Q&A with Sean Foley

AFM interviews the UT graduate who supports the Darrell K Royal Research Fund for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Photo courtesy of the DKR Fund

Sean Foley is a two-time graduate of the University of Texas and was integral to three of Texas Swimming’s ten NCAA titles under head coach Eddie Reese. He’s currently the head of advanced media for locally-based Raptor.

Foley also sits on the Legacy Council for the Darrell K Royal Research Fund for Alzheimer’s Disease. Texas ranks third in the nation for number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, and the DKR Fund exists to cultivate funding for research grants.

“Healthy and active lifestyles that are the No. 1 doctor recommended prevention mechanisms,” Foley said. “Until there’s more conclusive research, that is the best protocol that we have to combat Alzheimer’s.”

Foley talked with Austin Fit Magazine about his UT experience and his family’s connection to Alzheimer’s.

How did you end up in Austin, swimming for the Longhorns, after growing up in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin is actually a prolific high school swim community. I would say growing up there was a T-shirt that was around pool decks. It said “Texas Swimming” on the front, “Don’t Mess with It,” on the back. That was the T-shirt young male swimmers wanted to own, and really drove home the fact that Texas was a premier swim program. Neil Walker was about five years older than me, then I came, and Garrett Weber-Gale was five years after me.

Describe swimming for Eddie Reese.

Eddie Reese is like the man. It’s amazing that he’s had such a long career of coaching and being a mentor to young guys.

I think when he looks at a young swimmer he’s not only looking at how fast they swim, but also their family. He understands body language. There’s a lot more that goes into his selection than just times (in the pool). He recruits a certain type of guy. You have to be a team member, and it’s all about the program and The University of Texas and continuing the legacy.

There just isn’t much room inside of Eddie Reese’s swim program to think about me versus the team. Everybody is treated similarly inside of the locker room.

How did the student-athlete experience set you up for success as a professional?

Nearly every hour of the “work week” is accounted for when you’re a Texas athlete. We are lucky that there’s a support structure of advisors who really pay attention to you as an athlete and student. The work load is significantly increased, both books and in the pool. But you kind of plug into this community.

Did you always have a plan beyond being a swimmer?

I graduated in four years. Right away I packed my bags and moved to Portland, Maine for a junior level gig at an Olympic sports agency. They had just signed a kid named Michael Phelps, so I became his business manager for the next 3.5 years. After that experience, I worked with pro track and field athletes, swimmers, snowboarders. I moved back to Austin to get my MBA. I knew sports business was where I wanted to be but wanted to keep on learning.

I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was a kid, but I didn’t have the business chops to back that up. Getting my MBA at UT gave me the business backbone to pursue various ideas.

What is your work these days? 

I work for a private equity group that’s focused on sports, entertainment, and media investing.  The lion’s share of what we do right now is operate an Italian soccer team. The company is based out of Boston called Raptor. With fellow UT alum Mark Pannes, we operate a satellite office in Austin.

How did you become connected with the DKR Fund?

My mom is in the middle of a pretty aggressive battle with Alzheimer’s. She got it at an early stage, started noticing things at probably 64. She now is 68 and dealing with it, and we’re all dealing with it. It’s really sad, and so for my family, I’ve gotten involved in the Alzheimer’s walks in the past, raised money in Austin and Milwaukee.

From a public standpoint, it’s all about awareness. It’s an inevitable deal for a lot of people. It’s all about platforming this thing in a way that cuts through the clutter to get people to support federal and state dollars for this research.

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