HFC Cisco students worked behind the scenes at the NFL Draft

Release Date
Kayla Kerr and Gabbie Kelly-Powell at the NFL Draft in downtown Detroit.

In April, two of HFC Cisco lead instructor Todd Browning’s students were able to attend the NFL Draft in Detroit through the Cisco Networking Academy NFL Draft Experience. The students, Gabbie Kelly-Powell and Kayla Kerr, were awestruck and thrilled by the opportunity.

“Mr. Browning announced to the class that he received an email from Cisco requesting that two of his students attend the NFL Draft Experience. He selected Gabbie and me,” recalled Kerr, of Brownstown Township. “I was honestly shocked. I didn’t think I’d be selected. They were 20 of us in the class, but only two could go. It’s so cool that I was chosen!”

Browning explained why he chose these two students.

“I’ve had the privilege to witness Kayla’s work ethic as she navigated her way through the online Cisco Networking Academy courses at HFC, I was extremely impressed with her ability to multitask in addition to researching and learning about new technologies,” said Browning. “Her leadership abilities and eagerness to learn really helped her succeed. Kayla is a prime example of a team player.”

Browning continued: “Gabbie has displayed a high level of determination and is an excellent student in our Cisco Networking Academy. She is a self-starter, very resourceful, and can complete complex tasks on her own with little supervision. She displays tremendous drive and willpower to research and complete assigned tasks. She uses her experiences to better herself, and she continues to impress me.”

About the NFL Draft

The NFL Draft is a huge annual event that allows National Football League teams to select new players who are leaving college to play in the NFL. Teams choose players in a specific order, determined primarily by the teams‘ record the previous year. Teams can trade draft picks to obtain higher selections or more draft picks, and they must make each selection within a specific time frame. The event contains elements of surprise, drama, joy, and many fun festivities for the public. The Draft is one of the key ways new talent enters the league, and it sets the stage for the coming NFL season, which begins in late August each year.

The first NFL Draft was held in 1936, and has been held annually since. This year marks the first time in its history that the NFL Draft has been held in Detroit, with the Motor City still riding high after the successful season the Detroit Lions had. Detroit now holds the record for the largest number of attendees on the first day of an NFL Draft with approximately 275,000 people.

“It was pretty exciting!” said Kelly-Powell, a lifelong Detroiter. “My husband is a big football fan and coaches the Harper Woods High School varsity football team. He led them to their first championship in 2023.” She added with a laugh: “He was pretty jealous!”

Fun being the "wizard behind the curtain"

Kerr and Kelly-Powell really didn’t know each other until they were chosen for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They helped set up for the NFL Draft April 22-23. They enjoyed the opportunity to work together on the project.

On the first day, Kerr and Kelly-Powell got to see the NFL control room and the NFL head table room at Hart Plaza. They met NFL Director of Stadium and Wireless Engineering Anish Patel.

“We were assigned to shadow him as he worked at ensuring the network was properly set up and functional for the draft,” said Kelly-Powell. “We were able to watch as they ran failovers to test the network so the clock would not lose time during its countdowns. We were also able to assist in setting up the phones for the people who sat at the head table.”

“They had us watch as they were troubleshooting and testing everything. We got to see the clock that runs on TV and test it. We set up the Cisco phones. I got to see the routers and switches that connected the head table and ran everything behind the scenes. It was fun being the wizard behind the curtain. We worked for six hours. It went by really fast,” recalled Kerr.

On the second day, they continued troubleshooting and testing. After several hours, they got to explore the city, meet the fans, and see firsthand some of the amenities and attractions in the city.

“I loved going on the big stage, and I took a ton of pictures of the stage. I went back about 4 times that day because I could sit and stare at it. It was very cool,” said Kerr. “I’ve gotten into football more over the years. I’m a Lions fan. I wish I could have met the players, but it was still great to see.”

Added Kelly-Powell: “We had a really great time, and I felt so honored to have been chosen and be a part of this experience.”

Images from the experience

Faculty, too: Susan McGraw and Courtney Matthews had a blast at the Draft

HFC’s Susan McGraw and Dr. Courtney Matthews also attended the NFL Draft. Both said it was memorable and worthwhile to be part of the "sparkling and vibrant" city hosting this amazing event.

Matthews lives in Detroit. She attended all three days. She met Amon-Ra St. Brown of the Lions and attended the free Big Sean concert.

“The NFL draft had something for everyone from the free Big Sean concert to games for kids, NFL player meet-and-greets, and so many amazing food vendors from all around Detroit,” said Matthews. “I went to some of the festivities every day, and one of the best parts was hearing people from out of town talking about how much they were enjoying the city and how great the food was. I was surprised at how accessible everything was, especially for the quality of entertainment and activities, and that just meant even more money would be spent on local food and craft vendors. Another highlight was definitely the Lions Fan Experience that was set up like a miniature version of Ford Field on Jefferson Ave. with games and photo ops.”

Added McGraw: "After watching Day 1 of the NFL Draft on TV Thursday (and getting up to speed on how it all works), my family and I decided to head downtown on Friday for this once-in-a-lifetime experience to check it out for ourselves. We had an absolute blast! Detroit was sparkling and vibrant, there was so much to do and see, and every person in the crowd was friendly and fun. What a way to be part of the celebration and bond with this wonderful city as it was showcased on the world stage. The words, ‘Detroit is on the clock,’ will mean something truly special to me for the rest of my life!"

Related content: HFC Cisco program overview video