Joe Sargent '02 has had a multitude of jobs in his career so far, including the director of brand marketing for the Kansas City Chiefs during the banner year when they won the Super Bowl in 2020. (Yes, he has the Super Bowl ring to prove it!)
Of all the jobs he has had, one volunteer job that he takes seriously is that of Norfolk Academy alumnus. Sargent, who played football and basketball for the Bulldogs and earned the title of TCIS Boys Basketball Player of the Year, has shown incredible dedication to the annual alumni basketball game that NA organizes over Thanksgiving break. To participate, he sometimes drives five hours from Charlotte, NC to Norfolk, then returns home on the same day.
On Friday, he again showed his passion for the Bulldogs as the guest speaker for the Homecoming Chapel, celebrating the teacher-coaches who created experiences in the classroom and on the playing fields who left an indelible mark on him. At Norfolk Academy, he said, “you really understand anything is possible."
Sargent's introduction by Headmaster Dennis Manning offered a particularly poignant moment: Sargent's class was the senior class that graduated during Mr. Manning's first year as headmaster, and members of the 2002 Class happily sat in the “senior section" of the Samuel C. Johnson Theater, which had not even been built when they graduated. Mr. Manning recalled Sargent as a senior, “a kind soul and an incredibly fierce competitor."
“A thank you to Joe and his classmates for welcoming a new greenhorn headmaster so graciously and kindly," Mr. Manning said.
Sargent went on from NA to earn a bachelor's degree in sociology from Cornell University, where he played club basketball and served as a supervisor of intramural sports. He earned a master's in sports management from Indiana University and an MBA from IU's Kelley School of Business. He went on to work in brand management and marketing for an array of companies, including Wilson Sporting Goods Co., MillerCoors (now Molson Coors), Altria, the Chiefs, and his current job at Reynolds American Inc.
Sargent said that the difficulty of the classes he took, combined with the encouragement of teachers, gave him self-confidence and a kind of fearlessness. He recalled the way Dr. David Kidd stopped a student who opened a comment with “this idea might be stupid." Dr. Kidd told students that they had to believe in their ideas. And while Mrs. Linda Gorsline's calculus class was sometimes painfully tough for him, there were lasting benefits. “There is no such thing as grade inflation here," he said. “I felt pride in my tangible results."
He noted as well the intensity of the athletic practices led by varsity coaches, including Varsity Basketball Coach Eric Acra, Varsity Football Coach Tom York (who passed away in 2020) and Chad Byler, now NA's Director of Athletics; those teams built stamina, toughness, and a sense of community. “We were gritty and scrappy," he said proudly.
During his time as a student at NA, he met an alumnus, Allen Fears '75, who was the chief financial officer for the Denver Broncos, and Fears even showed Sargent his championship ring. Sargent left NA determined to work in sports, and he kept his eyes on that goal through several different jobs. He said that attributes like adaptability, being a good listener, and coachability helped him succeed.
Those traits, coupled with the education that he received at NA, helped him succeed and enjoy his professional life. “This place can make you really powerful," he said. “Make this a place that you're proud of and want to come back home to."