Welcome to Checking In, our feature that spotlights fascinating associates across the company and globe. Today, Heart of the House checks in with Donteea Dye Jr., wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He just finished up an NFL Players Association Externship at Marriott Corporate Headquarters in the Global Operations department. The externship is a unique program that provides current and transitioning NFL players career experience during their off-season.
HOTH: Hi Donteea, thanks for sitting down with Heart of the House. We want to get to know you a little more, and hope you don’t mind answering a few questions. First, tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up, and did you always play football?
DD: I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio born and raised, and lived there until I left to college. Yes, ever since I was 5. I was forced to play football. I never really loved football, I hated it to be honest because my dad was my coach. After you get off the field you don’t want to deal with it anymore, but I would go home and deal with it because he was my coach. I didn’t like it until he stopped being my coach, which was after middle school. So 10th grade year was when I loved it and found a passion for it. Then when I got to college it just sprouted.
HOTH: What did you want to be when you grew up?
DD: An architect, but I can’t draw at all. I like buildings, I like the structure, I like bridges. In Cincinnati there are lots of bridges that go across the Kentucky. We call one the McDonald bridge because of its golden arch, and there’s a Purple People bridge you can only walk across.
HOTH: What was college like for you?
DD: I tore my ACL my senior year in high school, so I didn’t have any scholarships leaving high school. I had two teams talking to me, one of them was Heidelberg University. I really wanted to play football in college because all my friends were and I didn’t want to be some loser. I visited Heidelberg and it was a family vibe. Felt like a place I was supposed to be. And that’s exactly what happened. They welcomed me with open arms. I really loved it. There they teach you to be a student athlete, and they put school first. They could care less what you’re doing on the field. I remember specifically freshman year I failed science class and my receiver coach told me I wouldn’t be able to come back for spring ball. I studied like crazy, got a 3.0 that semester to show him I was capable so he would let me back on the field. That was the only class I actually failed. After having that talk with him, he’s like a father figure to me now.
HOTH: So you wanted to be an architect when you were young and you studied marketing in college. Was the NFL your plan after college, or were you thinking about other options?
DD: I made NFL my number one priority. That was a big decision for me. And a lot of people don’t know this, but I had 3 or 4 scouts looking at me and I thought I could make something happen: that the NFL dream is real. I sat down and took two or three months to decide if I was going to focus on school and getting an internship and job afterward, or if I would focus on football, and work out hard, train twice a day, take it seriously like it is my job. So I picked football.
HOTH: What was your biggest accomplishment before the NFL?
DD: Graduating college. I was first in family to graduate with bachelor’s degree. That was the best thing that ever happened.
HOTH: And what has been your biggest accomplishment since being in the NFL?
DD: My first catch and first touchdown in same play against the Washington Redskins.
HOTH: Were you a Buccaneers fan before you played for them?
HOTH: Who do you still cheer for?
DD: The Bengals. Born and raised. They’ve been tattooed on me since I was 17. Cincinnati is always in my heart. I have the Reds tattooed on me too. It’s my home town, and you can’t not cheer for your home town.
HOTH: Tell me about the NFLPA externship program, and why did you decide to apply?
DD: My mom has always been on me about education. She just knew I was going to graduate high school, and if did go to college I was going to graduate and get my degree. She doesn’t care about football. When I completed my rookie year she asked what I was going to do in the off season, but it was my first so I was going to see how it went. This is my 2nd off season, and when the time rolled around and she said again, “It’s about that time. What are you going to do?” I remember putting a star next to this email from the NFLPA, so I looked into this. This one specifically with Marriott had to deal with marketing, and that’s everything I went to school for, so I figured why not? I applied for it, put in my resume, and accepted me two days later. And now I’m here.
HOTH: You’ve been working in a few different areas. What have been your favorite areas to work in?
DD: Mobile and M Live. When Starwood came over, they had their own rewards program and app, and Marriott had their own program and app. So trying to combine them into one big app is going to be difficult. It’s going to cost a lot of money. It’s going to take time. And M Live [social media] is just M Live. Everything in there is just cool.
HOTH: Have you picked up on the culture at Marriott?
DD: Yes: treat your employees well, and the employees will treat the customers well, or something like that. I’ve actually been staying at a Marriott, and they are so welcoming. And I don’t think they know that I come in the building to be an intern. I don’t think they know who I am period. But they treat me like I’m one of them, like I’m family there.
HOTH: What can you take from these experiences back to the field?
DD: Oh man. This experience will definitely make me want to work harder on the field so I don’t have to be in a suit while I’m in my early twenties. There’s nothing wrong with this world, and I knew what I was getting myself into with my degree. I knew I would have to be in a suit at some point. But hopefully I’ll be on the 6th floor with Arne [Sorenson]. That’s a goal for me – shoot high.
HOTH: Are there any similarities to working at Marriott and being on a professional football team?
DD: Concentration and focus. If you’re not on top of your game here, you’re definitely going to fall behind, and I’ve only witnessed it because of me. I go into meetings just not knowing anything, but I’ll leave prepared. If you mess up on a PowerPoint you’re presenting to someone, you don’t look too good, but if you’re on the field and you drop a ball you don’t look too good either! So staying focused and on top of your game are key qualities.
HOTH: Do you feel like you will be better prepared for life after football because of this externship?
DD: Most definitely. I met with Arne and some pretty powerful people. They got their success from the same work ethic, same determination, overstepping boundaries and fighting diversity. Same thing on the football field and the League. I had to work hard and fight diversity too, so seeing it’s possible outside of football is what I took away from it.
HOTH: Last question. Is there anything surprising about you that most people don’t know?
DD: I can juggle and I love soccer. I can juggle 4, not 5 or 6 or anything, and I can do 2 in one hand. I love playing soccer. I think those athletes are very skilled. Oh yeah, and I’m a sock guy. Everyone kind of knows that that knows me, but I love them. I keep them in a drawer all folded up. I don’t ball them up so they don’t stretch out. This is sock etiquette!
HOTH: Well it’s been a pleasure to get to know you. Thank you Donteea, and good luck!