Sometimes a career change can result in life-changing opportunities for those willing to sacrifice the most and work the hardest for what they strive for.
Scott Aligo is a graduate assistant, or a GA, with Washburn University’s football team. His journey to Washburn is quite unique. He had aspirations of playing collegiate athletics, but was injured early on. Recognizing he would not be able to compete at the collegiate level, he took stock of the situation and decided he wanted to be around sports any way he could.
As an undergraduate student at the University of Kansas, Aligo met with the football coaching staff and requested to assist the organization in any way he could. The discussion led to him joining the Crimson Crew – a group of students who assisted with on campus recruitment, showed new recruits around campus, and provided them with the proper KU experience.
While at Kansas, Aligo supported the equipment staff and made sure the team was outfitted correctly for Saturday games. Eventually, through team exposure and getting to know the coaching staff, Aligo began helping on game days with basic tasks, such as running some aspects of the game day routine and calling personnel packages for then Kansas defensive coordinator Bill Young.
During his final year at Kansas, Aligo landed an internship with the Kansas City Chiefs, the local NFL franchise team. While working in the front office of the Chiefs, Aligo learned what it took to become a professional talent evaluator in the NFL.
“Man, at that time I was learning to grow up,” said Aligo. “I had to learn that college Scott was gone and NFL Scott had to take over, if I wanted to stay there.”
As the six month internship program came to a close, Aligo was approached about his future career plans. He quickly replied he wanted to continue working with the Chiefs. Unlike many graduating seniors, the first week after graduation Aligo lined up a job and had his foot in the door as a scouting assistant for the Chiefs.
As he time progressed with his new job and the support of his family, Aligo decided to move home to save money while working his first year.
“My parents were and still are so supportive of me,” said Aligo. “That first year they helped me out so that I could be there half an hour before everyone arrived and left half an hour after everyone else.”
With time came more opportunities for Aligo as he was, once again, given an opportunity to work with the Chiefs’ coaching staff, including former defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, calling personnel packages and gaining additional experience.
In 2009, with past general manager Carl Peterson taking a position elsewhere, Scott Pioli, former vice president of player personnel of the New England Patriots, joined the staff and was charged with revamping the Chiefs. With the NFL draft quickly approaching, Pioli kept his front office staff in place and, as the weeks wore on, noticed Aligo’s conscious work effort.
“As far as I was concerned, they were going to have to drag me out of there by my hair,” said Aligo. “No one was going to be able to say they outworked me.”
Over the next few months, many personnel changes were made. However, Aligo retained his position a scouting assistant. Following the 2009 season, the two discussed Aligo’s future and then Aligo left the Chiefs organization to gain experience in an area Pioli felt he was missing – coaching.
Through his many contacts and coincidence, Aligo traveled to Orlando, Fla. for the 2010 American Football Coaches Convention. During the convention, Aligo met a Division II coach by the name of Craig Schurig – WU’s Head Coach. At the time, Aligo was searching for a program that would allow him to work with players – not just with statistics and scouting, which traditionally is the role of graduate assistants at larger schools. Talking with Schurig, Aligo explained he needed to gain coaching experience.
“I told Coach Schurig that I needed to be thrown into the fire and that I would come work for free over the summer if that’s what it took to get a spot with him,” said Aligo. After assisting the defensive staff during this past summer, a graduate assistant position opened and Aligo seized the opportunity. The position was a full-time position with the defensive line and would develop the skills he yearned for.
As for the future, Aligo has developed a further interest in coaching.
“I enjoy being a teacher, doing what I can to help make those guys out there better each day,” said Aligo. “It’s really one of the biggest feelings of fulfillment that I have experienced in my life.”