Former Owls reunite for student-athletes’ academic success

Past Temple University football players are providing student-athletes with the resources they need to accomplish their goals beyond sports.

Academic advisors Shahbaz Ahmed, right, and Jovahn Fair, left, meet in Ahmed’s office in McGonigle Hall for a portrait on Oct. 25. | AMBER RITSON / TEMPLE NEWS

There was a loud ‘hello’ and dap up near the entrance of the Resnick Academic Support Center that grabbed the attention of student-athletes studying.

Former Temple University football offensive linemen Jovahn Fair and Shahbaz Ahmed were reunited in May 2021 after not seeing each other for two years.

Ahmed and Fair were teammates on the Temple football team in 2015 and are the first former Temple football players to serve as advisors together for student-athletes, said Justin Miller, the director of the Resnick Center. 

Ahmed joined Temple’s student-athlete academic advising program in 2019, and Fair joined in 2021. Their role as advisors is to help student-athletes stay organized in their academics and career development anytime they need their guidance, Miller added. 

Their partnership is a chance to be teammates again, while setting an example for student-athletes that they can find success beyond their sport, Ahmed added. 

As teammates in 2015, Ahmed was a senior and Fair was a true freshman, who redshirted after his first year on Temple’s offensive line. During their season together, the Owls won 10 games.

The two former offensive linemen see their roles in different ways. For Fair, it’s the start of the next chapter of his life after spending the 2020 offseason pursuing a professional football career. While Ahmed found a passion in education after taking on a variety of jobs post-college football.

“They’ve become, in some ways, the cornerstone of the department,” Miller said. “Exactly what the offensive line role is, they are not often the most celebrated, but they are key to everything.”

Ahmed, who played at Temple from 2012 to 2015, had a short post-playing career with the Atlanta Falcons and ended up taking a variety of jobs to find stability, like a security officer, intern with Congressman Donald Norcross of New Jersey’s 1st District and mental health technician at The Horsham Clinic in Ambler, Pennsylvania.

Miller was looking to find a former Temple football player to work as advisor in the Resnick office in early 2019, and he reached out to a number of former Temple players to gauge interest, Miller said. 

Upon receiving an email from Miller, Ahmed sent back a couple of names of former teammates who could be interested in the position. He had a good relationship with Miller from his time as a student-athlete and working as an academic mentor during his senior year, Ahmed said. 

“My mom has played such a vital role in my success just as a person and I told her that [Miller] had hit me up,” Ahmed said. “And she said to me, ‘Baz, I think that he’s hitting you up to gauge your interest and just doing it indirectly.’”

Within an hour after initially sending back other names, Ahmed messaged Miller saying he was interested in the position. His mom, who always encouraged Ahmed to pursue a career in education, proved to be right, and soon Ahmed was back at Temple working with student-athletes, he added.

One of the first students Ahmed tutored was Fair, Ahmed said. 

“I was able to see him doing his graduate work and that motivated me to pursue my graduate degree as well,” Ahmed said. “He’s the embodiment of what Temple football represents, he’s definitely an inspiration.”

After bouncing around in the 2020 offseason with the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns in the NFL, Fair decided he was done with football. Despite receiving calls from NFL teams and the Canadian Football League, he chose to stop playing football and instead pursue a master’s degree in higher education, Fair said. 

Miller was waiting and prepared for Fair to reach out to him, which Fair did ask about a potential opportunity of working in the Resnick Center in 2021, Miller said. 

“I never saw football as the long-term goal,” Fair said. “I just wanted to see how far I could get. Once that time was over, I knew it was the right decision for me to take this role as an academic advisor and help continue to push this culture forward.”

Fair hopes to eventually end up in a role similar to Miller’s, leading an academic center for student-athletes. 

Miller sees Ahmed and Fair as key pieces to building the future for Temple football, he said. 

When prospective football players visit Temple, Miller is quick to point out Ahmed and Fair as athletes who accomplished more beyond their sport, he said. Both of them could be a big recruiting chip to student-athletes and their families.

“They are the culture,” Miller said. “They care about this place, the fact they want to come back and be a part of our staff is a gold star for us.”

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