Featured Lions: Justina Thai
GLF: Let’s welcome back Justina Thai (class of 2013) from the realm of collegiate life in the heart of the dessert, Las Vegas. Folks, if you didn’t know, Justina was part of the first G-Staff and the first to finish 4 years in the program. She’s like Captain America, the “First Avenger”, but without all the muscle.
Justina: Haha, thank you and it’s good to be back. I love being at UNLV (University of Las Vegas) but I really miss seeing our football field, the bridges and the Bay.
GLF: Vegas is a love/hate thing for most people so it’s nice to know you enjoy the dessert. What is one thing you’d like to bring back to San Francisco?
Justina: I would bring back the weather-that would be perfect.
GLF: Yes, but we would lose every game because our boys can’t function in anything over 70 degrees. How about the buffets instead?
Justina: Oh no, I don’t have time to go to buffets. Between school and work in the UNLV football program, I don’t even have time for a social life.
GLF: I mean the buffets as in bring home the buffets.
Justina: (Giggles) The guys would appreciate that more than the heat but we would still lose games because they will be overweight.
GLF: Can’t be worse than their “Arizona-ice-tea-and-a-bag-of-chips diet”. This is your first year away from home, first year at UNLV and their football program, first year after life at Galileo-has it been a tough transition?
Justina: At first, but once I got to know people around here, it was much easier. It was like going from one family (Galileo Football) to another. The family atmosphere made it easier-the coaches and the staff here are wonderful.
GLF: “Family” is something that Coach Mark preaches in the Galileo Football Program and it’s good to see that it’s a universal thing. What is one lesson you learned in the Gal program that has helped you in UNLV?
Justina: I feel that the best thing I’ve learned out of the program is that the people you work with may or may not be who you want to be friends with, but at the end of the day, work needs to be done and you cannot allow your emotions to affect that.
GLF: That’s a good life-lesson. What’s a highlight of your time at Galileo?
Justina: One highlight is definitely going from worse in 2008 to first in 2009! We didn’t win any games the year before but won the championship the next.
GLF: Sounds like history might repeat itself-UNLV was 2-11 last season, worst of their conference.
Justina: Yeah, we’re all putting in a lot of work here so it’s a good possibility.
GLF: Good luck with that. Okay, back to your best highlight at Gal.
Justina: Oh right, I would say that the best milestone would be knowing that even though the seniors on the team have graduated, we will always be one big family and the longer I was a part of G-Staff, the bigger the family got.
GLF: That’s a good point. The Galileo football family is quite extensive and it’s good for people to see that this family isn’t made up of players only but also many others who have given so much time and effort.
Justina: If it weren’t for Coach Don (Harris) asking me if I wanted to help with the football program, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
GLF: He also came up with the term “G-Staff” right?
Justina: Yes, he did. Before that people who helped were called “managers”.
GLF: Many people don’t know what it stands for so I’m going to put you to the test. Do you know?
Justina: “Galileo STudents Assisting For Football”.
GLF: Bingo! Did you ever think it was possible to be a part of a college staff?
Justina: No, I didn’t think it was possible at all. I also didn’t have the courage at first, to pursue it but I emailed the football program director at UNLV last spring to see what would happen. They emailed back two months later and asked me to be a part of their program. After 1 season, I am currently working under the assistant recruiting coordinator.
GLF: I guess I have to ask this question that everyone is wondering about, “have you gone to the slot machines or played in a Texas Hold’em tournament?”
Justina: First of all, we aren’t allowed to gamble and second, I don’t have time to go to the Vegas Strip even though I’m only 4 long blocks away.
GLF: Really? (wink wink)
Justina: I’m not joking!
GLF: (Laughing) Alright, alright, I was just kidding.
Justina: In the UNLV program, players and assistants can be dismissed for gambling, alcohol or drug use, and even posting things detrimental to the program on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
GLF: That’s pretty serious stuff. Speaking of Twitter, did you know Coach Mark has a Twitter account? What do you think about that?
Justina: … (using cell phone)
Justina: Sorry about that.
GLF: Did you get a text?
Justina: No, I just subscribed to follow Coach Mark’s Twitter.
GLF: Nice. He’ll be happy to see that.
Justina: I think that’s a great idea. Many people use social media but a lot of people use it for the wrong reasons or use it the wrong way. It’s a good way for coach to communicate to his players and other people. Sometimes, he’s pretty funny too.
Justina: Yeah, he’s a very random guy when it’s not about football.
Justina: Oh no, what’s in the family stays in the family.
GLF: That’s very Vegas of you.
Justina: I’ve been waiting to say that line.
GLF: Got it. Okay, back to Vegas. How’s the college academic load?
Justina: It’s not too hard. Thanks to some great teachers at Galileo, I feel that I am very prepared for college classes.
GLF: Do you have any advice for high school players who want to play at a D-1 school like UNLV?
Justina: One word, GPA. To get into the school, students need a 3.5 GPA. Coaches will not look at a player’s highlight tape if his GPA is lower than a 3. Players also need to file for the NCAA Clearinghouse that is based on the GPA and the SAT score-the higher the GPA, the lower the SAT score, vice versa.
GLF: That’s a lot to do and players might not even be accepted. Most high school players think that talent alone is good enough. Why do you think it’s such a big deal to have a high GPA for football players?
Justina: Part of it is that coaches want to know for sure that players can make it in college academically and the other part I think is even more important is that players need to have a college degree to fall back on. Not all good high school players make it to college and not all college players make it to the NFL.
GLF: Are you expected to maintain a high level of academics as well?
Justina: Yes. We are all part of a program.
GLF: Alright then, I need to cut this off here because people won’t read any posts over a certain amount of words. Something about “lack of focus”, “Fun Run”, “YouTube”, and dare I say…homework.
Justina: Haha, sure, thanks for letting me share with future G-Staff members at Galileo. It created a solid foundation for me and I hope more students would consider being a part of the Galileo Football family.
GLF: That’s a great plug to close this out. Any last words?
Justina: Yeah, I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for football.
GLF: Many can attest to a life-changing experience like Justina’s. Until next time folks, don’t forget your sunscreen, stay away from the slot machines, and family is everything.