The National Football League extended its partnership as the Presenting Sponsor for the 5th Annual HBCU Battle of the Brains competition, which returned to an in-person event at SXSW in Austin, Texas, Mar. 9 – 13, 2022. The annual competition featured over 30 HBCUs with students battling for coveted scholarship prizes.
“We are excited to continue our long-standing partnership with the HBCU Battle of the Brains,” said Natara Holloway, vice president, Business Operations & Strategy, NFL.
“This event gives us a unique opportunity to get a glimpse of innovative thinking and ideas from an immensely talented group of students from Historically Black Colleges & Universities. The NFL’s commitment to providing a platform that highlights the extraordinary skills and creativity of HBCU students is a priority now and into the future.”
SXSW provided a backdrop to highlight and showcase innovative thinking and diversity of minorities in tech and innovation, according to a press release. The 2022 HBCU Battle of the Brains assembled some of the best and brightest STEM and business students from HBCUs across the country to compete for more than $80,000 in total scholarship winnings. The NFL provided the NFL Business Case to the students, who were given 24 hours to provide a solution before pitching to judges in front of a live audience. The competition concluded with students being evaluated on analysis, a business and technology solution, and a final presentation/Q&A. This year’s NFL Business Case was to design and implement an HBCU STUDENT & ALUMNI PORTAL. The teams were tasked with launching a website or mobile app by researching and finding solutions to the specific focus areas to create an original platform, develop a website or mobile app concept, assign task managers, source content, and organize the website or app launch event to showcase their HBCU Student & Alumni Portal.
The team from Fisk University was awarded the Grand Prize of $50,000. Huston-Tillotson University team came in 2nd Place winning $20,000 and Morehouse Collegewho finished in 3rd Place won $10,000. In a surprise moment, NFL Legend, and business mogul Marshawn “Beastmode” Lynch announced he and current NFL Players Josh Johnson and Marcus Peters, would donate $10,000 from their foundation towards the scholarships.
Various NFL executives and staff across the league and media offices served as featured speakers, team mentors and competition judges during the four-day event. Gregory Gibson Jr. the founder & executive director of HBCU Battle of the Brains created the competition to support the mission of HBCUs while giving exceptional business and STEM students within the African American community and technology industries a platform to shine. The HBCU Battle of the Brains also demonstrates the NFL’s commitment toward innovation to help advance the sport.
“I am so proud of each of the students that participated in the 5th annual HBCU Battle of the Brains,” said Gibson Jr.
“These amazing students deserved to be seen and seen fully, and the full support of the National Football League provided illumination of what these brilliant minds are capable of.”
“The opportunity to serve as a competition judge at the HBCU Battle of the Brains was truly an honor,” said David Jurenka, SVP and general manager of NFL Media.
“It was a difficult decision to choose between so many exceptionally talented teams whose projects were not just thoughtfully constructed, but were also presented in such a dynamic manner that challenged us during deliberations. I look forward to following their journeys in the near future.”
LaMar Campbell, NFL legend and current vice president of Player Engagement with the Chicago Bears, witnessed first-hand the brilliance demonstrated by the HBCU students.
“The excellence of the men and women that I experienced at the HBCU Battle of the Brains stands as a pinnacle experience in my NFL career”, said Campbell.
“The ability to spend time with the amazing students in Austin and learn about the rich history and culture they have built at this event inspires me in a special way that contributes to my day-to-day work with the Chicago Bears. I see myself in them and in turn it contributes to the future and opportunities that I can assist them in achieving because if you want to look towards the future you have to impact the present.”
A featured NFL Panel, “The Come Up: Transition from the Field to the Boardroom,” included moderator Steve Wyche, NFL Network reporter/host, Devale Ellis, NFL legend and actor, author and co-host of Dead Ass with Khadeen & Devale, Marcus Allen, NFL player, Pittsburgh Steelers, owner of Vibes Universal Apparel, Marcus Peters, NFL player, Baltimore Ravens, Fam 1st Family Foundation co-founder and owner of Juiceman Apparel, and Kelvin Beachum, NFL player, Arizona Cardinals and investor, who shared how they are able to navigate their success on the field as they excel in their business ventures away from the gridiron. The week also included informational meetings with administrators, HBCU presidents and top NFL executives.
A special fireside chat with trailblazing African American women from football and business was moderated by Natara Holloway, NFL vice president, Business Operations & Strategy with Dr. Valerie Daniels-Carter, one of the most preeminent business owners in the U.S. who is president and CEO of V&J Foods, Holding Companies, Inc., and Board of Directors for the Green Bay Packers and minority owner with the NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks; and Adrian Bracy, author, and motivational speaker whose earlier career included serving 18 years within the NFL as an executive with the Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals and the St. Louis Rams (now Los Angeles Rams) during their first Super Bowl win.