February 14, 2023

It was Chris Valletta’s dad who got the wheels rolling years ago with one question. Valletta ’00, who played as an offensive lineman for Texas A&M University, had just left the NFL and was anxious about starting a new job in sales. “I’m not sure how to be successful in this job,” Valletta told his father.

Though simple, his father’s response served as a launching pad for Valletta’s life mission and, in ways, for an innovative, one-of-a-kind partnership between Mays Business School’s Reynolds and Reynolds Sales Leadership Institute and Aggie Athletics.

“Well, what did you do to be successful in football?” his dad asked.

Valletta remembered how that impacted him. “I started making a list of all the traits I used in my sports career,” he said. And the list was long. “Dedication, discipline, the desire to be the best at what I'm doing, the ability to handle adversity and perform under pressure. Knowing how to communicate, be a team player, be coached, respond to a loss and respond to a win.”

The program also enhances the famous Aggie Network by creating a community among former athletes, Mays faculty, student-athletes and companies that are interested in recruiting new hires among this talent pool. Valletta believes athletes possess the skills that will help fill the leadership gap he and other business professionals see today.

But at the start of their careers, former athletes are highly recruited for sales positions, said Parish. “With athletes, the harder they work, the better the reward. That's true in sales too,” she pointed out. “Most of our partner companies, like MISSION, Microsoft, Reynolds and Reynolds, Unum and Sewell, love hiring athletes because of that work ethic.”

Amplify Who?

It’s not a coincidence that AmplifyU was born soon after the Supreme Court allowed amateur players to control their name, image and likeness (NIL). “I realized more people than ever would be trying to take advantage of these athletes,” said Alex Sinatra ’11 ’14, a sports lawyer and the CEO and founder of Your Potential for Everything, a strategic sports consulting business, who helped provide the impetus for AmplifyU. “I knew we needed to give them the resources and education to understand contracts and recognize when a deal is good or when a person has their best interests at heart.”

With athletes, the harder they work, the better the reward. That's true in sales too.
Dr. Janet Parish

AmplifyU satisfies key requirements under Texas law on educating student-athletes on NIL, but as a formal program associated with a top-tier business school, it goes far beyond. “When we first met with Athletic Director Ross Bjork, his main comment was, ‘I want a real partnership. I don't want just a press release,’” Parish reported.

Indeed, the main mission is to develop well-rounded athletes who compete in any sport, from swimming to softball, and to prevent the kind of disasters that too often befall retired athletes. “A large percentage of professional athletes go broke after their playing days because they don't know how to be the CEO of their own career,” Sinatra said.

Dat Nguyen ’98, a former Aggie linebacker, certainly has done well after his seven seasons as a Dallas Cowboy. He is now a successful Chick-fil-A franchise owner but still wishes a program like AmplifyU had been available to him. “Something like this would have helped me tremendously with my transition from playing to the business world,” he said. “We never had a chance for internships because we had limited time between sports and academics.”

When Jaden Harris ’26, a high jumper and triple jumper on the Aggie track and field team, found out about AmplifyU, he said signing up for the January session was a “no brainer.” Most valuable to him was learning about loans, credit cards, starting and keeping a business, and employee management. “These topics will help me with a base knowledge of business and how to talk to people,” said Harris, who hopes to become a model or actor in the future. “Learning how to network will be a big part of my success.”

Amplify How?

AmplifyU’s creators would like to see the program become a permanent fixture at Texas A&M to serve the hundreds of student-athletes who compete across 20 Aggie teams every year. The idea is to offer it twice a year, with one block in January before the spring semester and one in May after the term. “We hope we can get most athletes during their offseason,” Parish explained.