June 7, 2011
WASHINGTON - Ataefiok Etukeren's potential employers were looking for something much different than what his peers in the McDonough School of Business were presenting, upon graduation in 2009. Instead of coursework and internship experiences, the standout defensive end approached his first job interviews with a list of stats, compiling 61 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and five sacks to go with his 6-3, 245 pound frame, 4.63 time in the 40 yard dash and number of times he could bench press 225 pounds.
Ultimately, Etukeren would go undrafted by the National Football League (NFL), but his ability and strong workouts helped earn him a training camp roster spot in Buffalo. He played in all five of the Bills preseason games, but when the rosters reduced from 80 to 53, Etukeren was among the casualties.
"Playing for Buffalo was an amazing experience, one of the best experiences of my life," Etukeren said. "I was cut from the team in September and for a few months after that I was trying to make another team. I had thought the Houston Texans would pick me up or potentially go to the UFL, but that didn't happen, so I decided to move back to D.C. and look for work."
In January 2010, Etukeren moved back to Washington, D.C. expecting to use his degree in operations management and marketing from the McDonough School of Business to land a position in the District, but at least initially, Etukeren found the job interview process even more difficult than latching on in professional football.
"I went out on my own and did a few interviews with different companies and I wasn't prepared at all," Etukeren remembered. "I would get into the interview room and was stumped by questions and my resume wasn't looking good."
The lack of success was a surprise for Etukeren, who had performed well in the classroom on the Hilltop, helping him become a two-time member of the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll, as well as being very involved in the campus community.
"I was a relatively good student in college, had a good GPA, was a part of extra-curriculars, but it didn't really show on my resume and how I was presenting myself in the interviews," Etukeren lamented. "I was 0-for-two in the jobs that I had interviewed for before I met Jim Lenihan."
Jim Lenihan, a Georgetown football offensive lineman from the class 2004, had developed a mentorship program with other Hoya football alumni, where they advised current student-athletes and recent graduates. Understanding the difficulties of juggling school, football and career development, Lenihan took Etukeren under his wing, advising him on everything from how to present himself in his resume to preparing him for questions he may hear on job interviews.
"Ataefiok was one of the first guys that came on board when we started two seasons ago," Lenihan said of the mentorship program. "Being a student-athlete is so difficult in terms of their day-to-day life. They come in, they practice the mandatory hours and then they go to school. Meanwhile while you're studying and practicing the career center is only open until 5 p.m., so there is really nothing there for them."
During the mentoring process, Lenihan and Etukeren spoke often, becoming friends over time. Lenihan passed along the knowledge he gained through experience and even helped identify job opportunities and land interviews.
"He really helped me out with my resume and he helped me prepare for the interviews," Etukeren said. "After working with him I was two-for-two, getting offers for both jobs, one which I have right now as a health and benefits consultant with Mercer. Jim was an integral part of me landing that position."
Etukeren continues to thrive away from the football field and Lenihan, who is finishing his term as the President of the Gridiron Club, continues to reach back and find football alumni with careers in a variety of fields to assist the student-athletes looking for advice on how to pursue careers beyond football.
"The mentorship program was something that I felt was needed," Lenihan said. "When I took over the mentorship program I wanted to look for all of the things that I wish I had at Georgetown. One of the things that I really wish I had was more involvement from the alumni. Having someone that could talk to me and say, these are the things that you need to focus on."
Lenihan and members of the Georgetown football alumni have given the mentorship program a promising start in helping former student-athletes like Etukeren start careers in the business world. Lenihan's hard work and willingness to give his time to members of the Georgetown football family has been an inspiration to Etukeren, who has already started to give back.
"Working with Jim, I had the opportunity to do things I wouldn't have," Etukeren said. "I did a student-athlete career panel back in the fall and working with Jim has just given me the opportunity to try to be a mentor to some of the current student-athletes."
"It's something that is going to be around for a long time," Lenihan added. "I look forward to other programs at Georgetown using this same tool. We're trying to create something that last forever."