Brandeis International Business School

Sharing his passion for football

Vincent Xu, MSBA’20 started a flag football club at Brandeis. His efforts helped him land an internship with the NFL

Vincent Xu, MSBA '20, founded the American Football Club at Brandeis International Business School.

Vincent Xu, MSBA '20, founded the American Football Club at Brandeis International Business School.

Vincent Xu, MSBA’20 converted his passion for football into an internship with the NFL.

The Shanghai native enrolled at Brandeis International Business School to build his data analysis skills in the Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) program.

Those skills — and his efforts at Brandeis to share his love for the sport — attracted interest from officials in the league’s China office, who hired him over the summer.

An athlete since childhood, Xu grew up playing basketball and soccer in Shanghai. His interest in American football was sparked in Georgia, where he attended high school.

“I love the complexity of it, the physical nature,” said Xu.

As an undergraduate student in Manhattan, Xu’s campus didn’t have the space to play football beyond the occasional pickup game in Central Park.

When he arrived at Brandeis, Xu saw an opportunity to play — but no team. So he rounded up as many people as he could, many of whom were unfamiliar with football beyond seeing it on television, and founded the American Football Club.

It was a hit. The club attracted 100 members — about 20 who have come out to weekly practices and organized flag football games on campus.

“I came up with a plan, sent it to the school and got approved,” said Xu. “By spring we started regular practices. It’s easy when you have the right environment for it.”

The club is growing, too. A new group of students signed up this fall, and Xu is working to make sure it will continue after he graduates.

Xu applied his other passion — data analytics — during his summer internship. Working out of the NFL’s Shanghai office, he analyzed market research and social media feeds to develop profiles of various teams’ football fans.

The NFL was impressed with his academic accomplishments and his initiative in starting his own football club comprised of newcomers to the sport.

“The NFL in China is not like it is in America,” said Xu. “They run like a startup there, but with big backing from the U.S. They’re pretty much doing what I’m doing at Brandeis: creating a club with mostly Chinese athletes who don’t know the game as well.”

Xu is a top student in the MSBA program. In addition to founding the American Football Club, he formed a team for the Data Analytics Club’s competition, analyzing and presenting data about AirBnBs around Boston to a panel of judges.

Now, as a part of the first full class of MSBA graduates, Xu plans to make his living at the intersection of sports and data. His focus within the program is marketing, leading him to think about starting off his career in marketing analysis.

But eventually, he wants to apply his analytic skills to the sport itself.

“The field of analytics is growing very fast,” said Xu. “You can analyze every aspect of a player, from how they hold the ball, how they jump, run, everything. The goal is to identify any advantage to improve performance and prevent injury.”

Xu said the MSBA program is giving him an advantage in the field because technical skills, modeling and analysis are critical in an increasingly data-driven sports industry.

“It doesn’t feel like work when it’s something you’re passionate about,” said Xu.