My Carolina Experience: Jeb Terry
By Zoya Johnson, GoHeels.com
When speaking with former Tar Heel football player Jeb Terry, one thing that was apparent within moments of meeting him was his passion for Carolina. As an alumnus who experienced the University from many sides of the spectrum of student life and who is now a successful businessman, he represents what it means to uphold Carolina values in everything he does.
Terry's appreciation for the university began as soon as he looked into the university's history. Recapping his recruiting process, he says, "It was honestly because I could picture myself at Carolina without the football aspect. That was one of the things that was really important to me."
His road to success was, in his words, "very tumultuous." It was thanks to the support of the family Terry developed while at UNC that allowed him to come back from a potential career-ending injury and go on to play professionally.
"My UNC experience improved while I was injured," he says. "There was a chance that I would never play football again and it gave me a stronger appreciation for the school and the opportunities it provided.
"My loyalty only grew stronger during the rehabilitation process. It literally took over a year to get back to game strength, and even then I had to rehab continually for the rest of my career. I owe my entire career to the athletic training staff for getting me back to playing form and helping me manage the injury during the years that followed.
"Other programs might have given up on me, but not UNC. My teammates, the athletic trainers, weight room staff, coaches, academic staff, and other support personnel encouraged and motivated me to continue working and prepared me for a return to the field and an eventual NFL career."
When he arrived at UNC, Terry had a few specific goals. "I wanted to make a real impact in sports, get off to a good start academically so I could gain admittance to the business school, and grow my network of friends and contacts."
These goals were certainly fulfilled as he attained an undergraduate degree from the Kenan-Flagler Business School, went on to play professional football for five years, and then returned to UNC to earn his master's degree in business administration.
Terry did his prep work at Culver Military Academy in Indiana, earned his Carolina degree in 2004 and then played for Tampa Bay from 2004-07 and for San Francisco in 2008. The Buccaneers made him their fifth round draft choice in 2004.
In 2011, Terry co-founded Gridiron Ventures, LLC with former Tampa Bay teammate Ryan Nece, in an effort to connect fans to players in an authentic way. The two approached the subject as people who have been in the position of professional athletes and considered what they could bring to the world of social media that was unique to their experience. Thus, the Gridiron Grunts application was born.
"We thought there was an opportunity for an authentic connection point so our goal was to build a platform where athletes could do that and they could derive value from their content and they could also manage their brand and their message better," Terry explains.
The application allows fans to hear players comment or GRUNT® about something they, as Jeb puts it, are world experts on: Football.
Nowhere else can a fan connect on such a level without thoughts of media dilution or influence from a promotional team. The content that users experience through this app is strictly football and strictly from athlete to fan.
Since its debut in 2011, the application has evolved from social platform to becoming an exclusive source for undiluted content straight from players' phones to television, through networks like ESPN. Terry and Nece's venture has helped to give football players more control over their imaging than ever before while simultaneously helping to create genuine depictions of athletes.
Through it all, Terry retains a strong tie to his alma mater.
"Carolina really shaped me. What I've learned through the Tar Heel network is that you're always a representative of yourself, your family, and your university."
Terry says being a Tar Heel means there are going to be people who you will have a commonality with in all walks of life. It also means there is a higher standard expected of you, especially in today's world of instant communications.
When asked what words of advice he would give to a UNC athlete hoping to follow in his footsteps he said, "Every person is another brick in your walk way of life, because every single person you meet you want to leave a good impression with."
This may sound cliché but it is clearly how Terry lives his life. The concept allowed him to form a partnership and build a successful business with a friend who he otherwise may not have ever truly gotten to know.
"You want to leave an impression with somebody that they are going to remember you by, because you never know when that person can be an ally or that person can be an enemy, and if you have any control over it you want to be an ally," Terry explains. "Especially as a collegiate athlete, you have to be able to leverage what you've done to find mentors while pursuing career paths. You have to understand the value of being coached and grasp the value of that moving forward."
These two concepts are exactly what keeps UNC's network thriving.
Despite the storms the university and athletic department weathered the past several years, Terry's belief in Carolina remains unwavering. "We are always going to have some of the world's best academics at Carolina and an athletic department that succeeds on multiple levels. We are going to continue to make our brand grow and leave a tremendous legacy moving forward."
Note: Jeb Terry, a native of Dallas, Texas, was a three-year starter at offensive guard for Carolina from 2001-03. He was a member of UNC's Peach Bowl championship team in 2001