Subscribe to Spirit Magazine

“What did you do to be successful in football?” That’s the question that got Chris Valletta ’00 started on a path to entrepreneurial success. His dad posed it when the former Aggie offensive lineman, fresh out of the NFL, was anxious about starting a new job in sales. In response, Valletta made a list of traits he used in his sports career: dedication, discipline, drive, and the ability to handle adversity and perform under pressure.

When Valletta applied those skills in his first year on the job, he became his company’s top salesperson. He’s now the co-founder of MISSION, a company he created with athlete-business icons Serena Williams, Drew Brees and Dwayne Wade that produces cooling gear for active people.

Realizing that the lessons he learned in sports translated to success in business, he began lobbying for a formal program at Texas A&M University to help student-athletes capitalize on their instinctual skills off the field or court. Today, his vision has manifested in the creation of AmplifyU, an innovative, one-of-a-kind partnership between Mays Business School’s Reynolds and Reynolds Sales Leadership Institute and Texas A&M Athletics.

“We are blessed as Texas A&M student-athletes to have the opportunity to be part of this special program."
- Ava Underwood ’26

Amplify What?

“We want you to think about life after sports before it hits you in the face,” Dr. Janet Parish, director of the institute, told assembled student-athletes in a personal time management class. They listened attentively as Parish discussed how to maintain priorities when their time is much less structured in the real world.

 Over the four-day AmplifyU immersion course in January 2023—the second time the program was offered—students took part in short courses like Parish’s, as well as competitions, networking mixers, and insightful sessions with former athletes and industry representatives.

AmplifyU comprises two tracks: AmplifyONE focuses on personal development topics such as personal finance, entrepreneurship, social media and personal branding, and name, image and likeness (NIL) law. AmplifyALL centers on leadership topics like marketing, management strategy, building business teams and problem-solving.

In many aspects, AmplifyU is similar to programs the institute already offers engineering and medical students. Like participants from other disciplines, student-athletes receive a certificate of completion and acknowledgment of the courses on their college transcript.

Jaden Harris ’26: Track and Field - Texas A&M Athletics

Amplify Who?

Although not directly related, AmplifyU was born soon after the Supreme Court allowed amateur players to control their name, image and likeness. “I realized more people than ever would be trying to take advantage of 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 a good deal.”

AmplifyU satisfies key requirements on educating student-athletes on NIL, but as a formal program associated with a top-tier business school, it goes far beyond. Its mission is to develop well-rounded athletes who compete in any sport, from swimming to softball, and to prevent the all-too-common disaster of professional athletes going 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, has certainly 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. “Something like this would have helped tremendously with my transition from playing to business,” he said. “As athletes, we never had a chance for internships because we had limited time between sports and academics.”

For Jaden Harris ’26, a high jumper and triple jumper on the Aggie track and field team, AmplifyU introduced valuable topics. “Learning about things like loans and starting and keeping a company helps me have a base knowledge of business and networking,” he said.

Ava Underwood ’26: Volleyball - Texas A&M Athletics

Amplify How?

AmplifyU’s creators would like to see the program become a fixture at Texas A&M to serve the hundreds of Aggie student-athletes. They hope to offer one session in January before the spring semester and one in May after the term. Every other year, organizers also plan to host a conference that will be “an educational, motivational event and networking opportunity for everyone involved with AmplifyU,” Parish added.

To reach these goals, the program aims to raise $8 million for a permanent endowment. Valletta jump-started the program with a $60,000 contribution to fund the pilot AmplifyU session in May 2022 and has since added a $100,000 gift toward the endowment. “I hope people will invest in athletes as human beings whose inherent value is not dependent upon their performance on the court or the field,” Sinatra said.

Ava Underwood ’26, a Texas A&M women’s volleyball player, said what she learned in the January course was “truly life-changing” because it provided important insight on how to make the most of her talents as a student-athlete. “We are blessed as Texas A&M student-athletes to have the opportunity to be part of this special program,” she said.

To team up with AmplifyU and help Mays coach student-athletes for a lifetime of success, contact Cassie Mahoney ’15, senior director of development, at the bottom of this page.

  • Cassie Mahoney '15

  • Senior Director of Development
  • Mays Business School
  • Call: 979.862.4531

Make Your Impact

Give Now