Garin Veris envisioned success from an early age. Aspiring to one day play professional football, the native of Chillicothe, Ohio made that dream a reality following a standout career on the defensive line at Stanford that netted him All-Pac-10 honors and enshrinement in the Cardinal Athletics Hall of Fame. Veris would go on to an eight-year NFL career, including a trip to the Super Bowl with the Patriots.
When his playing days ended Veris found success back at his alma mater doing athletic fundraising work. He parlayed that experience into career stops at Marquette, New Hampshire, and UMass-Boston as well as a job with the City of Boston as Director of Recreation. Veris, 53, is currently athletics director at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, a role he entered in November 2015. In this exclusive interview with FootballMatters.org, Veris describes his earliest football memories, his love of fundraising and the impact football can have on a person’s life.
Football Matters: How were you introduced to football?
Garin Veris: My first memory of football was watching the Ohio State Buckeyes on TV. I was fascinated by it. I would play sandlot football with elementary school friends when I was 7 or 8-years-old. We had a little spot on the playground that was a lot of dirt and rocks and everything else. This spot was right outside the fence of our high school football field, so we would have visions of one day playing on that high school field.
FM: Were any coaches particularly influential in your development?
GV: When I first played football I played flag football. We didn’t have organized Pop Warner football until I got to junior high school. As a young kid in flag football, I thought we had a great staff and I learned a lot there. You always remember your first coach. Through my entire playing career I think I learned more from Raymond Berry with the Patriots than any other coach.
FM: How did you begin your administrative career when you retired as a player?
GV: I had a conversation with the athletics director at Stanford in late 2000. I went out there to visit friends and stopped by the Stanford office. I thought I would check in with them to see if there were any opportunities at Stanford. Ted Leland was the athletics director and I wanted his thoughts on getting into collegiate athletics. They had a position in fundraising and it was just a natural fit for me because I was so appreciative of what Stanford had done for me. They gave me a full athletic and academic scholarship. For me to help fundraise and bring more student-athletes to Stanford was a great mix. I enjoy being around young people who are just starting their careers. It’s something that has been in my heart for a long time, so I’ve really enjoyed it.
FM: You have a great deal of fundraising experience in your professional career. What do you enjoy about fundraising?
GV: Fundraising is about being around people who have a passion for collegiate athletics and helping young people, and that’s what I’m all about. I enjoy being social, meeting people and getting to know the student-athletes. It’s something that I naturally gravitate to. I think I do well figuring out why that alumnus or person wants to give money, and giving them a reason to want to give to our programs. People are amazed at the things these kids do and what they want to accomplish. By donating their funds, the kids can do it and our athletic programs can grow.
FM: What drew you to Mass Maritime?
GV: I had not heard much about Mass Maritime before I got here. I met the administration, saw the facilities and learned about the alumni and academic programs. We have a great building block to go off of, but I think we can do so much more. I think great things are ahead of us.
FM: What are your goals for the athletic department?
GV: I always want to keep our graduation rate high. Our kids do a fantastic job academically, and that’s my prime focus, to make sure our student-athletes understand that academics is number one. While they are doing that I think we can also raise the level of our competitive nature. We can be good at both. We’re doing a good job now but I’m never satisfied. I want us to keep improving. For our kids and our coaches and our administration and our alumni to believe that we can get better, that’s really what we’re striving for.
FM: How did football prepare you for your professional administrative career?
GV: Football has been a huge part of my life. I’ve learned from some great people and learned about myself and what I’m capable of doing and overcoming odds. All those things led me to where I am today. Football has been a big part of that. It’s just a great game and I love being around it.
FM: What can football do for someone beyond their playing career?
GV: Not everybody is going to make it to the NFL. I have this picture that my mom had me take in my full youth Bengals uniform when I participated in the Punt, Pass and Kick competition in Cincinnati. I take the picture with me when I go to speak, and I tell kids that you’re never too young to dream about what you want to be. When I show them that picture I think it just resonates. I tell them that not everybody is going to get to that level, but you have to prepare yourself that if it doesn’t happen that you can go on and be a doctor, be a nurse, be a lawyer, whatever it is. If you set your mind to it, you can do it.