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UNF graduate and sports enthusiast works as NFL statistician

Brady Okla HeadshotMaking it to the National Football League is a dream come true for many athletes growing up. For University of North Florida senior Brady Okla, that dream is now a reality. 

“It’s always been a dream of mine to reach the NFL,” said Okla. “I got to the NFL — not in the way I was intending to, but I did it.” 

Although the former Nease High School quarterback isn’t throwing the ball up and down the field, since 2021, he’s been employed part-time with the organization as a gameday statistic information systems (GSIS) operator. In this role, the business marketing major monitors the play-by-play entry of statistical analytics throughout the duration of games to ensure the accurate collection of data. 

Considering Okla is graduating a semester early this December, it may seem that his time at UNF was a breeze. Having begun his freshman year of college in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the start of his college journey was both unusual and challenging. 

“One of the hardest things to do was adjust to coursework primarily online,” said Okla. “We went from a world where everything was in-person and then it all switched.” 

Brady Okla posing with former NFL cornerback Jason McCourty on Everbank FieldUtilizing the financial aid benefits of Florida Bright Futures and a scholarship earned through employment at The Plantation at Ponte Vedra Beach as a beach house attendant, Okla initially entered UNF with the goal of forging a career in radiology. While taking anatomy courses, he realized that his talents and interests were better suited for selling medical device equipment. He changed his major to business marketing to better position himself for a career in sales. 

During his freshman year, Okla also gained valuable leadership experience working as a quarterback coach and offensive coordinator for Palm Valley Academy — an opportunity made possible through his connections at Nease. Through this experience, which included coaching his younger brother, he became acquainted with UNF alum Todd Hardie, whose son also played on the team. Okla credits Hardie, who is also a GSIS operator, for helping him attain employment with the NFL. 

He also made the acquaintance of Dr. Matt Ohlson, executive director of the Taylor Leadership Institute (TLI) and associate professor of leadership, whose son played on the same flag football team as Okla’s younger brother. 

Brady Okla posing with his Executive Leadership Mentor in the Ritz Leadership program Gary VirdenAs Okla progressed in his studies, including declaring a double minor in digital analytics and leadership, Dr. Ohlson recommended he consider joining the Ritz Leadership Program, a new TLI partnership with the Ritz-Carlton of Amelia Island that provides UNF students with hands-on experience and insight into the industry-leading practices employed by the world-renowned luxury hotel company. 

Okla says he feels fortunate to be a part of the program stating, “I have the opportunity to network and listen to individuals in high leadership positions and utilize that information.” 

In addition to his employment with the NFL, Okla works full-time as a sales consultant for Sentinel Real Estate Corporation, a real estate investment management firm that manages several local residential and commercial properties. Since joining the company in May 2023, he’s been awarded “Distinguished Top Sales Consultant” on three occasions. Okla shares that his success comes from a passion for sales and the real-world experiences he’s gained through his courses at the Coggin College of Business. 

After he graduates with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing, he wants to continue pursuing a career in the healthcare sales market. Through this career path, he hopes to help others improve their quality of life. 

“I love selling things that help people,” he said. 

Ohlson says Okla’s work ethic, commitment to his community and relatability will help him succeed in his professional career. 

“I’ve witnessed firsthand the way that Brady always treats his classmates with the utmost respect and kindness,” said Ohlson. “He’s done a phenomenal job remembering that the soft skills/the people skills taught in our leadership program are THE skills that can help propel you towards success.” 

When he’s not working, Okla says he enjoys outdoor activities such as fishing and going to the beach. He also trains up-and-coming football talent. 

As he looks forward to the next phase of his life, he says that he will miss the friendships he’s cultivated on campus. He also states that while he’s proud to be a college graduate, he’s most proud of setting a positive example for his three younger siblings. 

“I’m excited,” said Okla. “I can show my siblings, “if I did it, you can do it”.”