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5 Ways to Connect with a Former NCAA Athlete

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For the “Human Highlight Reel” campaign, Buick and the NCAA are asking the Zooppa community to help celebrate the amazing achievements of former college athletes by showing how they’ve taken what they’ve learned in the classroom and on the field and brought it back to their communities.

We understand that this campaign requires a bit of extra effort, so we’re featuring below 5 recommendations on how you can get in touch with a former NCAA athlete to feature in your 60-minute mini-documentary.

Before we dive in, just a reminder that this competition has a $5,000 Early Entry Prize. The Early Entry period ends March 30, 2011. See below for details.



1. Contact the athletic departments of local colleges and universities.

A great place to start is figuring out which NCAA college and universities are nearest to your location.  Peruse the three lists below that are broken out by state to see which institutions would be most accessible to you.

  1. NCAA Division I Institutions
  2. NCAA Division II Institutions
  3. NCAA Division III Institutions

Once you’ve identified a school, navigate to their website and find a phone or email contact for their Athletic Department – typically located in a “Contact Us” section.  When you contact the Athletic Department, explain the competition and offer to pass them Buick’s press release to provide them more background on the campaign – you can view and print out the release here. Alternatively, you can call the college/university switchboard and have them direct you to the Athletic Office.  Ideally, you’re looking for ways to get in touch with former student athletes who continue to be leaders in the local community.   While we realize the country is in the throes of college basketball with March Madness, remember that any former athlete of any NCAA sanctioned sport is eligible for your video!

2. Research local non-profit groups associated with local athletes or associations.

A great example here is the Grassroot Project, an organization based in Washington D.C. that “serves to educate at-risk youth from Washington D.C. about HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention by utilizing Division I ‘student-athlete’ role models.”  Started by a former Division I men’s tennis player, the organization recruits present student-athletes to use “their sports and leadership skills to engage and educate middle-school students about HIV/AIDS prevention”.  (You can support their cause by donating here.)

Beyond local colleges and universities, search the web for former NCAA athletes who are originally from your area and who are making an effort to give back to the community in which they were raised.

3. Contact sports columnists at area or college/university newspapers.

Here is a great list aggregating US college newspapers with links to their websites.  Review the list or find those in your area that aren’t mentioned and reach out to their sports columnists or writers that cover human interest stories.  While they may not be able to put you directly in touch with a former college athlete, they may be able to provide you with some potential leads insofar as prominent former NCAA athletes who are active community leaders.

4. Assess your own personal network.

Consider your friends, family and coworkers for a moment: might anyone you know have been a college athlete with compelling story to tell?  If not, perhaps they might know a former college athlete.  Here at Zooppa HQ, we were surprised to note that each of us had at least one connection with a former NCAA athlete – many of whom we thought would be great potential subjects for this assignment.

5. Google!

Take a few minutes to scour the web!  Some search ideas could be “athlete community leader”, “athlete giving back”, “athlete honored”, “athlete recognized”, “college athlete stewardship”, etc. Get creative – chances are if these former athletes are doing positive things in your community or area, they’re hopefully getting some press!

“Human Highlight Reel” Examples

Below are a few examples of athlete that Buick is already profiling for their human highlight reel.  Learn more in Buick’s press release here and the campaign website here.

  • + Cullen Jones, who swam for North Carolina State University and became the second African-American in history to win an Olympic Gold medal in the sport. Jones works with the USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash program to teach minority children how to swim.
  • + Emmanuel Ohonme, who played basketball at the University of North Dakota, is the founder of Samaritan’s Feet, a non-profit organization that has provided shoes to more than 3 million children in 40 countries.
  • + Dr. Denton Cooley, who played basketball at the University of Texas – Austin, and is a pioneer in open-heart surgery. Cooley played in the first NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament in 1939 and went on to perform the first successful heart transplant in the United States in 1968 and implanted the first totally artificial heart in a human in 1969.
  • + Avery Jukes, who played basketball in last year’s championship game for Butler University, and is the founder of Jukes Foundation for Kids, a non-profit entity dedicated to providing food, clothing and educational resources to youth in the U.S. and Uganda.
  • + Sean James, who was an all-conference sprinter and football player at Missouri State University, founded Sean James Student Athletes, a non-profit organization that provides scholarships for under-privileged youth to sports and creative art camps.



Lastly, if you’re still having trouble finding an athlete in your area, let us know the Forum Thread for the Buick Human Highlight Reel Competition and we’ll do our best to find someone in your area that you can reach out to.


(a few past PSA creatives showing how most NCAA athletes “go pro in something other than sports”)




Good luck, guys!

Meme E

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