Alumni Feature| Sarah Gigantino Hogan (’04) – FROM JMU TO THE NFL

There are so many steps one takes in life.  I didn’t know the most important ones I would take were going to be on the campus of James Madison University.

In the summer of 2000, I was a naïve incoming freshman, I knew nothing of the rest of my life – but I did know two things upon my arrival on campus: I would play volleyball and I would work in the football office.

Both proved to be true in different ways.  I didn’t make the varsity volleyball team, so I set my sights on the club team.  I grew up in a football household so I had my heart set on working with those that I had always known to be family. I was majoring in business and it didn’t take me long to figure out that it wasn’t for me when my basic accounting class quickly had me defeated. I moved to a major that ended up actually being made for me: Sports Management. It made so much sense – I was a lifelong athlete and I was the daughter of a college coach. That was just the first step.

After the first semester, I realized I needed an income while attending school, and I acquired a position as an office assistant at UREC.  I was also, playing volleyball for the club team and was volunteering for Coach Mickey Mathews and Coach Eddie Davis in the Football Office.  College life was rolling.

Not too long after, I found myself looking for an internship. I was heading home to New York for the summer after my sophomore year and my father suggested I look into a position with the NFL. Next thing I knew, in June of 2002, I was an intern for the college scouting department at the New York Jets.  All of my experience to date was culminating before my eyes and I finally felt I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

I was elected President of the Club Volleyball team and in that position I gained priceless leadership tools and thus began my professional development.  I learned how to manage budgets and group travel all in addition to my work in the football office and at UREC.  This all led me to another step I never knew I’d take.

At the end of my junior year, Dave Frock at UREC approached me to apply for the coveted position of Operations Supervisor. I knew I was ready for that next step in my professional development so I applied and got the job. Training was intense, thorough and purposeful, we were greatly prepared to run the building.  Our small group of 10 got the keys to building and I was the first office assistant to attain the position.  I would never have gotten there without Eric Nickel and the entire professional staff at UREC.

The next few years saw me interning with the Jets once again and even winning a NIRSA National Championship with my favorite club volleyball girls in front of thousands in Charlotte, NC.

JMU Football highlighted my senior year with an eight week, full time internship in the Football Office.  My four years there would prove to be invaluable then and now. Coach Davis had moved on at that point, but I’ll always be thankful to him and to the influence of Patty Dorfer, who – to this day – still graces the JMU Football office with her smile.

How do you really figure out what you want to do?  You study, you gain experience and you do a lot of work.  But when does it all come together?

My experience at JMU started to answer these questions, but the connections I made brought it home.  Through demanding and rewarding jobs, I learned the importance of hard work and good people.  Personally, that’s what it’s always been for me.

My path to the Falcons isn’t a straight line.  I said first step – I didn’t exactly tell you which direction we were going.  Post undergrad, I attended Georgia State University to obtain my master’s degree in Sports Administration. Concurrently, I was a graduate Assistant for the Campus Recreation Center at Georgia Tech working what seemed like 80 hours a week running the building operations. Post grad-school in 2006, I worked for James Greenwell in the Athletic Department at the University of Maryland and then for Nohr Sports, a Sports Management Law Firm in Honolulu, Hawaii.

It was then, when I was living in Hawaii, the phone rang – I took another step. Coach Davis called to see if I would be interested in an Administrative Assistant position for the Northeastern University Football team in Boston. I left the beach and interviewed for the job.  I wasn’t the best candidate, according to the interviewer, due to my lack of full time experience.  However, my master’s degree and logistical work with my club volleyball team and football office at JMU proved I would get the job done. Also, the personal recommendation from Coach Davis didn’t hurt, he was the Offensive Coordinator there at the time.

I started in June of 2007, a year in which I was mentored by some of the best so I could achieve a position that I wanted down the road: the Director of Football Operations. Before I knew it, the coaches allowed me to take over the team operations and then by the 2008 season, I was running away trips and more.  I loved every minute of it, this was it!  Coach Hager, Coach Davis, Coach Dembowski and Coach Surace helped pave my way.

We struggled to win games in the three seasons there but my time there proved to be the most valuable.  I made countless connections and lifelong friends.  On November 22nd, 2009, Northeastern cut its football program.  I spent the next two months helping our players find new homes and seeking my own employment.  We had at least 100 college coaches visit us, looking to grab our players for their rosters.  Connections I wasn’t looking to make, but did, just by helping. We had 45 kids land at new schools.

My landing spot on the other hand: back in Atlanta at Georgia State University.  The school was completely different than it was when I was there just 4 years ago. They started their football program in fall of 2009 and thanks to James Greenwell, my boss at Maryland (now Associate AD at GSU), I got an interview.  I then got the job.  I was the Director of Football Operations for Georgia State University working for legendary coach, Bill Curry. We played our first football game on September 2, 2010.

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I got to be a part of a startup program who played in the Georgia Dome and even made the move to FCS in 2012.  Then Coach Curry retired and in came the program changer – Trent Miles, from Indiana State.  I was no stranger to Trent as he was one of the first coaches to sign one of my Northeastern players after the program was cut.  He retained me as Director of Football Operations and in the spring of 2013 I made a connection that would change my life on another level completely. Trent asked me to watch film with him one day while the coaches were on the road recruiting. Befuddled as to why, I joined him. Next thing I knew, into the room walked the most handsome guy I had ever seen. It was Trent’s brother-in-law, JP. It was love at first site, luckily for both of us! We dated for two years and got married in the summer of 2015.

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Finally, I will wrap up with how I actually got to the NFL and If there was ever a question about things coming full circle – I’ll present to you the opportunity following my fifth season at Georgia State. Dan Quinn – a coaching friend from Hofstra University where my father was when I was growing up – was in the running for a handful of NFL Head Coaching jobs.  A Super Bowl winning defensive coordinator is highly coveted and the Atlanta Falcons landed him.  I’d always kept in touch, we still called him “Quinny”.

On Monday, February 2, 2015, Dan Quinn was officially named the Falcons Head Coach.  A few months later I had the great fortune to be hired in the scouting department, coordinating scout travel, player travel and still working home games at the Georgia Dome.

In January of 2016, I started working directly for Coach Quinn as Coordinator of Head Coach Operations. That season was one I will never forget – playoffs, NFC Championship game and a Super Bowl in Houston.  I know – we don’t want to talk about its ending but I finally felt as if all my life experiences had come together so perfectly.

Since then, I’ve traveled to countless more NFL stadiums for away games and opened a brand new one, Mercedes Benz Stadium.  More importantly, I worked with some of the best people I’ve ever known in Dan and Stacey Quinn and our coaches and players.  Currently, we are working our way to Super Bowl LIV in Miami, this time next year.

Truly, I would not be anywhere near where I am today without every single one of my experiences at JMU.  I continue to stay involved as the leader of the Atlanta Alumni Chapter.  I also stay in touch with the football office and with UREC.  Coach Davis passed away in 2013, I will forever be indebted to him, and to my dad, for helping to guide me to where I am today.

Sometimes, luck is defined as hard work meets opportunity.  I was never going to be outworked, but I will always thank JMU for the opportunities I was presented with as a student. I am gratefully indebted to this magical place and always will be. I look forward to remaining involved with JMU for the rest of my life.

GO DUKES!

 

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Coordinator of Head Coach Operations, Sarah Gigantino Hogan, is going into her 5th season with the Atlanta Falcons. She joined the organization as the Coordinator of Scouting Administration in May of 2015 and moved into her current role working for Dan Quinn in January of 2016.

Prior to joining the Falcons organization, Sarah was the Director of Football Operations at Georgia State University from 2010 until 2015. She served under coach Bill Curry (2010-2012) and Coach Trent Miles (2013-2015). Hogan was on the GSU staff in February 2010 as the program prepared for its inaugural season. She spent the previous three seasons as the Director of Football Operations at Northeastern University, which discontinued its football program following the 2009 campaign.

Before going to Northeastern, where she served under head coach Rocky Hager, Hogan worked in the athletics department at Maryland and at the Campus Recreation Center at Georgia Tech. She also served an internship in the New York Jets’ college scouting department.

Hogan received a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and sport management from James Madison in 2004 and then earned her master’s degree in sports administration from Georgia State in 2006. She worked with the Dukes’ football program while an undergraduate at JMU.

Sarah’s husband, JP, is a physical education teacher and coaches football, basketball and baseball at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School in Sandy Springs. They reside in Atlanta, GA.

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