Jordyn Foster applies the personal touch in history-making role at North Carolina A&T — Andscape
North Carolina A&T State University football games have been treated as prime-time events in Greensboro, North Carolina, for decades, and this season, there has been a new leader behind the scenes: 23-year-old alumna Jordyn Foster, the youngest director of football operations in university history and the first woman to hold the position.
“In this space, I have to think twice about how I am carrying myself,” Foster said. “I have to make sure I am demanding my respect, especially in a predominantly male environment, but at the same time I am cautious about fitting into the angry Black woman stereotype while also being assertive. It’s a lot.”
As a young girl, Foster could be found cheering on the Denver Broncos in her family’s downstairs living room in Prince George’s County, Maryland. She often received a hard time from her peers for not being a fan of the Washington Commanders or Baltimore Ravens, but to her, nothing beat sitting on her family’s black, L-shaped sofa wrapped snugly in a Broncos blanket with her father, Jesse Foster, who played high-school football. The Fosters have family in Denver, fueling their Broncos fandom.
“I love football, but I used to not understand it,” Foster said. “But my dad would break down the plays for me. I asked a question on every down. ‘Well, why are they doing this? What does this mean? Why didn’t he call this play instead?’”
Sometimes her viewing party on their 60-inch flat-screen television was cut short, but Foster saw more than enough to water her passion.
“I would have to beg my mom to let me watch the entire game because it would be past my bedtime,” Foster said.
As she is making the director of football operations role her own, Foster emphasizes every element of life needs a Black woman’s touch.
When the university previously hosted recruits, their credentials displayed the statistics of a former Aggie now in the NFL. Foster has since suggested the credentials show a current N.C. A&T player’s statistics instead.
“NFL players are great, but at that particular time high school recruits have their eyes directly on college, not the NFL,” Foster said. “Recruits during their junior and senior year need to feel like they can envision themselves on our field, with our team, in our colors. We’re not recruiting NFL players. We are recruiting student-athletes that want to be Aggies.”
When it came time to begin planning for N.C. A&T football’s first away game, Foster reached out to other directors in the Carolinas for advice. The team also used to receive black-and-white printed itineraries for away games. Foster suggested adding colorful graphics to the itineraries to get players excited about the trips.
Being a welcoming ear for player suggestions is also high on Foster’s priority list to help create bonds, further player maturity and character development.
“It’s about the relationships,” said Washington Commanders assistant running backs coach Jennifer King. “All the guys have moms, sisters and aunties, so [it’s key] just to bring that presence to them and be someone they can talk life with.”
Foster even tries to make her office feel more like home for her team and herself by burning candles from Bath and Body Works.
“Sometimes, I’ll even burn mahogany teakwood [candles] for the guys if I’m feeling nice,” Foster said.
Before trading in her textbooks and Blackboard login for game itineraries and credentials in May, Foster was a student at North Carolina A&T.
When she entered the university in August 2019, she had aspirations of becoming a sports agent. Her path veered in a new direction when the coronavirus pandemic upended Foster’s freshman spring semester in 2020.
She enrolled in her sophomore classes from her childhood bedroom and did not return to campus until August 2021. By then she was a junior, and half of her college experience was already in her rearview mirror.
That realization added a sense of desperation to Foster’s search for an internship.
“I was getting an endless amount of people telling me no,” Foster said. “I was getting rejected from stuff I didn’t even know I could get rejected from.”
In May 2022, opportunity came in the form of a familiar face. Derrick Powell, the father of one of Foster’s close friends, is the global head of basketball at Quality Control Sports. Foster interned at the sports agency during that summer.
Her experience at Quality Control Sports, in conjunction with an NFL experienceship she completed in the fall of 2022, made her realize she did not want to be a sports agent because of the patience it takes to negotiate contracts and the time needed to grow clientele.
Foster knew three things: She did not want a desk job, she loved to travel and she wanted to work in football. She researched almost every job in football and finally landed on becoming a director of football operations.
Her friends pushed her to reach out to North Carolina A&T’s previous director of football operations, Jacquan “Jay” Respass, for an internship. She called and emailed Respass for weeks before getting a response.
As the 2022 football season ended, Foster finally reached Respass. She met with him and created a position for herself that had never existed in the history of the program: football operations intern.
“I was shocked when Jordyn came in and asked for an internship,” Respass said. “But it also excited me because here’s a young Black woman trying to break into the industry, and I have a chance to be a part of her journey.”
When Foster was onboarded, Respass said he wanted to make sure Foster was given real work to mold her into the employee she wanted to be for a university – whether it was North Carolina A&T or somewhere else.
While interning under Respass, Foster learned how to do everything from booking team flights and contacting hotels for blocks of rooms to assigning the team roommates for trips.
“Jordyn isn’t afraid to add a little flavor to the job,” Respass said. “She was always able to express her opinion and ideas. Her ideas made me realize we don’t have to keep doing things a certain way just because that’s the way they’ve been done.”
After Respass landed a job in the Arizona Cardinals’ football operations department and left North Carolina A&T in February, Foster began a three-month interview process for the university’s director of football operations position.
Head football coach Vincent Brown wanted to see how Foster made herself available during her trial time, her preparedness for staff meetings and overall consistency.
“When I met her initially, I saw initiative and drive,” Brown said. “I wanted to make sure she knew she needed to be an add and not just someone on the staff. During that three-month period, I got to see what her actual makeup was. She’s passionate about what she’s doing. She knows how to make relationships and how to be professional.”
Foster unofficially acted as the interim director from March to May, learning even more about the role, including training camp needs such as player meals, football field access since the university is technically closed at that time, player housing and assistance with scholarship count.
“I really feel like I was tested on how many fires I can put out independently without needing the help of Coach Brown,” Foster said.
The coach’s daughter Raven Brown is a reporter and anchor at NBC12 in Richmond, Virginia. She has faced racism and sexism during her broadcasting career, and her father said he wanted to help Foster break down those barriers on the football field.
“Representation is everything when you are looking to get into uncharted space,” King said. “This is huge for her [Foster], and I’m really happy for her. A lot of my family went to A&T and I grew up there. I also feel like I am a part of A&T as well.”
The same day the university posted the director job opening, Foster submitted an official application. During the three-month interview period, Foster didn’t get much explicit feedback from Brown regarding her progression or status of the position.
By the time she graduated In May, she still had not received a confirmation. She had another job waiting for her in her hometown but it was not her first choice. Foster’s mother and grandmother prompted her to ask Brown if she would get hired full time.
“Jordyn, your future is to become the next DFO at A&T,” Brown told Foster; the entire time, he had been waiting for her to simply ask.
“I was in complete shock,” Foster said, recalling the moment. “I wanted to cry right there in that office, but I held myself together, not wanting to show any signs of weakness because you have to be careful in this industry. But I thanked him and told him that I was here for him and promised to be a sponge.”
After the university made Foster’s hiring public, she received recognition from the university’s student newspaper, Black Enterprise and University of Colorado head football coach Deion Sanders.
“I was in complete awe and complete shock when I saw the tweet,” Foster said. “I am my own worst critic, so when I first got the job it was like this is what you’re supposed to do: graduate and get a job. But the shoutout from Coach Prime made me stop and take a beat to pat myself on the back.”
Although N.C. A&T ended the season 1-10, Foster believes she has made a smooth transition from intern to full-time employee – and Brown proudly co-signs this.
“The players even point out sometimes we didn’t have this or that last year,” Foster said. “The players point out to me, ‘This changed because of you,’ and it’s things that I’m not even trying to intentionally change. It was just my way of doing things that began to change the organizational structure.”