Eric Duckworth’s love for the New Orleans Saints did not prevent The University of Southern Mississippi business student from serving an internship with the NFL team’s division rival.
Duckworth, a senior business management major, spent the first quarter of this year working as an unpaid intern with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization in Tampa, Fla. He considers the unique experience “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I was very blessed to receive.”
The Meridian, Miss. native originally hoped to land an internship in some capacity with his beloved Saints but nothing materialized. After learning that the Bucs were taking internship applications, Duckworth submitted his resumé and waited.
“After a few weeks I received an e-mail asking to set up a phone interview and from there came three more interviews,” he said. “I honestly could not believe that out of the incredible number of resumés they received and interviews they conducted, I was selected.”
During his stint with the NFL franchise, Duckworth served as Group Sales Intern and School Assembly Coordinator. For group sales, his primary duties included recording the daily sales report each morning, assisting all group account executives with various projects and conducting research on different organizations around Tampa to create potential leads for the coming season ticket sales.
As School Assembly Coordinator, Duckworth helped arrange visits by Tampa Bay players and other team representatives to local elementary schools that participated in the School Fundraising Program (students sold tickets to Bucs games for $40 and $10 of each ticket sold went to the school. If 15 percent of the school’s population sold 10 or more tickets, then that school received an assembly from the Bucs.
“Altogether I think we scheduled and executed 34 assemblies in those four months,” said Duckworth. “Along with the fundraiser program, all kids who sold more than 10 tickets won the chance to tour the Bucs’ wonderful training facility they call 1 Buccaneer Place. It’s definitely a site to see and one of the best designated facilities in the league. Even if you are not a Buccaneers fan, it is an incredible place to tour.”
While employed by the Bucs, Duckworth had the pleasure of meeting several current and former Tampa Bay players, including legendary defensive back Ronde Barber.
“He is one of the nicest players I met,” said Duckworth. “He even autographed a picture for me – a picture of him making the interception against the Eagles that sent them to the Super Bowl in 2002. I am very lucky to have met him before he retired.”
Duckworth’s immediate goal is to obtain his undergraduate degree. The fifth-year senior expects to graduate in December, 2014. As for his long-range plans, Duckworth hopes to land a position with the Saints’ organization.
“If things do not work out with the Saints, the Bucs have stated that they will gladly offer me a job if one is available,” he said. “I really think it is great how well they have treated me. It’s nice to think that I have a safety net that is still a possibility with an NFL team.”
Though he received no compensation for the internship and lost an academic semester at Southern Miss, Duckworth gained more than he ever expected from the opportunity.
“It is hard to put into words how valuable the experience was,” he said. “I gained many valuable contacts that can help me with a future career, and I got my foot in the door in the professional sports industry. Since there are only 32 NFL teams, I consider the internship a very big step for my career.”