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MBB Alum Jon Harris Featured In DePaul Magazine

Basketball Alum Jon Harris Featured in DePaul Magazine

Men's Basketball Alum Jon Harris (1991-95) was recently featured in the Winter 2010 issue of DePaul Magazine.  The DePaul Magazine is published for alumni, staff, faculty and friends by Marketing Communications.

A Life Outside Sports

DePaul Magazine – Winter 2010

Aself-described “country boy” from upstate NewYork Jonathan Harris (LAS ’95, MS ’00) makes an impact across the nation preparing athletes for a life outside their sport. Through the company he founded in 2004, AthLife, Harris provides education, career transition and life-skill programs for professional, collegiate and high school athletes.


He counts the National Football League (NFL) Players Association, the Atlanta Falcons, the Major League Soccer Players Union and more than 30 Universities, including DePaul, among his clients, but the real impact of his work can be seen through his advocacy for the value of education.

“Education and financial security are the keys to an athlete’s successful career transition,” says Harris. “Through AthLife, we help professional sports players complete their degrees and go on to meaningful careers. We also provide career and educational resources to young athletes at the collegiate and high school level.”

Harris has had countless successes stories in his work, including that of former linebacker Derrick Thomas, a standout for the Kansas City Chiefs and 2009 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With Harris’ help, Thomas was just two classes away from earning his degree at the University of Alabama when he died from injuries sustained in a car accident. In May 2000, the university granted Thomas a degree posthumously. “That was one of the defining moments for his family, and it was fulfilling to be a part of it,” says Harris.

No stranger to athletics himself, Harris was a four-year letterman in basketball at DePaul under Coach Joey Meyer. “I started as a walkon player, just glad to be involved in the program any way I could,” says Harris. While earning a bachelor’s degree in political science, Harris honed more than his basketball skills during his college years. “DePaul challenged me, helping me become a critical thinker and changing how I viewed the world,” he says. “In my first job out of college, I ‘cut my teeth’ at the National Consortium for Academics and Sports Midwest Regional Office, which was housed at DePaul.”

There, Harris worked on Project Academics—a program designed to help athletes from the NBA, NFL and DePaul complete their degrees while serving the community. The program proved to be so successful that the NFL decided to bring it in-house and asked Harris to run it as manager of player development.

After four years with the NFL’s program, Harris started AthLife. Most recently, he formed The AthLife Foundation—an expansion of the National Football Foundation’s Play It Smart Program, a mentoring program that helps high school football players from economically disadvantaged environments successfully graduate from high school and go on to college.

Similarly, The AthLife Foundation will help young athletes with SAT/ACT preparation and encourage them to take responsibility for their futures through lessons learned on the playing field, in the classroom and in service to others. Harris credits his time at DePaul for giving him the tools for success. “The skills I learned in my master’s in public service management program at DePaul have been very practical in running my own business,” he says. “Building on the lessons I learned there, I feel good when I go to bed every night, knowing that I’ve helped someone.”



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