It’s Super Bowl week, as the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers prepare to face off for professional football’s world championship on Sunday in Las Vegas.
So what better time could there be to learn about being a champion in any or all phases of life?
Grambling State University first-year students as well as student athletes received just that opportunity earlier this week as GSU graduate and former NFL defensive back Greg Fassitt, who was a member of the 2009 New Orleans Saints Super Bowl championship team, spoke to them about his success in academics, athletics and in the corporate world.
The New Orleans native has made the most of his journey through Grambling State, the NFL and the business world, starting off as a business manager for Target and climbing the corporate ladder to become a senior operations executive with the company.
“For me, wanting to reestablish my roots back into a place like GSU and finding a way that I can serve the institution that’s given so much to me was very important,” said Fassitt, who managed to earn his undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice from GSU in two years and 11 months and then begin graduate school while playing football for the G-Men. “I went knowing that as a scholarship athlete that it was my duty first and foremost to graduate, and graduate on time.
“But more specifically, I wanted to set a precedent of what could be done when you are totally focused and forward-thinking about maximizing the opportunity to be on a scholarship and receive an education. I wanted to receive as much education as I could while still being a scholarship athlete, so I put together a plan with my academic advisor at that time to expedite my trajectory through Grambling.”
Fassitt took the maximum number of 18 hours per semester before his senior year, when requested and received head coach and college dean approval to take 21 hours.
“As an athlete, that was unheard of at that time, but I was ultimately able to make that happen,” Fassitt said.
GSU Interim Director of University College Milton Jackson said Fassitt’s appearance at GSU came at the recommendation of former President Rick Gallot and Vice President for University Advancement and Innovation Brandon Logan.
“They asked Greg to get in contact with me and he did and gave me his story to see if it’s something that might connect with our first-year students and our student-athletes,” Jackson said. “I thought it would be a great fit for him to share his story with our students.”
Fassitt’s meetings with GSU students came in two sessions — one with student athletes and one with First Year Experience students.
“He came in and met with the student athletes in the Media Room on Wednesday night and had a great, engaging session with them and then on Thursday he met with some of our FYE students,” Jackson said.
Jackson called both sessions “nothing short of transformative” for the students in attendance.
“His compelling narrative of perseverance and success as a student athlete resonated deeply with our students,” Jackson said. “When he talked about completing his undergraduate degree in under three years and how to execute and maximize their studies was just phenomenal.
“You could tell it was really engaging because the students stayed afterwards just asking for tips on how he did that, and he took them through some powerful but simple examples of what a student should do and position themselves for success.”
Fassitt was a GSU student-athlete when Hurricane Katrina hit and ravaged his hometown of New Orleans, and while being extremely concerned about family and friends in the Crescent City, he persevered and remained focused on the big prize — earning a college degree.
That’s something he talked about with GSU student-athletes.
“I talked with them intently about how to ‘champion you’ — and what that means is choosing to be great,” Fassitt said. “We talked a lot about knowing their why — why did they come to Grambling and why does it matter to the legacy that came before them. Because understanding those questions will ultimately help them stay on the path that will lead them to becoming the greatest versions of themselves and become that champion within.
“And so we talked a lot about decision-making and being disciplined and doing the right things. even when that’s not easy. To form those habits that are required to be successful starts in the classroom, because that translates to the same habits that are required to be successful in competing in their sport, whichever that might be.”
Fassitt’s discussions with the student-athletes included talking about handling adversity.
“We talked about how at some point they will all have to face adversity, and how they handle that adversity will help ultimately determine who they will become, because there’s not a single champion who hasn’t had to overcome some sense of adversity,” Fassitt said.
“So it was a really thoughtful talk and an opportunity of time spent to usher in the realization of what it truly means to be a scholar athlete at an HBCU that has so much legacy, and that they need to do their part in helping being a champion for themselves, and a champion for others.”