Spry is thrilled to celebrate the many successful African Americans in the sports industry. We are proud to work with many of these men and women and can’t wait to share their stories and successes with you!
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Jamil Northcutt. Northcutt is currently a Senior Vice President at Major League Soccer. Below is a summary of our conversation:
Please give me a brief history of your life/career.
“I’ve been around sports my whole life. My dad was a college basketball official so that afforded me the opportunity to see the games through a slightly different lens. But of course I played a number of sports as well growing up. I had the honor of being named Mr. Football in the state of Tennessee during my senior year of high school. I was recruited by David Cutliffe when he was at the University of Tennessee, but chose to follow him to Ole Miss when he got the head coaching job there.
While at Ole Miss I was thrust into a leadership role early on, becoming Vice-President, and eventually President of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). This was a great opportunity to really understand some of the issues that were relevant to student-athletes and athletics in general. I also had an opportunity to intern with the SEC where I worked in championships administration and marketing. This was another formative experience for me professionally.”
Following his stint with the SEC, Northcutt joined the Kansas City Chiefs as a Player Development Coordinator. After three years with the Chiefs, he returned to his alma mater where he served as Assistant AD for Internal Operations. In 2014 Northcutt would return to the NFL, serving as Director of Player Engagement with the Cleveland Browns, and later as Director of Football Administration at the NFL League Office. After a brief stint at the NCAA as the Assistant Director of Football Development, Northcutt assumed his current role with the MLS. Northcutt has also made it a point to share the knowledge from his various experiences as an adjunct instructor.
Northcutt credits the family values of education and preparation that were instilled in him by his parents and grandparents, as the secret to his success. “Education was always a priority in my family. Even though circumstances were such that previous generations didn’t have the opportunity to gain formal education, they wanted to make sure I had those opportunities. So I wanted to make them proud.” And that he did! A triple graduate from the University of Mississippi, Northcutt earned a B.S. in Exercise Science, a Masters in Higher Education, and later a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration. As a testament to his dedication to acquiring knowledge, Northcutt regularly made the nearly three-hour commute between the SEC office in Birmingham, and Oxford, Mississippi to attend grad school classes. “One of my mentors, Derrick Gragg, once told me, ‘You never want to exclude yourself from an opportunity because you lack a credential.’ In addition to making my family proud, that was one of my primary motivations for getting my Ph.D. In higher ed, there are very few doors that aren’t open to you once you have a terminal degree.”
What advice would you offer to young professionals today?
“Maintain relationships with care and diligence.”
“A good name is to be chosen over great wealth; favor is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1)
“Remember the Golden Rule. How you treat people matters.”
Who have been your role models/mentors professionally? Personally?
“Well, certainly, my family members have been my primary role models. But I also have to credit Mike Slive, may he rest in peace. Mike was a great mentor for me early in my career when I was an intern at the SEC. He taught me the importance of conducting business with a standard of excellence. He always stressed the fact that details matter and presentation matters. That advice has served me well throughout my career.”
What Black History Month Means To Me…
“Black History Month is vitally important because Black history is under assault. It is important for us to not only know our history but also to be able to tell our story in our own words. The art of storytelling is a part of our culture and Black History Month is an opportunity to tell those stories of how African Americans have made contributions, not only to America, but to the world. In my office I keep a framed copy of a certificate that was given to me by my grandfather. The document is a certificate of membership for my great great grandmother, Sallie Northcutt, a former slave, who had contributed funds to support the passage of a Pension Act for former slaves who had been denied compensation for their years of unpaid labor. Whenever I view this document, it’s an inspiration to me. So that’s what Black History Month means to me. It’s about those stories of sacrifice and inspiration.”
Regardless which version of “football” was involved, Dr. Jamil Northcutt has made the presence of his leadership felt everywhere from the NCAA to the NFL and MLS. He is a man of conscience, and has been an inspiration in his own right as an athlete, leader, administrator and educator. Not only has he made his family proud, but Spry is also proud to highlight his accomplishments as part of our Black History Month celebration!