Home > PUM One One: Dennis Briggs, Financial Wiz, Football Star & Family Man

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PUM One on One: Dennis Albert Briggs

Financial Wiz, Football Star & Family Man

by Isaiah Reign Beckham

“Say yes to opportunities and inconveniencing yourself frequently. Also, run towards your fears, not away from them. Your personal growth lies just beyond your fear…” -Dennis Briggs

 

Shady Side Academy alumnus Dennis Briggs '14 returned to SSA Middle School to speak at an all-school assembly on April 4, 2019. This was the first time I got a chance to meet Mr. Briggs and hear him speak. I was inspired, captivated and encouraged by his message. Briggs, was a two-time captain of the University of Pittsburgh's NCAA Division I football team while pursuing both bachelor's and MBA degrees in business, he spoke to students about one's agency (controlling the things you can control and knowing your responsibility to care for others) and the solid foundation that SSA provided him. 

While at SSA, Mr. Briggs wore the #3 Jersey when he played football, I feel honored today to be wearing his jersey especially after interviewing him and listening to him speak, I have a better understanding of his high level of  commitment to achieving success in the business world and on the football field. Mr. Briggs, is currently an Investment Banking Analyst at PNC, and he is dedicated to his family, community and his faith. As a football pro, Mr. Briggs encourages young football players to “fall in love with the game, and not the fame” and he says to take advantage of opportunities that are right in front of you. Inspiring words he shares in my one on one interview.  

(Photo: Briggs speaking at SSA Middle School, courtesy SSA) 

Beckham: What was it like for you growing up in Wilkinsburg, PA? What sort of support system did you have? 

Briggs: When I think of Wilkinsburg I think of my wonderful family and friends. My years were spent doing odd jobs with my dad, going to school, and practicing day in and day out during football and baseball season, going to camp during the summer and church on Sundays. I had great support in each one of those areas. Though Wilkinsburg is advertised as a placed not to hang, the negative aspects largely were absent from my reality as the love of the people around me overshadowed any negative influences.

Beckham: What important childhood lessons did you learn and who were your mentors at the time?

Briggs: The most important lesson I learned young was not to follow the crowd, but to be yourself instead. This is a hard lesson for a kid because kids crave acceptance. Luckily, I had plenty of wise people who cared about me enough to correct me when I strayed. My mentors were my parents, my pastor and my football coaches.

Beckham: Why did you select Shady Side Academy as a school to attend?

Briggs: I was very young when I first went to Shady Side, so I did not have much criteria. Two things stood out to me though, SSA had a football program which was a passion of mine, second the food was awesome on the day I visited! 

Beckham:  How did attending Shay Side impact your life?

Briggs: Exposure, a desire for rigor, and lifelong relationships are 3 things that I benefited from at Shady Side. Going to school on arguably the most beautiful high school campus in America had a lasting impact on my experience and subsequently the kind of environments I came to desire. Particularly, clean and tranquil environments that allow for deep, creative and important thinking. The academic challenge made me become accustomed to always going beyond what I thought I could do. The people I met are people who I will be in touch with all my life.

Beckham: Are there any important people who you remember from Shady Side?

Briggs: Yes, there are plenty, but to focus on one, my defensive coordinator, Dave Szlachetka (pictured below) was particularly influential on me. He is a Christian man who taught and represented hard work on and off the field, and in each area of life, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

(Pictured: Dave Szlachetka, former SSA defensive coordinator, photo courtesy SSA)

Beckham: At Shady Side Academy you were a running back, inside linebacker, and a kick returner on the football team, how was that experience for you?

Briggs: It was a great experience, I didn’t really have a preference about what position I wanted to play, I just wanted to play! I prided myself on being a guy who would do anything for the team.

Beckham:  You had a great football season at Pitt, in fact in 2018 you started all 14 games at strong safety you were also elected a Pitt captain by your teammates, the 2nd consecutive year, making you the Panthers’ first multiple-time captain since Aaron Donald. What was this experience like playing for Pitt and serving in a leadership role?

 

(Photo: courtesy University of Pittsburgh)

Briggs: It was an honor to be put in this position at Pitt. It was a dream come true quite frankly. But the road to get there was bumpy. I really struggled on the field my first few years. I was so discouraged at one point I considered giving it up and focusing on school and my business career. Thankfully, many prayers, the support of my wife and close family and friends gave me the strength to continue. Once I got through that period, so much changed, I began to play better, I was more confident in my leadership skills and God gave me a platform to put those to use. Because I decided to stick with him and not succumb to my fears, he blessed me immensely.

Beckham: From your Pitt football experience did you have the desire to go Pro?

Briggs: For a time, I did, probably up through my  junior year, but I realized when my senior year was coming to an end that I didn’t love the game enough to put in the kind of dedication it would have required for me to be successful in the pros. I was more passionate about business and ministry. I also felt that God took me on an important Journey and the conclusion of my senior year was the conclusion of that journey.

Beckham: Tell us more about your career and what you are working on professionally.

Briggs: I am an investment banking analyst at PNC Bank. I work in what we call our Loan Syndications group. In short, we help companies raise debt financing for a variety of different purposes. It is a fun job, I learn more each day and work with great people. I’ve also been blessed to be placed on two local non-profit boards, Family Guidance and the FAME FUND. Family Guidance facilitates one on one Christian mentoring and a weeklong summer camps for at-risk youth in Pittsburgh. The Fame Fund creates opportunities for minority students to attend private high schools.

Beckham: What is your advice for young football players interested in going pro? 

Briggs: Fall in love with the game and not the fame. If your mind is set on the notoriety, you will be in for a rude awakening when you realize the sacrifice and effort it takes to make it to the NFL. That said, if you’re willing to put in the sacrifice and effort, you will put yourself on an exciting journey filled with challenges and triumphs. With the right mindset, and obviously, an exceptional amount of talent, the sky is the limit!

(Pictured: Isaiah Beckham at SSA & Dennis Briggs while at SSA. Beckham is currently wearing Dennis' jersey )

Beckham: Who influenced you the most at Shady Side, as well as at Pitt?

Briggs: Besides coach Szlachetka at SSA, my biggest influence at Pitt was my best friend Reggie Mitchell. Reggie and I walked through many stages of life together. We played high school ball together and college ball together. We attended bible study together, and we became family when I married his cousin, now my wife (LoRen Briggs). Reggie is one of the hardest working down to earth guys I have ever been blessed to be around and my time at SSA or Pitt would not have been the same without him.

(Photo: Briggs with Reggie Mitchell, former SSA & Pitt alumni)

Beckham: What important life lessons can you share with me about what it takes to be a success?

Briggs: Success is taking full advantage of the opportunities that lie in front of you. Too many people see what others are doing and desire to immolate, but God made us all different for a reason! Take full advantage of your SSA years, by working hard in the classroom, in your relationships and on the field. Say yes to opportunities and inconveniencing yourself frequently. Also, run towards your fears, not away from them. Your personal growth lies just beyond your fear. Most important of all, serve as many people as you can. The gospel according to Matthew quotes Jesus saying, “The greatest among you shall be a servant.” That is success, be remembered as a giver, not a taker.

 

Check out the Video of Mr. Briggs speaking at Shady Side Academy Middle School:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwuBA40K4V0

 

 

 

PUM contributor Isaiah Beckham is currently an 8th grader at Shady Side Academy. 

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