Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be the same without the Macy’s Day Parade, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and — the Detroit Lions. The Lions have played at home on Thanksgiving Day since 1934, only pausing during World War II. This year the holiday game will have a decidedly UCF flavor both on and off the field.

Cornerback Mike Hughes, who helped UCF to an undefeated season in 2017 and was a first-round draft pick for UCF in 2018, joined the Lions as a free agent earlier this year. Fellow UCF alums Andre’ George ’19 and Ademi Smith ’20 won’t hit the gridiron for the silver and blue Thursday, their contributions as part of the Lions staff will impact the game.

Andre’ George ’19 (left) and Ademi Smith ’20, who met at UCF while studying sport business management, reuinted in Detroit this season when they joined the staff of the NFL’s Detroit Lions.

George and Smith met at UCF while studying sport business management in the College of Business and working with the UCF Athletics video staff. The two AlumKnights who shared a dream of working in the NFL reunited in Detroit this summer when George joined the Lions staff as a video assistant. Smith, who is in his third season with the Lions and his first as a scout, couldn’t have been more excited to reunite with his fellow Knight.

“Working with Andre’ is awesome,” Smith says. “I met Andre’ while working for UCF football, and we have been close ever since. I consider him not only an extremely close friend but a mentor of mine.”

Both George and Smith credit UCF for providing the academic foundation, opportunities and connections to grow their careers in the highly competitive sports industry. Hear more from George and Smith about their time at UCF in the interviews below.

ANDRE’ GEORGE ’19

Video assistant, Detroit Lions

Why did you choose to attend UCF? And what drew you to sport business?
After obtaining my associate degree in business administration from Troy University, my wife received a promotion on her job at The Home Depot, where she has been for 28 years, that relocated us to Orlando. After doing some research, I immediately gained an interest and desire to attend UCF. After going on a campus tour with my daughter, I fell in love with the campus, environment and most importantly, the people I met on the tour.

Being a former athlete and having a love for sports, I always had the desire to get back involved with sports. But I did not know how other than coaching or playing. After going on the campus tour and receiving information on the different degrees and minors offered at UCF, I noticed there was a minor for sports business management. I enrolled in the Introduction to Sports Business Management (course) with Professor Scott Bukstein. After the first day in class, I found out about all the opportunities on the business side of sports. My interest to work in the sporting industry grew, and I knew this was the career path I wanted to pursue.

How has your UCF degree helped in your career?
My degree and experience at UCF have allowed me to gain valuable knowledge to aid in my career and improve my communication and problem-solving skills. It also provided me with the opportunity to demonstrate a strong work ethic through volunteer and internship opportunities, and gain experience that strengthened my self-confidence. It has also helped me learn more about myself, become a better leader, manager and mentor, and grow my social network.

What extracurricular activities were you involved in at UCF?
I was involved with the Sport Business Management Club (The minor that’s major) and MASS (Multicultural Academic and Support Services) Transfer Knights Club. I also worked in the coaches video department of UCF Athletics and took advantage of many volunteer and internship opportunities.

What is your favorite UCF memory?
My favorite memory from UCF was being the first student selected to take part in three end-of-the-year field experience trips with the Sport Business Management Club. The first trip went to Paris and London as we celebrated the program’s 10th Anniversary. On the second trip, we went to Portland, Oregon; Seattle and Vancouver, Canada, and on the third, we went to Denver. These were all valuable trips that provided knowledge of different sectors in the organizations we visited and allowed me to connect with many leaders in the sports industry. Another was being part of the coaches’ video staff of UCF Athletics and the UCF football team that went 13-0 and earned the opportunity to compete in the Peach Bowl. We defeated Auburn and capped off a historical season as the only undefeated team in Division I college football.

What advice would you give students interested in studying sport business?
The advice I would give students interested in studying Sport Business is to come in with the mindset to work. Also, it’s extremely important to take advantage of the volunteer and internship opportunities. Volunteering and interning are the best way to find out what you want to do in an industry that has so many great opportunities. One last additional piece of advice I would give is to build a strong network and build meaningful relationships, not just with professionals already in the industry, but your fellow colleagues and classmates.

As Professor Lonny Butcher said in my first professional development class, “It’s not all about what you know and who you know, but who knows you. Good people can always be taught the job, but you cannot teach a person who knows the job how to be a good person.”

How did you get into your current position as a video assistant with the Detroit Lions?
I did not have a direct, guided path to my current position. In fact, I had a very unconventional route, but a very interesting journey. I started my career in the sporting industry with the Orlando Predators arena football team as a football operations intern. As the Predators ceased operations, I was fortunate to join the UCF Athletics coaches video staff as a student video manager. I also completed an internship with Florida Citrus Sports as a hospitality suite manager during the college football bowl season for three years. I also worked a training camp/pre-season internship with the now-Washington Commanders as an operations intern. Finally, I worked two years with Florida State University as a video assistant intern and that led me to the opportunity I have now with the Detroit Lions.

What did you learn at UCF and in the sport business program that continues to benefit you in your job?
I learned not to be afraid to step out of my comfort zone and to get comfortable being uncomfortable. To build strong relationships with your fellow colleagues as well as other professionals in the industry, and always leave a lasting impression by leaving a place better than it was prior to your arrival.

Why do you do what you do?
Being a former athlete, I always wanted to get back involved in sports and being a student at UCF it gave me a sense of direction and a pathway to pursue my passion, desires, what I love to do and accomplish my dreams to one day work in the NFL.

You work with fellow UCF alum Ademi Smith ’20. How great is it to work alongside a fellow Knight?
It is an extraordinary opportunity as well as blessing to be able to reunite and work with Ademi again. We previously worked together when we were part of the UCF Athletics video staff. Upon Ademi’s arrival to UCF as a freshman, I took him under my wing and mentored him throughout his educational journey at UCF. Upon graduation, we stayed connected as we traveled our own separate paths in the sporting industry. Our continued connection over the years opened up doors and presented me with the opportunity to join him with the Detroit Lions organization.

What do you like most about what you do?I like the versatility of being able to learn and work on a variety of tasks, traveling to different parts of the country, flexible work hours, being able to collaborate with my fellow colleagues to achieve successful outcomes, embracing the grind that it takes to work and be successful in the sporting industry. Also, I like being part of the game I grew up loving and working with people who are excited about working in this profession as much as myself.

ADEMI SMITH ’20

Scout, Detroit Lions

Why did you choose to attend UCF? And what drew you to sport business?
I chose to attend UCF because I knew I wanted to stay in state (I am from Tampa, Florida) but I also had the opportunity to meet Doc (Professor C. Keith Harrison) and Prof. B (Scott Bukstein) while attending the Wharton Sports Business Academy at the University of Penn in Summer 2016. I already knew I wanted to attend a school with a sports business program to work in scouting. Once I met Drs. Harrison and Bukstein, there was no doubt in my mind it was the perfect program for me.

How has your UCF degree helped in your career?
My UCF degree shows I have an interest in working in sports but also that I have knowledge about the industry. When people see it on my resume, it opens up the conversation about what I learned in school and allows me to display my knowledge of the business, in turn helping me to show I am a quality candidate.

What extracurricular activities were you involved in at UCF?
During my time at UCF, I was in the sports business minor and Sports Business Management Club, and I worked in the video department for UCF’s football team.

What is your favorite UCF memory?
Definitely when UCF won the Peach Bowl.

What advice would you give UCF students?
UCF has a lot of fantastic resources — definitely take advantage of them. Conversations outside of the classroom with my professors, as well as with the academic advising office, helped me to create a plan that worked for me.

What do you do?
As a scout for the Detroit Lions, I travel to across the country evaluating college football players. I am based in Detroit and help with various tasks around the office.

How did you get to your current position?
Through my experiences working with UCF Football, as well as attending all-star events like the East-West Shrine Bowl and Senior Bowl, I was able to get an internship with the Lions in summer 2019. I completed two shorter internship opportunities with them in 2020 at the East-West Shrine Bowl and NFL Combine. At the conclusion of the combine, I was offered a full-time scouting assistant position. After one year as a scouting assistant and another as a personnel assistant, I was promoted to scout.

What did you learn at UCF and in the sport business program that continues to benefit you in your job?
The ability to work as a collaborative team has been huge. Through various volunteering opportunities at UCF, I was able to work on this skill, and it has aided me in my career. Other key skills include time management, finding creative solutions to complex problems, and viewing ambiguity not as an obstacle but as an opportunity.

Why do you do what you do?
I love football and am particularly passionate about how rosters are constructed. I love that I get to watch a ton of talented players every year and play a small part in building the future of the Detroit Lions.

You work with fellow UCF alum Andre’ George ’19. How great is it to work alongside a fellow Knight?
Working with Andre’ is awesome. I met Andre’ while working for UCF Football, and we have been close ever since. I consider him not only an extremely close friend but a mentor of mine. Getting to work with him again has been a great experience, and I look forward to continuing to watch him grow within the industry.

What do you like most about what you do?
I love that my career is focused around football and that every day is different!