Finding My Identity

Robert Seals

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This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

Throughout the entirety of my academic career, I was not the best student.

That’s probably putting it fairly mildly.

At SMU, not only did I miss more classes than I care to admit, it’s quite possible I set some sort of record for the most skipped classes.

It’s not something I’m proud of, but at the same time, my attitude toward academics became a pivotal moment in my life.

Since I was falling so far behind in my classes, they assigned Lisa Rawlins, who was in charge of academic development for student-athletes, to work with me to help get my grades up and maintain eligibility on the football field.

Lisa was different.

She didn’t treat me like I was a job she was assigned to; she truly invested in me as a person and got to know me.

Not only is she the reason I was able to graduate, I may never have discovered my passion for computer science and embarked on a career in this field without her support and guidance during my time at SMU.

For this reason, when SMU and Lisa contacted me about coming back to speak at the 2024 Black Excellence Brunch as a former student-athlete, it was such an honor because I believe my story and message can resonate with many.

Once Lisa and SMU helped me find my passion, interests, and gifts I can share with the world, that set me on a path that changed the trajectory of my life forever.

Seeing me for who I am

Anyone who’s played high school football in Texas knows that football takes precedence over everything, especially during the season.

Your grades are not necessarily a priority, and you get pretty spoiled with quite a bit being done for you as a student-athlete.

That gave me a disadvantage going into college because I never had a valid reason to focus on anything besides football.

I had the same mindset once I got to SMU, and that’s when I started to dig myself into a hole.

I had zero motivation to attend my classes and put in the work, but like I said, that all changed after I sat down with Lisa and other staff members at SMU.

They were some of the few people who saw me for who I was outside of the football field. They wanted to get to know me as a person.

It’s funny, one of the first things that came to mind when Lisa asked me what I was passionate about and interested in was Tony Stark.

Iron Man himself.

I remember seeing Iron Man back in the day and being infatuated with the technology and AI associated with that movie and character.

Lisa helped enroll me in some computer science classes, and just like that, my grades skyrocketed.

I got my first “A” at SMU in an animation class, which I loved every second of.

I was excelling in the classroom for the first time in my life because I was genuinely interested in the subject matter.

Unfortunately, I was too far behind to major in computer science, but because of Lisa and her colleagues, I was able to explore other classes that motivated me to put in the work in the classroom and discover a newfound passion.

Since I was falling so far behind in my classes, they assigned Lisa Rawlins, who was in charge of academic development for student-athletes, to work with me to help get my grades up and maintain eligibility on the football field. Lisa was different. She didn’t treat me like I was a job she was assigned to; she truly invested in me as a person and got to know me. Not only is she the reason I was able to graduate, I may never have discovered my passion for computer science and embarked on a career in this field without her support and guidance during my time at SMU.

Forging my own path

Once I graduated, I knew I wanted to work in computer science, but I had to figure out how I was going to go about doing that.

I specifically wanted to pursue software development.

I attended boot camp and started learning the ropes when I sparked an idea.

One of my old teammates and good friends, Daniel Gresham, was taking entrepreneurship very seriously. I went to him with the thought of forming a partnership to build our own app together.

We launched an app named Vuzag around 2017, which was an exciting first project for us to tackle together.

It picked up some steam and started getting downloads, and that gave us both the confidence that we can forge our own paths and make a career in software development together.

That’s what led us to starting our own company: Vision R&D.

As Daniel and I delved into the tech space, we learned there are so many industries and companies that are having a difficult time figuring out how to leverage the digital capabilities that are becoming more and more abundant.

We want to help industries solve problems, remove bottlenecks, and add value to their business in this digital age that we’re living in, so that was the concept Daniel and I came up with in forming this company.

I’ve kept in touch with Lisa and have told her about what I’ve been up to with my career, and she’s amazed at how far I’ve come since that kid she met at SMU.

I’m a completely different person now, but it didn’t happen overnight.

It came with tons of growth, maturation, and learning from my experiences and some of the mistakes I made.

I went through some dark times not knowing what life had to offer me outside of the football field, but now that I’ve figured some of those things out, I just want to continue to stay true to myself and continue to learn and grow every single day.

Striving for Black Excellence

As an SMU alum, it brings me immense pride to know they’re putting on events like the Black Excellence Brunch.

Everyone that will be speaking on stage has their own goals, experiences, and journeys that have helped them achieve success in their life and career.

But it’s also important for the student-athletes to understand that Black Excellence isn’t something that can be measured by a paystub or a bank account.

Growing up, my mom always used to tell me that it’s what you do when no one’s watching that defines your character, and that’s what Black Excellence means to me.

It’s the resolve to persevere, bring your best every day, and contribute something to this world from the gifts God gave you.

There was a time when I didn’t think I had much of anything to give outside of football, but thanks to Lisa, SMU, and my family and friends, I started to believe in myself and the impact I could make on those around me.

At the brunch, I want to make it clear to these young student-athletes that they have the power and opportunity to do the same. Whatever it is they’re passionate about or plan to pursue, just keep it consistent.

If you stay true to who you are and put in the work ethic that is required to succeed, it may not happen immediately, but the results will come and you will prosper.

If you’re anything like me, you may wake up one day and not even recognize the person you used to be.

Harvey Armstrong, Daniel Gresham, Avery Pennywell and Rob Seals are the panelists at the 2024 Black Excellence Brunch on February 24 at 11am (SOLD OUT). The panelists will be honored at the Women’s Basketball game that tips at 2 p.m. at Moody Coliseum (TICKETS)