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Finding a New Passion: From Student-Athlete to Law School

Khalil Wilkes '19

For some law school students, becoming a lawyer is something they have wanted to do their whole life and they carefully pursue it in their undergraduate careers. But others come to law school after embarking on a different path. Khalil Wilkes ’19 began his college career as a student-athlete studying Science, Technology and Society and playing football at Stanford University in California. During the summer of his junior year, he was introduced to the legal field when he interned for Hopkins & Carley, a Silicon Valley-based law firm. After a brief stint in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers, Wilkes returned to his hometown in New Jersey, where he became a substitute teacher and high school football coach at his alma mater. Searching for his next step, he looked for a way to combine his sports background with previous experiences. Enter Villanova Law.

Wilkes was drawn to Villanova Law because of its location, situated conveniently near major cities like Philadelphia and New York. Other deciding factors included law school leadership and the Jeffrey S. Moorad Center for the Study of Sports Law. The Moorad Center is one of only a handful of institutes in the United States dedicated to the study of sports law, preparing students for careers in amateur and professional sports through rigorous academic study, innovative programs, internship opportunities, scholarship and research.

During his time at Villanova, Wilkes focused on sports law, taking classes like “Legal and Compliance Issues in Amateur Athletics” and completing an externship with Villanova University Athletics in the Compliance Office. He also took advantage of Villanova Law’s opportunities to learn outside of the classroom, like attending distinguished speaker events, panel discussions and pop-up conversations in the Arthur M. Goldberg Commons. “These outside events are what make Villanova special,” Wilkes added. “They add tremendous value to my education and will be among the moments I remember the most.”

“My education, coupled with the practical experience I gained as a Villanova Athletics compliance extern, sparked my interest in becoming an administrator in collegiate athletics. My classes and externships are some of the most important experiences of my life, because it helped me find my career and a new passion outside of football.”

After graduating, Wilkes secured a spot in the Postgraduate Internship Program (PGIP) with the NCAA at their national headquarters in Indianapolis, IN. He’s working in the Academic and Membership Affairs Department, a part of the NCAA’s Regulatory Affairs division. In this role, he focuses on Division I athletics and provides innovative solutions, guidance and expertise on institutional integrity, rules compliance and academic issues for the NCAA.

Wilkes credits his law school experiences with helping him land this dream position. “My journey to the NCAA began when I met the head of Compliance for Villanova Athletics at a Villanova Sports Law Society networking event,” explains Wilkes. “That led to an externship in the Villanova Athletics compliance department. There I met Malcolm Grace, Assistant Athletics Director for Compliance/Basketball at Villanova University, who previously worked at the NCAA and recommended me for the PGIP Cohort.”

“Without Villanova Law, I would not have made the contacts I needed to land a position at the NCAA, and I wouldn’t have the necessary skills and education to be an effective and valuable staff member. For these reasons, I will always be appreciative of my Villanova Law experience.”