Kathryn Cosgrove (pictured above, third rower from the front) attends the University of Tennessee. She's competed for the Volunteers as a member of the rowing team. She didn't play in the 2018 SEC Football Championship Game, but that week in Atlanta may have meant as much to her as it did to anyone who suited up for Alabama or Georgia.
That week, Kathryn took one giant leap toward the rest of her life after intercollegiate athletics by participating in the third annual SEC Career Tour. The Southeastern Conference delivered by introducing her to UPS, where she began the process that led to her getting hired as an inside sales representative. She'll start her training in San Antonio after graduating from UT in May.
After competing for the Vols, where "we all compete for the 'T' on our chest, not the name on our back," Kathryn said, "I felt right at home at UPS. They take pride in integrity and teamwork. That was huge for me because I want to grow with a company the way we've grown together here at Tennessee athletics."
United Parcel Service was one of four Atlanta-based companies that played host to 28 SEC student-athletes - two from each member institution - during three days of practical, hands-on career preparation and exposure. The visits to the headquarters of UPS, Home Depot, the Atlanta Hawks and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, four companies with a track record of hiring former student-athletes, involved much more than routine facility tours.
There were meetings with company employees from different departments, interview panels and opportunities for personal meet-and-greets. Those interactions opened Kathryn's eyes to a new career path.
After competing for two years with Tennessee's varsity rowing squad, she knew her athletics career was over after sustaining an injury the previous season, but she was majoring in sports management and therapeutic recreation. She'd done three internships in that area and 350 hours of occupational therapy observation. Her original goal to become an occupational therapist suggested she would be most interested in the visit to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
Instead she got a strong sense of deja vu at a different company in a different field.
Originally from Chicago before her family moved to Johns Creek, Ga., in the Atlanta area, Kathryn wasn't expecting to fall in love with the University of Tennessee during her recruiting visit - but she did. She visited one more school to compare but then canceled her other trips.
She had a similar experience on the SEC Career Tour. There was something special about the people and the environment at UPS.
"It was really eye-opening for me," she said. "The minute I walked into UPS, I knew it was home."
Something else that captured her attention that week in Atlanta was the very visible presence of SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. Despite the rather important football game taking place that weekend, Sankey played an important role during the SEC Career Tour, Kathryn said, sharing his own career experience and "coaching us through the process."
"He's so busy," she said. "He had a million other things to do, but he's taking so much time out of his day to make sure that student-athletes that aren't going pro are able to get really good jobs after school. It was really incredible."
Each morning during the tour Misty Brown, the SEC's Director of Student-Athlete Engagement, met with the group to help prepare everyone for the company visits. They also brought in other professionals to provide additional career-building counsel.
"I could email Misty right now and ask her for help," Kathryn said, "and she'd be there in a second."
To outsiders, It Just Means More may be a catchy slogan, but there's a deeper meaning. For the last three years, for three days during one of the busiest and most high-profile weeks of the year, the conference has demonstrated its commitment to its student-athletes beyond the playing field through the SEC Career Tour.
That commitment led Kathryn Cosgrove to Atlanta, to UPS, to not just a full-time job but the start of what she believes will be a fulfilling career with a winning team.
That's why she would "110 percent" recommend the SEC Career Tour to other student-athletes making the transition to life after intercollegiate athletics. "It's a great opportunity."