I think they would be my number one choice if I were to do anything other than football."
As Gaddis and the Bills set their collective focus on the practice field, he shared words of encouragement for others who want to learn more about a given profession, and experience it first hand.
"Get things on your resume; I kind of had an empty resume with football being the only thing on there. Take any and every opportunity you have," Gaddis said. "Keep staying in contact with people, that way they will remember you and say, this person is working this hard for an internship, they really want it, so they are going to work extra hard once they get it."