The “I Want Your Job (IWYJ)” podcast continues with Coach Geoff Collins, head football coach of Georgia Tech, and Georgia Tech Brand Manager and digital strategist Santino Stancato.
Georgia Tech Head Football Coach Geoff Collins shares how he defined his coaching ambitions early on, and then followed his vision by working hard to navigate different jobs and roles along his journey, helping to recruit some of the best college football student-athletes in history along the way.
At Georgia Tech, Collins is supported in his goal to promote the football program through his content and social media team led by Santino Stancato AKA Morpheus, who talks about his journey as a creative in college sports and the strategies he uses today to help take the brand of Georgia Tech football to the next level.
Connect with Coach Geoff Collins:
Connect with Santino AKA Morpheus:
Highlights from the interview:
5:38 – Geoff Collins’ background growing up in Atlanta
7:02 – Geoff talks about making the decision to pursue coaching as a career, and the process of going to school and getting his first Graduate Assistant job at Fordham University
8:18 – Geoff shares his experience as a young coach leading players of a similar age, and the qualities it took to be successful
9:18 – The series of events and challenges that lead Coach Collins to his success, including a phone call from Nick Saban
13:28 – “Have believe in yourself, regardless of where you’re at, and this is advice for anybody: work as hard as you possibly can at the job you have, be as successful as you can be at the place that you’re at, and then eventually, good things will happen to you if you know where you want to go.”
14:04 – Collins shares how putting in the effort at jobs that may seem like stepping stones matters the most in developing your skills and guiding your career journey
15:50 – Collins explains how he invested in people and other tools to help tell stories, get content to the right people, and use storytelling to drive world-class recruiting programs and define his programs’ brands. Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, and Dont’a Hightower’s class was recruited via Facebook
18:14 – Coach Collins tells a story about a videographer getting in his way during a practice drill, understanding and seeing his creative staff’s vision in producing high quality content, and encouraging them to be in the middle of the action to get “money shots” and other dynamic content
20:30 – Collins’ explains his vision for the Georgia Tech football program, based out of the impactful city of Atlanta, and how he believes athletes in Atlanta are setting themselves up for future success
28:02 – Santino Stancato explains his background in marketing and digital with the Brooklyn Cyclones and at Temple University, where he met Coach Collins
28:55 – Stancato shares the story of how he got the nickname “Morpheus” from Coach Collins at a team meeting
30:02 – Stancato explains how he went to school for marketing/PR but also learned how to make graphics on Youtube. He shares his success on starting a business selling posters (sold about $5K worth in one day) which lead to his boss asking Stancato to do graphics
32:06 – Stancato speaks about how coach gives him the access and the ability to sit in on meetings and fully understand what’s going on in the football program, so that the digital and content team have the context to make dynamic content
32:39 – On capturing photos and video from angles that put people into the middle of the action: “When you shoot that way and you can put people in that atmosphere, they’re going to pull to it and they’re going to gravitate to it.”
33:22 – Stancato explains his process, working with his creative team, and how since the early days everyone was on the same page and bought into putting in the long hours and the work to create engaging content, because it matters to the program.
35:06 – “There’s a lot of cool things that are happening in our building every single day,” and being transparent and sharing the stories behind the football program helps the community connect with the team in a way that helps everybody and brings positivity.
37:08 – “Kind of like you [Jim Cavale] and how you started INFLCR, when I see players posting tons of pixelated photos or pulling from Google, and it’s not to the quality of content, that’s super aggravating.
Like, you see that and you just, as a content person and storyteller, you’re like ‘aw man’ I just want to be able to help them in any way that I can.”
37:50- “Some of us have 120+ guys on the team, we’re managing Coach’s content, and we’re doing all these different things, so, it’s not always super easy to always distribute. INFLCR obviously is going to be a huge help in that.”
38:55 – How Coach Collins emphasizes building a personal brand that can positively impact life after football, and the culture Georgia Tech football players have embraced around sharing great content on social media
41:15 – Stancato shares his aspirations of becoming an Athletic Director one day, and having the ability to empower athletes and athletic programs with the experience that comes from building brands
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Full Podcast Transcript:
Jim Cavale: What’s up, everyone? Welcome to I Want Your Job, the podcast where we deconstruct some of the most influential leaders in all of college and pro sports.
I’m Jim Cavale, the founder and CEO of INFLCR. Our company puts this podcast together so that you can get value from the stories of your peers who you respect so much. These are leaders in college and pro sports that you may or may not know. I’m talking athletic directors, head coaches, front office, sports professionals, and especially digital and social professionals who are on the cutting edge of technology and sports. You’ll also hear from entrepreneurs in sports and media executives in sports.
On this episode, you’re going to hear from Geoff Collins, the head football coach at Georgia Tech University. Now, here’s the deal. Coach Collins is not only the head football coach at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, he’s a guy who grew up in Atlanta and his story took them full circle back to really where it all started for him as a Georgia Tech fan growing up.
Before I get into his story and the interview, I want to thank INFLCR and my team at INFLCR for putting this together. This is something that we’ve worked really hard to put together so that you can get the value I mentioned before, but it’s also something that we’re blessed to be able to do because we have such great clients and partners who have leaders like Coach Collins. Georgia Tech is one of our clients and I gotten to know Coach Collins a lot over the past year or so since he took over the football program at G Tech.
Now listen, here’s the story briefly before we go into it, this is a guy who grew up in Atlanta, played high school football there, ended up going to Western Carolina to play college ball, played linebacker and then he got out of football for a little bit. Decided to dabble in the fitness business world. Got right back out of it because he missed football so much, had such a big passion for it and made a few stops including a small college defensive coordinator position at Albright College but ended up finding a mentor in George O’Leary, who is the head football coach at Georgia Tech.
And in 1999, he gave Coach Collins the opportunity to be a GA there. And he learned a ton from Coach O’Leary and you’re going to hear about that. He went back to his alma mater, really got to get deep with X’s and O’s on the defensive side. He was the defensive coordinator at Western Carolina, and then goes back to Georgia Tech, and then Alabama in a position where he’s running recruiting for those two schools.
In Alabama under Nick Saban, Geoff Collins led the most impactful, successful recruiting class in the history of college football. I’m talking Julio Jones; eventual Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram; and he used new media, both at Georgia Tech in 2006 and in Alabama in 2007 in those recruiting roles. He used not Instagram, not Twitter––they weren’t around yet––MySpace and Facebook. And you’re going to hear about how he leveraged new media and how he innovated to add more of a multidimensional flair to his abilities as a professional in sports, working in coaching, working in recruiting in college football. He thought outside the box, and it got him somewhere. You’re going to hear about that.
Now, he was a defensive coordinator for two big SEC schools––Mississippi State and Florida. And he parlayed that into the head coaching position, his first ever head coaching position, at Temple. He turned Temple around, and he got them back to the ATL where he’s now the head football coach at Georgia Tech.
Now this interview took place in his office in Atlanta at Georgia Tech footballs facilities. You’re listening to it. If you listened right away on the week, it’s running on the week that they open up the college football season against the defending national champion, Clemson Tigers, and you’re going to hear about the rebrand here.
I mean, let’s be honest, when you hear Georgia Tech football, you think triple option. Well, that’s gone. He’s rebranding the program on the field. He’s rebranding it off the field with a movement on social media known as for 404, the culture, linking the program to Atlanta, all the Fortune 500 companies in pro sports team, fan communities that exists there are being tied to Georgia Tech. He’s gotten several five-star recruits already. He’s doing something, you’re going to hear how he’s doing something, why he’s doing it so fast.
And when I get done with my interview with him, I’m going to let you in on the digital strategy with the guy leading it–– Santino Stancato, a.k.a. Morpheus––who you’re going to hear coach talk about, joins me after my interview with Coach to tell his story and delve into the strategy around social and digital for Georgia Tech football. You’re not going to want to miss this. So here it is, Coach Geoff Collins from Georgia Tech football.
All right, Coach, so we’re here at Bobby Dodd Stadium, Georgia Tech University. You’re the head football coach here. And it’s kind of surreal, I’m sure, because you’re an ATL guy. You grew up here. So let’s start right there. What was it like growing up playing high school football right here in Atlanta?
Geoff Collins: Yep. So I’m born and raised in Decatur, Georgia, which is 10 miles outside of where we are right now. And then played High School ball out in Conyers. And, you know, most of my memories revolve around being in this great city, being downtown, experiencing everything this great place has to offer. Georgia, Georgia Tech used to have a JV game that they would play on Thanksgiving morning, and that was part of our family’s Thanksgiving tradition.
So I can look right outside my office window and see the actual seats that we would sit in to watch those Georgia Tech Georgia games. And, you know, just part of the framework of this great city is Georgia Tech football.
So, you obviously had a nonlinear path like most people do. It’s not a straight line up, right?
It’s a zigzag to get to the point you’re at now where your head coach at Georgia Tech. When you get out of college, you decide to get into coaching. Your first job was at Fordham. Just talk about the path from graduation from college to where you are today and all the different things that that you had to endure and do to get here.
Well, actually, my first job out of college was in corporate fitness at Georgia Pacific. So I can look outside my office and see the Georgia Pacific world headquarters. And I was in the corporate fitness facility because I thought I was going to do that. And I did that for four months.
And I’m like, “This ain’t for me. I want to be coaching.” So I left and went back and got my education certificate. I was a student assistant at Western Carolina University and fell in love with being a coach. And I sent out a handwritten letter to every Division I coach in college football, 1AA coach, Division II coach, trying to get my foot in the door, and then ended up being the graduate assistant at Fordham University in the Bronx.
And so, to go from the mountains of Western North Carolina to New York City was a culture shock. It was great for me and my wife. She graduated from Parsons School of Design. And I had a great year there. And then from there, went, was a Division III defensive Albright College, Division III defensive coordinator, I think at 25 years of age. And I did that for two years and had a great run before I got the GA job here at Georgia Tech.
So, before we get to coming back home, getting the GA job, what was it like for you, you’re 25…
…and you’re coaching, some guys are only like three years younger than you.
And you’re in a leadership position, like you’re the guy that’s running that side of the ball.
Like how do you all of a sudden just adapt and become a leader of peers in some sense?
Yeah, and I was a leader throughout college and even high school, but it is different having those guys that are relatively the same age, but just building trust and building a rapport and having confidence to be able to stand up in front of group of men and, you know, lead them and we played some really good defense those two years. But I had visions, greater visions for my career.
And so, I fought my butt off to get the GA job here. At one point during the process, Ted Roof, who was the defense coordinator at the time, I was having people call five, six, seven times a day to everybody that was on the staff. Billy O’Brien was on the staff. I would have people wear him them out. Doug Marrone, who’s now the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, call him, wear him out to give me the job.
Ted Roof called me and he said, “If we give you the job, will you have people leave us alone so we can go about our work?” And I’m like, “If you give me the job, I’m there and I’ll call off the dogs.
All right. So, O’Leary was the head man here when you get the position as GA at Georgia Tech. And from working here with him, putting together an amazing recruiting class. Talking about before you use things like MySpace back then…
…to be able to recruit kids all the way through working with guys like Coach Saban at Alabama. You’ve been a part of leadership that’s been paramount in college football. So talk about what you’ve taken from those leaders and applied to you now as a head man at Georgia Tech.
Yeah, yeah. So Coach O’Leary, when we were here, we were top 10 in the country every year when I was a GA, you know, playing for ACC championships, playing the New Year’s Day bowl games. That was what this place is supposed to be. But just tremendous attention to detail, work ethic. Everybody had their job. They knew their job. And they attacked their job every single day.
For three years that I was here with George O’Leary, I did not see my wife awake. That’s not an exaggeration. I was here by 5:30 every day, and probably wouldn’t leave until 11:30 at night or midnight. So that was just the way we ran things here. And we had a tremendous amount of success when we were here, so it was good.
So then you leave here, get to be a part of several other programs.
So I actually had to take a step back. So we were here. Coach O’Leary got the Notre Dame job. And I was part of that transition where he got it and then circumstances ended up not going. So I’m a 29-year-old. I’d just been promoted to full time.
So I was a year, two years at GA. And I worked so hard that Coach O’Leary promoted me to full time. And after that year, I’m a full-time Division I coach. I’m 29 years old, in Atlanta, and living the dream upwardly mobile in this coaching profession, and then I’m out of work. So it’s, you know, an interesting thing to climb the mountain at such a young age, and then have it all come crashing down.
And I end up going and coach a 1AA ball for four years back at my alma mater as a defense coordinator, and had a great run there, played great defense there. But every time, you’re trying to get out of that 1AA, you know, situation, wanting to be back at the premier elite levels of college football. So I had to come back with Chan Gailey to Georgia Tech in a recruiting role.
So 29 years old, I’m a full-time Division I position coach. Then I’m a 1AA coordinator. But to get back to this level, I have to go to an off the field role to get back in the ACC and get back in Division I. And we signed the best recruiting class in the history of Georgia Tech. After that year, Coach Saban called me. He was just got named the head coach at the University of Alabama. And I wanted to be a coach. But I’m off the field.
So he brings me and I’m off the field again, at Alabama, we signed the number one recruiting class in the history of college football. And, you know, so then the next year Georgia rehires me back as an assistant coach at University of Central Florida. So just, you know, it’s…
So a lot to unpack there. So first off, talking about take a step back and talking about not having a job for a moment, right?
There’s an old saying, “No matter what industry, the easiest way to get a job is you have to have a job.
Right. And so here you are, all of a sudden, you don’t have a job. You have to go back to your alma mater, which for those who don’t know, Western Carolina…
1AA school, good program.
But then you’ve got a… it’s almost a PR thing, right? Like, he’s now known as a coordinator, but at the 1AA level.
Exactly right, yeah.
And you got to correct that and that takes… it almost took a decade. That whole story sounds like it almost took from 29, close to 39, to get, because you went on the field at Western Carolina. Now you’re off the field at all of these schools and then back on the field again with Coach O’Leary at UCF. So for people listening, like, what’s the number one advice, whether it’s coaching, whether it’s working in athletics, to keep that vision of the light at the end of the tunnel, and work through that, for maybe even a decade?
Sure. Just have belief in yourself, and regardless of where you’re at, and this is advice for anybody, work as hard as you possibly can at the job you have, be as successful as you can be at the place that you’re at. And then eventually good things will happen to you if you know where you want to go and where you want to eventually end up.
And I eventually knew that I wanted to be the head coach of Georgia Tech. I knew the first day I was here as a graduate assistant. When I became full time I knew I wanted to be here. But, along the way, you’re going to be at different places, but you still have to do a great job where you’re at. And that’s the challenge for some people. They see where they want to be but they’re not investing in the time of where they’re at to be successful.
And those jobs, regardless of how small you may think they are, they matter to your development, the recruiting experiences that I had at Albright College was Division III. We signed the signing class of 82 kids. I signed 45 of them. So it’s mass recruiting. It’s mass marketing, you’re having to recruit so many guys. Well, now, we sign a recruiting class of 25 if you’re a position coach. If you sign three or four, that’s a success. Well, I had already been through [a year 0:14:38] where I signed 45 kids. So just that… it’s okay to be in a place but do a great job where you’re at and the experiences eventually will pay off.
It’s great advice. So having these recruiting classes be successful, of course, translates purely onto the field wins and losses. Talent is a huge part of this aside from coaching and development. And you have been at the cutting edge of technology throughout a lot of those classes, because technologies evolved a lot during your career. Like, social media didn’t exist at first when you first got started. And you mentioned MySpace with the recruiting class you’ve signed back in 2006 and 2007.
Obviously, at Temple, you built a great program, turned it around, and it got you back here to be the head coach. But investing in a staff creating content and digitally conscious, Morpheus, your guy is in the room right now. He’s been a big part of that.
Talk about, like, when it clicked for you to make sure that you are investing in people to produce content and tell the story. And you’re investing in other tools to help magnify that story to as many people possible.
Yeah, so the 2006, we signed on MySpace, and nobody else was really doing anything social media wise. And that was the first one and we embraced it and ran with it. Then we go to University of Alabama. We sign that whole class off of Facebook, because that was the first year that it became a public where anybody that didn’t just have a university email could get on it. And we signed that class off of Facebook. And then, you know…
And then the class with Julio Jones.
Julio Jones, Mark Barron, Mark Ingram, Dont’a Hightower, just legends of the game. And then we go to UCF. And that’s the first year that Twitter is out there. And that signing class, I was the recruiting coordinator/linebacker coach, that class went 13 in 1 their junior year, won the conference championship, won the Fiesta Bowl, which in that day and time of school at UCF should not be in the Fiesta Bowl.
Blake Bortles as a junior was the fourth pick in the NFL Draft. And that class was signed off of Twitter. So just embracing it. Now we’ve just taken it to a whole new level with social media and all the different avenues. Morpheus and his crew put out great content, but it’s genuine for who this culture is, genuine for what our brand is being in downtown Atlanta. And we just try to give a reflection of that every single day on social media.
I love it. I love it. So now it’s mainstream, like lot of teams have, you know, a director of content development or creative director and they have social media managers, and it’s become mainstream. But back then this was cutting edge. So like what were… what would even your head coaches or people who are disconnected from what this is, this thing called social, what are they saying when you’re talking about how this is a key tool in getting recruits?
I think at the time and it was Chan Gailey and he was awesome. He just saw the results of it. When we get into the weeds with the process, just “Geoff, you’re handling it, it seems like it’s going great. You keep doing the same thing with Coach Saban.”
I still remember the interview process with him. And he was like, “How long is it going to take you to get the MySpace page up or to get our Facebook profile up?”
I’m like, “Coach, I’ve already created it. It’s already done. I just need to get the job. And then it’ll go live. And now we’ll be attacking everything that we do.”
So I think I’m uniquely qualified in this day and age to be a head coach in this kind of social media age because I’ve been doing it, understand what Morpheus needs and content that he needs to produce a great product.
Even yesterday, we’re out at practice. And one of our video guys kind of got in my drill, because I’ve run the DB drills, he’s kind of in my way. And I just asked him to move a little bit because I understand, a lot of head coaches would be just, “Hey, kid, get out of the way and go run.”
I saw the shot that he was trying to get. And it was a money shot. It was a great shot. And I’m like, “Hey, just move about two feet so I can keep going with my drill, but I get what you’re doing there. Just keep doing that.” So I understand the process.
Yeah, that is very unique. All right, so to wrap it up, because I know you’ve got a million things going on. You’re about to speak to your team. We’re here at Camp right now. You’re getting ready for the 2019 season.
But I want to talk about this whole 404, the culture movement, and your attention to investment into your athletes, right, like, that’s how we know each other. You’ve decided to invest and partner with INFLCR. You allowed me to speak to your team last night and launch the platform with all your players so that they can build their brands and complement the Georgia Tech brand. Like, talk about that whole ideology and how it fits into your plan for recruiting and for branding, rebranding this program.
Right. So the big thing for us is getting our brand out because in the NFL they’re choosing contract, length of terms, years, those kind of things of where they’re going to go. In college athletics, the high school recruits are choosing to go to the different places based on their brand.
So we want our brand to be as strong as possible. We want our culture to be as strong as possible. But we also want our guys to be promoting themselves, building their own brand. And most of our recruits are following our players. So if our players are producing great content, well, then our recruit see it and it helps them, helps our players and helps us get recruits. And it’s just a really good marriage of that. And so, we want to help our guys navigate the world of social media positively and produce things and content that helps us and helps them be successful.
That’s awesome. And so the vision for this program over the next three to five years is to return to the national prominence that it’s had before. Just talk about that vision to wrap this up.
Yes, I mean, I’ve been here when College GameDay was here. I’ve been here when we’ve been a top-five team playing in those games that everybody is talking about, playing New Year’s Day bowls, playing for championships, and 11 of the last 13 national championships have come from within five hours of this office in downtown Atlanta. So the best players in high school football are right from this area, the best coaches.
So we want to embrace everything about this great city to have this be a magnet so the elite of the elite are playing here and being on a bright stage or a big stage. And all of those things are important to me to represent the 404 and to represent this great institution.
And the 404 in Atlanta is a place where a lot of young men want to end up. There’s a lot of opportunity here beyond the game.
Right. Yeah, there’s… we’re one of the top three cities with Fortune 500 companies. You just look outside of my office and all of the elite companies that are in America, and our guys, we had 38 guys do internships this summer, at real companies with real corporate structures that are setting themselves up for life after football. Because even if they do go play in the NFL, there’s still going to be a time frame that they’re going to need to be productive citizens and do really, really good in the business world. And this great place affords them that opportunity.
Well, Coach, I really appreciate our partnership, really excited about being a part of what you’re going to do here at Georgia Tech with INFLCR, but also it’s been cool to even hire one of your former players on our team and see that whole life-after-football concept come to life that you’re preaching to your guys. So just appreciate our partnership. Good luck with you with everything. Thanks for making time for me.
Thanks, Jim. You’re the best man.
Such great stuff with Coach. Like I said, he got dirty. He learned a bunch of new stuff that most coaches won’t take the time to learn themselves. And by doing that, by thinking outside the box, by being ahead of the curve, he offered value to the organizations that hired him early on. He moved up fast.
And he’s still using a lot of those things he learned both personally with his social media, but with his program through hiring a guy like Morpheus and the team under Morpheus that’s producing awesome content all the time, and pushing it out all over social media to create the 404, the culture movement that you heard about.
And so, now let’s talk to Morpheus. Let’s hear his story, how he met coach and the strategy behind Georgia Tech.
But before we do, something I like to do in each episode of I Want Your Job is visit with one of the 15,000 INFLCR users. You know INFLCR has now more than 7,000 active athlete users on the INFLCR app. That means that over a 24-hour period, more 7,000 athletes are grabbing content through their INFLCR app and sharing it to social media. These 7,000 individuals represent an audience bigger than 30 million unique people between Twitter and Instagram. And so, I’m going to give you a glimpse of what it’s like to be one of these athlete users.
I’m going to do that by visiting with RJ Barrett, the number three pics by the New York Knicks in the 2019 NBA Draft. RJ began using INFLCR during the magical Duke basketball season that everyone watched this past 2018, ‘19 season and has continued to use it now as a pro. Used it during summer league; he’ll be using it during his NBA career. And it’s interesting, getting to know RJ and spending time with him in Vegas at NBA Summer League, we recorded this interview, but just getting to know him out of the recording. He’s a guy who cares about digital. He cares about social. He cares about branding. And I think that’s the young athlete. That’s the same athlete that many of you, if you work in college sports, are recruiting and hoping comes to your institution.
And so, what makes RJ tick? Why does he want to use a platform like INFLCR? Why does he care about content and having the right to access his content? Let’s hear all of that in this quick interview between myself and RJ Barrett.
So RJ, you show up at Duke with teammates like Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish. And you guys are told about this platform called INFLCR that Duke Basketball and Duke Athletics Program has invested into so that you can use an app to access all the content around yourself in real-time. Talk about when you heard about that and then just what it was like being able to use INFLCR and get your content in real-time.
RJ Barrett: Yeah, I mean, it was great after the game, just, you know, go over my phone, and all the pictures and videos just come out. And, you know, we actually, the whole team, we use it a lot. A lot of our pictures from the season were actually from INFLCR. So it was great.
So talk about this whole idea that athletes can work so hard. You can work so hard to get on the court, right? Like, it’s hard enough to just get to the level you’re at. But yet, as you’re at that level, you create these amazing moments on the court that are captured by national media photographers, and live broadcasters, but yet you’re not able to access that content yourself so that you can use it. Of course through INFLCR, you’re able to now do that, through our national media rights deals with outlets like USA Today, you can now access your content, but this whole idea that you can’t always get your pictures and videos even though you work so hard to make those moments, just talk about that.
Yeah, it’s great. I mean, if you’re on the court, and people take a picture of you like it should be your picture too, I guess, in a sense of why would I go, you know, pay to get my own picture. So definitely have, you know, given such stuff after the game, after practice is going to help a lot.
Really excited to continue working with RJ during his NBA career as an INFLCR athlete user. And listen, INFLCR is a company that’s putting together this podcast. So each episode you’re going to be able to hear from one of our athletes about what they care about, right?
When it comes to social, when it comes to digital, when it comes to branding, things that they really care about, you’re going to hear about it from them each episode.
Now, let’s get back to the interviews. We got down with Coach. We walked down the hall and sat down with Morpheus Santino Stancato, the guy that’s running content via social and digital for Georgia Tech football. Here’s his story, and how he got to where he is with Coach, let alone the vision for where they’re going.
You heard Coach talk about Morpheus, and I’m sitting here with him right now. I think it’s important to hear his story and how it weaves into this whole digital social plan that Coach talked about here at Georgia Tech. So Morpheus, first of all, people are probably hearing that name and they’re thinking, what the heck, where did that come from? Your name is Santino Stancato. Talk about how you met Coach and how you got that name.
Santino Stancato AKA Morpheus: Yeah, so, I met coach at the last place he hired me. I was working with the Brooklyn Cyclones originally, Minor League Baseball team in Coney Island, doing a lot of marketing for them, a lot of promotion. In Minor League Baseball, you kind of get, you know, your hands in everything.
Got the job at Temple. Took over the marketing, the social media, the brand, and, you know, it was kind of a match made in heaven dealing with Coach because he’s so, you know, brand-heavy, and he sees the value in it for the players, for the program. And it just, you know, took off that way. And it was, it was great.
So you’re in a meeting, and he just starts calling you Morpheus. Tell that story.
Yeah. So we’re sitting in a meeting and, you know, it was probably one of my first meetings really being there. He’s saying, you know, “Morpheus,” and I’m like looking around, I’m like, he got nicknames for everybody.
So I’m like, trying to figure out like who Morpheus is, and like, you know, and he keeps saying and he’s like “Morpheus” and I sat in the back of the room. He has the long table. I’m in the back. So he’s looking directly at me, and I’m like, he’s looking at me right now. And he’s like, “Yo, Morpheus.” And I like, realized that and it kind of just ended up taken off from there. And, you know, he has his reasons for it. It’s like the Greek god of dreams. And I guess, because I can, you know, throw some graphics and different content together. The Morpheus thing, kind of, you know, intertwined with that.
So let’s back up. How do you end up getting the skills that you had? It sounds like it’s a mix of education and on the job, just learning but, I mean, design, video, editing, photography, everything you do, you’ve been able to learn and also lead others in doing?
Yeah. So, yeah, that’s kind of interesting. So I went to school for marketing and PR, wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my life. And I just figured that was a broad range of, you know, I can go work in sports, I can go work in a corporate setting, I can do a lot of different things. And my little brother, I was coaching baseball at the time, I was coaching his team, I just wanted to make some extra bucks.
So I went on YouTube. I learned how to make some graphics. Started a little business that summer selling posters. I sold about $5,000 worth in one day, and posters didn’t cost a lot to make. So I ended up taking it back to my school. And this is when social media was like really hitting its peak, and in football and college athletics.
And my boss was like, “Hey, do you want to start doing this for us?” And I was like, “Absolutely.” And I just kind of was able to, you know, keep teaching myself through YouTube. And I’ve met a lot of really great people down the road, Coach Collins, another guy, Billy Horner, that’s helped mold me to where I am. So it’s been exciting, and you know, still learning and still building my process. So it’s been a real good thing.
All right. So having a leader like Coach that you report to that actually gets involved in what you’re doing is rare. There’s people listening who are working in roles like yours at significant brands in college sports, but their head man isn’t really understanding their day to day, they’re not going to be in the DB drill and see a camera operator, and actually let him stay in and invite him to get the right shot like Coach Collins described.
How big is that then for you to have the license to be able to infuse your creative thoughts into this program and what goes out on social media?
Yeah, so it’s incredible. I mean, being with Coach, the way he’s allowed access to my team is unbelievable, and he did the same thing at the last place. And I think that’s why the marriage work so well. I mean, like, I sit in, in every single meeting, so they’re going through the players, players that did great, the players that maybe had a rough day. I kind of know how to incorporate that kind of stuff into my content. So him just giving me the access and the ability to be in the room and be in the drills during spring game, I was like, you know, behind him kind of in his back pocket the whole time, I’m able to shoot from behind. So it’s like, you’re getting views that not a lot of people are going to, you know, really ever get to see.
And when you shoot that way, and you can put people in that atmosphere, they’re going to pull to it, and they’re going to gravitate to it. So, you know, being with Coach and him giving me the ability to do all that and then my team as well, it just, it matters.
It does. And I think it also makes me wonder what is your process that you’ve evolved? You mentioned your process, it obviously isn’t a one-man show. You have help here. You guys shot me speaking to the team last night. You had videographer do that shoot. What does your team look like? And what does your process look like?
Yes. So, right now, we have a team of three, Ryan Wise and Brittany. Ryan does a lot of video, Brittany does graphics. They are phenomenal, like, truly, truly phenomenal. And it’s a, you know, when I first got here, the biggest thing was just making sure that they bought into everything we’re doing, because it’s not like this everywhere. And there’s a lot of energy.
And it’s, you know, it’s a lot of hours. And that’s not easy for everybody to always swallow. So it’s making sure that they understand why we’re doing things. And understanding that us branding the team, branding the program truly matters to the program, because it’s one thing to just check a box and go into work and say, “Okay, I threw out this tweet, and I did this, and I did that.”
But when you truly care about what it’s doing for the program, when you care about what it’s doing for your athletes, you know, you put, you know, you feel more invested into it. And you know, in the next couple years, when we get this thing rolling and turned around, and you know, all those guys, they’re going to be a big part of that. And that’s my biggest thing and conveying what the culture is. And those things like what we do matters, and you mean something to this program.
And getting it out there, you guys are also controlling the distribution as far as the accounts on Twitter and Instagram. So it’s not just… it’s not just content creation. It’s distribution. There’s an intentional plan and process with that. Talk about that.
Yeah. So my biggest thing is just being as transparent as we can. There’s a lot of cool things that are happening in our building every single day. And that’s been the coolest part about the access that Coach Collins has given me. Being in the meetings, I was just sitting in Coach Burton’s meeting with the DBs and just sitting there chilling, listening, you know, hearing the guys speak, and you learn stories that way. And you learn about the players and what matters to them.
And my biggest thing is doing those things, that way I can make sure that when I’m telling the stories on social media, when I’m pushing things, it’s helping everybody. And that we are being transparent. And a big thing too is, you know, just being available.
You know, like showing up to a workout because every day there’s different stories going on. So show the guys playing video games because that’s cool. We talk about competition is king, well, we’re competing every day––ping pong, pool, they’re playing video games competing with one another. So just showing, you know, the things that push you past just being an athlete. So that’s been a big goal of mine and will continue to be a goal of mine moving forward and pushing that through.
So you and I met through the establishment of our partnership with INFLCR with Georgia Tech football. You had a chance to go to our Storyteller Summit this past summer at Turner Sports and soak in a lot of the things that your peers are doing to not only tell the story from their programs, but also to empower athletes. So you know that’s very important to us, obviously.
Just talk about your thoughts on empowering athletes on social to build their brands, to have access to the content that you’re already producing, and be able to be affiliates and compliments to this Georgia Tech brand that you’re building overall.
Yeah, so kind of like you and how you started INFLCR. When I see players posting, you know, tons of pixelated photos or pulling from Google and it’s not to the quality of content, that’s super aggravating. Like you see that and you just, as a content person and storyteller, you’re like, “Oh, man, like, I just want to be able to help them in any way that I can.”
So your summit was absolutely incredible. And the people that you brought in, and that spoke, you know, they’re in the trenches doing what we do, and you know, they know the processes of being able to push content to, you know, their athletes, and you know, some of us have 120-plus guys on a team, and we’re managing coaches’ content, and we’re doing all these different things. So it’s not always super easy to always distribute.
So INFLCR, obviously, is going to be a huge help in that and being able to push unique content and tag our athletes and, you know, after practice, they’re going to be able to just open it up, because a lot of times we’re just, you know, it’s based off relationship and just being like, “Hey, I’ll send this to you.” And it takes a lot of time, and you can’t do and push the amount that you would like. So INFLCR, you know, it makes it super easy for us to do that.
And for you to see players even yesterday in my talk with them how much they care about this…
…and how much it’s clicked. I was getting texts from coaches on the bus. After you guys left my talk, you went to the Atlanta United Game, and we got 92% I think of the guys on the app using it right away. They care about this.
Yeah, yeah. They really do. And, you know, like I said, Coach Collins, he emphasizes, you know, building your brand, and there’s going to be life after football at some point, whether it’s, you know, after college, or it’s after the NFL or NBA, whatever it is, you having a strong brand is super important. I mean, just like, it’s your resume online.
I don’t… I can’t even tell you how much like I look at an actual resume now. Like, I want to see how you can talk to yourself on social media. And that’s what I look for when I’m hiring someone, like, what does your content look like? How do you, like, are you interacting with players? Are you doing those things? And that’s in my realm.
For players, it’s the same thing, like, I tell the guys all the time, like, “You are a part of Georgia Tech now. You have a short amount of time to, you know, elevate yourself in this, you know, spectrum and with this audience. And if you can do that, at a high level, when you go into the league, or you go with, you know, interview with a huge company, they’re going to look at those things and know that where your bars at and how invested you truly are.”
So our players have done such an incredible job doing and building their brands and taking our photos and content and pushing it out in a positive light. And then on top of that, the way that the one thing that I love that they do is they hype each other up. So it’s not always about like, “Oh, I picked the ball off.” It’s like, you know, my bro went out there and he made a play. And I think that’s the coolest thing about this team understands and in building their brands and how it can positively affect them down the road.
I love it, man. That’s awesome. All right, last question. I want you to just like you paint a vision to the people that you’ve brought on your team about what they can do to get this program to where we all are want to see it go, right, you said that you have to remind them of that, show them that they matter.
Talk about your vision for yourself, what do you want to accomplish in this industry with the skills that you’re learning and the teams that you’re leading and what you’re a part of here at Georgia Tech? Like, where do you want your career to go?
Yeah, so I bounced around on this quite a bit because branding is so… you can do anything with branding. And it’s, you know, I love working with athletes. I’m super passionate about it. I want to help these guys get to the next level in any way that I possibly can.
So the vision for myself as being able to do that. I think I want to be an athletic director. And the reason so I can do that at a very high scalable level and I can do it for not just football players, I can do it for an athletic program in general. And I think with the way things are going, having someone that has a branding background can really help an athletic program grow and, you know, become prominent in their space.
So that’s the opportunity that, you know, I want to look for and I’m learning and just trying to make sure, you know, I’m learning a lot of the operational side of things and what these coaches want, and you know, how I can make their visions come true. And Coach Collins has given me such a tremendous opportunity to come down here and really do that.
And, you know, I’m blessed to be here and I can’t wait to see what we do here at Georgia Tech and… because we’re really going to make some noise down the road.
I love it, man. Thanks so much for making time for me.
Thank you very much.
So great stuff from these guys. I just get so inspired listening because just like episode one with ACC Associate Commissioner Eric SanInocencio here in episode two with Coach Collins and Morpheus, you’re hearing a theme.
Same theme as episode one, add more skills to your repertoire. Think outside the box, get uncomfortable, learn things you don’t know so that you can be more multidimensional to whoever is your employer. This is very important stuff to take home and think about with whatever role you’re in. And these guys talked about it in their stories in ways that for Coach Collins helped him move up the ladder very fast at a young age because he was using new media. He was using technology to be very successful with recruiting. And there are things that he’s still leveraging with Morpheus now at Georgia Tech to already be signing five-star recruits and already rebrand this Georgia Tech football program that he’s now taken over. So great stuff from Coach. Once again they take on Clemson to open up the season. And you know, that’s a big reason we released this episode this week. It’s pretty timely in that respect. The show notes for everything Coach talked about, everything Morpheus talked about are available at INFLCR.com. You can click the podcast option in the menu.
You’ll see episode two with Coach Collins, click on it, you’ll see show notes links, you’ll even see ways to follow Coach and Morpheus on social so you can stay engaged with them. Let them know what you thought of the podcast, share it, tag them. And make sure you subscribe to the podcast.
On episode two’s page, you’ll see the Apple iTunes subscribe option and you’ll see the Spotify subscribe option. So click on either engine depending on the one you like to use and subscribe to our podcast, and of course, follow us at INFLCR. And just know we are working hard to get new episodes ready for you here in season one that you are going to love. We’ve got most of them already recorded.
And they’re from head coaches, athletic directors, executives in the media industry, so many different people that you’re going to learn from with their stories. And we’re going to continue to give you athlete interviews and interviews with digital and social media professionals as a part of each episode with our featured interviewee so that you can remember that connection to everything you’re hearing when it comes to social and digital and how that connects to the future and what’s going on in what they’re doing in sports.
So new episodes are coming. The next one is an exciting one. It’s with Bill Clark, the head football coach at UAB. This is a guy who was the head coach, took his team to a bowl game.
And in 2014, the news was given that the program would be shutting down. A year later, they brought it back and he stayed not knowing for sure they would ever be brought back. But it was. And after a couple of years of preparing, they relaunched the program.
And in two short seasons, Coach Clark turned UAB into a champion. That’s right. They just passed out rings to the team after winning the Conference USA title and a bowl game this past season. You’re going to hear all about the turnaround. You want to learn about patience, perseverance, faith, man, this is a good interview coming at you in episode three.
So stay tuned for that. Stay tuned for plenty of other great guests on I Want Your Job.