By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
YBOR CITY - The late and great Lee Roy Selmon stressed the importance of USF helping its student-athletes become business world-ready well before they fill out an application.
The former USF athletic director would have been thrilled to see more than 100 Bulls all dressed up Monday night when they picked up valuable tips at the first annual Enhancing U Etiquette Dinner at The Columbia in Ybor City.
"Coming to an event like this helps you come to reality and understand this is what I'll be doing one day," senior linebacker Sam Barrington said. "To get a head-start at something like this is a great experience."
The event covered everything from how to deliver a proper handshake, how to stand correctly, how to build networking skills and how to dine in an eloquent manner under the very detailed direction of Patricia Rossi, a USF alumnus who is NBC's daytime national etiquette correspondent.
It's important to know where your fork and spoon must go on the dining platform, but Rossi said the most vital skills a person must possess and practice are the ones he or she will use before the group gets to the table to talk business.
"The No. 1 thing is they need to deliver a proper handshake, receive one and give one, because we do that all day long and you can either sink or shine," Rossi said. "Also, just some tiny things like how to remember names. It's the most beautiful word in the world to people and so many times we say, 'I forgot your name.' Well, right away that makes you feel forgotten. We don't ever want to say that to someone."
The Bulls certainly won't forget their experience at one of the go-to restaurants in the Tampa Bay area that allowed student-athletes the opportunity to step outside the daily grind. Monday's group started the evening at The Museum building of The Columbia, where they enjoyed appetizers and non-alcoholic "mocktails" which set the mood, much like the first part of a business dining experience.
"Being a student-athlete you're used to competing, waking up early, going to the gym and working out," senior volleyball standout Kimika Rozier said. "This is something that is teaching us lifelong lessons. It's a really cool opportunity."
The group then crossed the street to the The Columbia's large, yet intimate dining area where the real business took place. Rossi immediately showed eager onlookers proper posture and protocol when walking into a room to meet a future employer or business partner.
"Maintain eye contact. Keep your toes pointed toward the person you meet and remember to not cross those arms," were some of the tips Rossi dished out.
"I feel like a grownup right now," the 6-foot-1, 230-pound Barrington said. "You kind of get so stuck on what's going on in school. To come into an environment like this dressed up and interacting with some of my peers, interacting on a business level, is a great experience."
After the introductions comes business, as Rossi advised, and the Bulls now know how to carry themselves before the main course gets placed on the table all the way to when the final - and small - bite of dessert has been properly chewed.
"When I'm at home and I'm at a restaurant with friends, I eat with my hands. I'm looking to clean that part of my deal up," Barrington said.
The Bulls were in a much different place than home Monday night thanks to Richard Gonzmart, owner of The Columbia, who continues to lend USF a huge hand with monetary support and now a dining setting he hopes will continue in the future.
"In the summer, Lee Roy Selmon talked to me about the need for an etiquette dinner and training for these young athletes who may never have a professional career and they have to be prepared for life afterwards," Gonzmart said. "When he passed away, I called (USF athletic director) Doug Woolard and asked if he would give me permission to host this in the memory of a great Hall of Fame person in life. I thought what better a way to pay tribute to a great person than to do this today for the great athletes."
Monday's elegant evening away from campus isn't the only event USF has put on for its student-athletes. The Enhancing U program, started by Selmon, already has held numerous workshops that have shown the Bulls how to construct an effective resume, how to budget their money now and later, along with taking them through the job interview process.
"I think USF is doing a really, really good job of preparing us for that next level," Rozier said. "The resume workshops, etiquette dinners and everything is really good knowledge for the real world because at some point everyone has to stop playing a sport and the real world has to hit you."