PLNU graduate student Terry Poole is doing it all. Not only is he completing an M.A. in School Counseling and preparing for another season of playing professional football, he also has a three-year-old daughter to raise … and started a party rental business on the side as well, Blessed Ventures, Inc.
Sports have always been a part of Poole’s life. His dad, brother, and sisters all played sports, basketball being their favorite. Yet in high school, the young athlete swapped the basketball for a football, picked it up, and ran with it (literally).
The Seaside, California native played at his hometown junior college, Monterey Peninsula College (MPC) until 2012 when he earned a scholarship to play for San Diego State University. In 2014, Poole was named team captain, and the following year, he was drafted to play in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks.
He admits the trajectory of his career has felt uncertain. Throughout the past ten years, he’s dealt with injuries, cuts, trades, and a complete shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It definitely hindered me earlier in my career; understanding the process of being released and getting hurt. I remember going through moments of uncertainty, depression, not knowing which journey to pursue if my football career were to end,” he said.
Yet with the aid of his family, coaches and mentors, such as his mother, as well as his former MPC football team head coach Mike Rasmussen, Poole has instilled a positive mindset.
“I do my best to focus on what I can control, such as my attitude, energy, how I treat others, as well as my effort. It was important for me to understand not to stress off of things that I can’t control, such as my tenure in sports. What I can control is my attitude, health, my athleticism, my mentality — just being a positive person,” he said. “Coach Rasmussen was big on disciple and would always ask us, ‘Where do we see ourselves in five years?’”
“What I can control is my attitude, health, my athleticism, my mentality — just being a positive person.”
Rasmussen was not the only MPC staff member who left a lasting impression on Poole. When the first-generation college student attended MPC, he worked with academic counselors who reoriented his mindset around school and how it would impact his future.
During high school, Poole struggled with his academics, and his habits followed him into college. “I didn’t have good grades at all; I was definitely capable of the work but wouldn’t turn in the assignments,” Poole said.
These academic counselors would come to have an indelible impact on the trajectory of his post-football plans.
“I understood that if I wanted to have a better future and a better life for my family, I would have to put in the work … determine which path I wanted to take in life. So that’s when I started to prioritize my focus on my academics and sports,” Poole said. “I feel like sports are a great vehicle to learn various skills such as team-building skills, communication, and character.”
“I understood that if I wanted to have a better future and a better life for my family, I would have to put in the work … determine which path I wanted to take in life. So that’s when I started to prioritize my focus on my academics and sports”
The wisdom of Poole’s mentors inspired him to follow in their footsteps. Poole was always passionate about helping others, as he conducts many public speaking opportunities for institutions and others to hear about Poole’s journey in efforts of engaging and aspiring his community in Monterey, CA. With his football plans in limbo during the pandemic, Poole started looking for master’s in school counseling programs and came across PLNU’s. The online format made it easy for him to pursue higher education all while raising his daughter, playing in the USFL (United States Football League) and providing the Seaside community and beyond with his party rental services featuring jump houses, face paintings, party equipment, and more!
After applying, he interviewed with Elizabeth Chamberlain (Ed.D.), who served as his graduate school advisor and mentor.
“She’s been a great help to me not only for the courses and the program but also for my personal life. She gave me great advice [to get me on] the path I’m taking now, to not second guess myself and just go for it. I felt really comfortable during this whole program and felt a lot of support from her. She’s just an all-around great support system. I could call her for anything,” Poole said.
Through the master’s curriculum, Poole had to find a 100-hour internship. Coach Rasmussen connected Poole to MPC’s JumpStart program, which is designed to help freshmen and incoming transfer students get acclimated to college life.
At his internship, he gives students resources, works on education plans, and deals with transcripts. For Poole, coming back to MPC was a full-circle moment. Many of the counselors he works with now were the counselors who helped him as a student, and their presence made a lasting impact.
“They helped support me in the right direction,” Poole said. “It was up to me to put in that work, but they gave me the right platform and resources. Why not try to pay it back and make a career at it at the same time?”
“It was up to me to put in that work, but they gave me the right platform and resources. Why not try to pay it back and make a career at it at the same time?”
It’s been inspirational for Poole to help current first-generation students of all backgrounds recognize they’re not facing obstacles alone. He feels his experience in life enables him to walk a mile in the shoes of his students.
He remembered how much he loved growing up in the diverse Seaside/Monterey area, which had large Latino and African American communities, in contrast to some of the less diverse areas nearby.
“That’s why I’m so comfortable speaking and interacting with other cultural backgrounds and people,” Poole said. “[There are] many different stories. You have to be able to cater to each person on the level they’re at and try to get more of an understanding of the situation.”
In January 2023, Poole signed for his second season with the USFL’s New Jersey Generals, and in spring 2023, he plans to graduate from PLNU with a master’s in school counseling.
When reflecting on his career, Poole acknowledges his time on the field won’t last forever, and instead of reminiscing, he savors the moment.
“I’m blessed to have this opportunity. I feel like the most memorable times have been with not even the winning team. It has been with the coaches that I’ve learned from the most — that I could gain from life experiences,” Poole said. “If I get the opportunity to go out there and compete at the highest level, [I will]. If I can’t continue, what I am doing is planning for my future and working toward that in this program.”
If you’re interested in earning your M.A. in School Counseling at Point Loma Nazarene University like Poole, learn more or start your application today!
Story by Katie Morris with reporting by Melissa Harter