Homecoming is still a little more than three weeks away, but for five Occidental College alumni working in various aspects of professional sports, it came a little early.
On Tuesday, October 4, former NFL coach Jim Mora '57 headlined a group of prominent Occidental graduates who shared insights about their journey to the top of the professional sports world: Trevor Moawad '95, Mike Libby '06, Vance Mueller '86 and Sam Farmer '88. The Occidental Sports Business and Law Network and the College athletic department co-sponsored the event, which was held in Thorne Hall.
Mueller was a running back for the National Football League's Los Angeles (now Oakland) Raiders. Moawad is the director of IMG's Performance Institute. Farmer is an NFL columnist for the Los Angeles Times, and Libby works as a contract research analyst for the San Francisco 49ers football team.
Mora, who became the head coach for the NFL's New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts after coaching football at Oxy, talked about his close friendship with the late Jack Kemp '57 and his trials and tribulations as a coach. It is good fortune and character, he said, not just ability, that often is the difference between winning and losing.
"You've got to have talent, but maybe more important, you have to have character," Mora told a crowd of several hundred students, faculty, and staff. "You better have people you can count on to come to work every day on time. They're self-motivated and team-oriented. They want the team to be successful, and that's No. 1."
At times, he spoke directly to student-athletes, encouraging them to focus as much in the classroom as they do on the playing field.
"The student part of your title is the most important," Mora said. "Make sure you get your education, because it will open a lot of doors for you."
The panel touched on contemporary NFL issues, such as how best to deal with concussions, and the possibility of an NFL team returning to Los Angeles. But it was the insightful and inspiring advice panel members gave students that were most valuable.
"Who you are and what you do will speak so loudly that no one will hear what you say," Moawad said of the most valuable piece of advice he received from Nick Saban, head coach of the University of Alabama football team.
Mueller, who was a star in football and track and field at Oxy, said aggressiveness and a bold sense of hard work could help students find the right career path.
"Be fearless and go for everything," he said. "Try everything."
At times, the evening lightened up a bit. Farmer joked that his academic approach at Occidental helped him prepare for a fast-paced journalism career.
"When I started at Oxy, I wanted to be a doctor. It took one chemistry course for me to figure out this wasn't for me," Farmer said. "I realized I loved deadline work. ...I always waited until the last minute here at Oxy."
The group was as diverse in age as it was in occupation. Libby, a recent graduate, said that the preparation he received at Occidental gave him an advantage in a challenging job market.
"Coming to Oxy, you're not taking a Scantron test," said Libby, who played on the '04 Tiger football team that made it to the elite eighth round of the NCAA playoffs.
"You're writing essays and making presentations. Whatever industry you go into, you have to be able to articulate yourself and explain what you're doing. Having that experience at Oxy helped me do that."
Occasionally, the conversation turned down memory lane for five men clearly grateful for their experience at Oxy.
"Occidental is part of the fabric of who I am," Farmer said. "It's a little hard to define, but I certainly wouldn't trade the experience."