Creating Black History Highlights: Leah Joseph, Assistant General Manager

Creating Black History Highlights: Leah Joseph, Assistant General Manager

Leah Joseph isn’t surprised to find herself working in the NFL. He’ll admit that a whirlwind journey that has seen him transition from working in college volleyball to college football to the NFL in less than a year has been interesting. But surprising? Absolutely not.

Joseph, who joined the Jaguars in August 2021 as an assistant to general manager Trent Baalke, is cut from football cloth.

His father Bernard is a successful high school football coach in Alexandria, Virginia, not far from Prince Georges County in Maryland, where he grew up. Major Joseph is notably the first black head coach in the history of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association, which is a source of pride for Leah, especially as we celebrate Black History Month and her father goes play collegiately at Virginia Tech, where he roomed with the future Pro. Football Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith.

If that’s not enough to have football deeply ingrained in Joseph’s personality, his cousin Chase Young grew up on the same street and has witnessed his career through a historic high school career at the Ohio State on the Washington football team.

“Football has been part of my life since the day I was born,” he explained. “We just grew up with football, going to Washington games my whole childhood, that’s what Sundays were like. I’ve always loved it. I’ve always wanted to play it, I just never got the chance to do it. When I started in athletics I knew that. I wanted to at least try what it would be like to work in football and when I did it I was like, ‘Yeah … that’s it.'”

Joseph played college volleyball at Georgia Southern and shortly after graduation found herself working at her father’s alma mater, where she became the director of volleyball operations. The self-proclaimed “Hokie for life” headed to football on her days off to volunteer for her favorite team. It didn’t take long for the football program to see her talent and offer her a job as the campus recruiting director. It didn’t take long for him to embrace the world of major college football.

“I loved it,” he recalled. “It was the craziest time, and I don’t know if I just enjoyed the craziness of it. It was right around the time the campuses reopened in May and June for official visits. We had a record number of visitors in May and in June. and it was crazy, an absolute pipe dream, but I thrived on it and loved it.”

Joseph didn’t know it as he was going through the endless day of last summer, but he was being prepared for something bigger.

Thanks to a friend of the Joseph family and his extensive network in the world of football, his name caught Baalke’s attention. Suddenly, the familiar world of Blacksburg, Virginia and Virginia Tech football was in his rearview mirror as he raced down I-95 toward Jacksonville and the National Football League, where a new administration was building a new program and the long days and nights still beckoned. again.

Leah had to adjust to a pretty steep learning curve, the NFL is very different from college football, but once she got her feet on the ground she felt right at home in the personnel department.

The season was… well… rough and more of a roller coaster than many people who work in professional football will experience in an entire career. Joseph dug deep and learned from Baalke and saw football from a completely different perspective. At first, he survived, but soon thrived working alongside the personnel department, trying to build a winner.

If anything, the learning curve became even steeper in December when Baalke embarked on the deepest and most comprehensive coaching search the Jaguars had undertaken since they hired Tom Coughlin in February 1994. Through a long list of interviews and thorough preparation, Joseph’s NFL education continued. at a breakneck pace with the announcement that Doug Pederson would be the next head coach of the Jaguars on February 5th.

“It was crazy is what it was,” he said with a laugh. “It was really crazy, but my job, I really tried to focus on helping Trent be the best because it was a lot of work and a lot of stress to go through this process. I needed the space and the time to make good decisions and do whatever it took to get the right person.”

All the while, he didn’t miss an opportunity to take advantage of everything going on around him and see where he was…in the NFL.

“I don’t know why, but I always have that thought when I cross the Matthews Bridge and see the Jacksonville skyline,” Joseph said. “I’ve always wanted to live somewhere warm coming from Blacksburg and I’m like, ‘It’s January and it’s 65 degrees and I’m sitting here and it’s honestly surreal to think where I am.’

The most pressing question is where is it going? A talented young woman in an NFL personnel department, especially one as ambitious and with as strong a work ethic as Leah, has an opportunity that hasn’t always existed for women in football. The Eagles’ Catherine Raiche, 33, is believed to be the highest-ranking woman in a football organization and interviewed with the Minnesota Vikings for the general manager job in January. This is a significant change, Joseph understands that the doors that were once closed are now wide open for her.

“Growing up I’ve always been a leader, I’ve always wanted to be the first to lead others, and everything I do I want to be revolutionary and disruptive,” Joseph offered. “I was raised to be out front and I’ve learned that it opens the door for so many other people and I’m a little bit fearless in that regard. I’m willing to be the first person to jump in and show off. others that too they can do it. That’s the way I’ve always been.”

Free agency is right around the corner, which will give Joseph a chance to learn more about the salary cap and build a roster with veteran players. Not far away is the NFL Draft in April and a whole different level of time consumption and never-ending to-do list as Baalke’s team prepares for what is a pivotal moment for any franchise, but especially for one working to build around the rookie quarterback. Trevor Lawrence.

“We have the combine coming up and free agency and the Draft,” he said. “So ever since the coach was hired it’s been nerve wracking, but it’s super exciting because there was none of this last year because of COVID. Having a whole new staff is going to be fun and I’m excited to see what it’s like and being part of the process, but my learning curve hasn’t plateaued since I started, which has been amazing.”

It’s just as exciting for the Joseph family in Maryland as it is for Leah. Bernard and Leah’s mother, Rhonda, and brother Bernard are on the Jaguars. Obviously, they’ll stay true to the Washington football team…Commanders…but they’ve added teal and black to their wardrobe. The family that introduced her to soccer is proud to be in a moment, perhaps the moment she was born.

“I really do believe that I’m supposed to be here,” he said. “The cards have fallen into place for me to be here and to be able to stay here, everything has been happening. I’ve literally worked three different jobs since last May and last May, this is not a place I would have been. I told you it would be.”

Where she goes from here isn’t entirely up to her, but anyone who knows her will attest that she’s up for anything. The last 10 months have shown that.

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