Don McPherson Headshot
Report a problem with this profile
[email protected]

Don McPherson      

Activist, Educator, Feminist, Entrepreneur, College Football Hall of Famer

Don McPherson is the author of You Throw Like a Girl: The Blind Spot of Masculinity, which chronicles 35 years of harnessing the power and appeal of sport to address complex social issues and focuses on a quarter century of work on gender-based violence prevention.

McPherson was an All-America quarterback at Syracuse University and is a veteran of the NFL and Canadian Football League. As captain of the undefeated 1987 Syracuse football team, McPherson set 22 school records, led the nation in passing and won more than 18 national “player of the year” awards, including the Maxwell Award as the nation’s best player, the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award and the inaugural Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. He was second in the Heisman Trophy voting. In 2008 McPherson was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. In 2013 Syracuse University retired his #9 jersey.

Since 1984 McPherson has delivered school and community-based programs addressing issues such as drunk driving, alcohol and substance abuse, bullying, youth leadership and mentoring. Upon retiring from pro football in 1994, he joined Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society as national director of Athletes in Service to America. In 2002 he founded the Sports Leadership Institute at Adelphi University, for which he served as executive director until 2007.

In 1995 McPherson turned his focus to the issue of “men’s violence against women,” as director of Sport in Society’s Mentors in Violence Prevention Program, taking over for the program’s founder, Jackson Katz. McPherson emerged as a national leader and advocate for the prevention of sexual and domestic violence. He has conducted workshops and lectures for more than 350 college campuses, community organizations and national sports and violence prevention organizations. His programs and lectures have reached more than 1 million people.

Don has twice testified before the United States Congress and has worked closely with the U.S. Departments of Education and Defense on issues of sexual violence in education and the military, respectively. He has provided commentary on numerous national news programs and was featured in O Magazine and appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Don also created and hosted “Training for Life” on MSG Varsity, a life-skills TV show that examined a myriad of social issues and sports. In 2012, Training for Life's episode on "Sports Parenting" was nominated for an Emmy Award.

McPherson has worked as a college football analyst for ESPN, BET and NBC and spent six seasons as the lead studio analyst for Sportsnet New York’s coverage of Big East and American Athletic Conference football. In 2000, while a board member of the Nassau County Sports Commission, McPherson created the John Mackey Award, which recognizes college football’s outstanding tight end.

Don McPherson has received several honors in recognition of his service, including the Frederick Douglas Men of Strength Award, given by Men Can Stop Rape, Champions for Change, presented by Lifetime Television, The Creative Vision for Women’s Justice, presented by the Pace University Women’s Justice Center, and a Leadership Award from the National Center for Victims of Crime. Most recently Don received the George Arents Award, Syracuse University's highest alumni honor and “Letter Winner of Distinction,” the highest honor bestowed a former student-athlete.

Don McPherson has served as a board member, consultant and advisor for several national organizations including the Ms Foundation for Women, the US National Committee for UN Women and the National Football Foundation. McPherson recently served as a member the NCAA Task Force on Sexual Violence and the NCAA Board of Governors Commission to Combat Sexual Violence. Currently he serves on the board of directors for the NYC Chapter of the National Football Foundation, the Advisory Board of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities, at Stony Brook University and is a member of the board for Press Forward and the Solidarity Council of Vial Voices.

Speech Topics

Campus Programs

Dating Violence: “You Throw Like a Girl" This discussion is directed primarily at men and focuses on language such as "you throw like a girl" that sets a standard on the narrow expectations of masculinity while simultaneously establishing an understanding that girls and women are "less than" men. The presentation focuses on nurturing positive language and understanding of masculine identity.

Orientation: " Maximize the Experience" Most Orientation programs are designed to help students identify "trouble areas" and introduce where, within the college or university system, resources are available. This session supports this effort and help students to recognize the richness in being proactive and engaged in the full compliment of opportunities and support afforded in higher education.

Administrators: “The Generation Coming” Each year school administrators welcome a new generation of students. These students are a product of an ever changing culture that moves faster than research or policy can predict or govern. Administrators need comprehensive information to better understand the perspective of and challenges inherent in educating and influencing youth behavior.

Creating a Positive Work Environment (Teamwork/Leadership)

“One Down, One to Go” When teams and organizations succeed, the effort to reach that moment typically requires many factors and individuals coming together. Very often that effort makes milestones to feel more important than they actually are in the big picture. Successful organizations use early success to build team and focus while maintaining an eye on the ultimate prize.

“Our Best Moments Happen in Practice” Most teams and organizations fail to realize that their best ideas, synergy and work occurs when they are preparing to present their work to a client, in performance, etc. Our preparation is what makes us better and what strengthens our resolve and performance.


“Spend Time with Your Dreams” Most teams and organizations fail to realize that their best ideas, synergy and work occurs when they are preparing to present their work to a client, in performance, etc. Our preparation is what makes us better and what strengthens our resolve and performance.

“Mastery in Practice” The little things we do everyday, in preparation for larger tasks are the foundation of success. Those minute skills that we take for granted because they were drilled in us and have become rote understanding, are also the ways in which we problem solve, create opportunities and ultimately achieve success.

Transition Issues

“Life is Not an Event” It's hard to see "down the road" when there are sharp turns blocking your sight. And, no game is won or lost on game day. Sustained success comes from understanding that life is a process and success is measured in the aggregate of the span, not the glitz of a moment.

Overcoming Adversity

“Back to the Manual” The more difficult challenges become, the more important it is to consider the basics. From the basics we can see the road map to correction and we are reminded of our initial motivation.

“Disregard All Extraneous Stimuli” Focusing on your mission and goals is more difficult in today's instant gratification and highly saturated media/communication environment. Focus requires strategy and practice.

Work – Life Balance

“BE Where You Are” We have all been taught to identify where we want to "go;" to set our goals high and shoot for the stars. We've also been told to cherish the journey. With life's many distractions this delicate balance is often very difficult. This lecture helps people to identify, live and work in the moment. It's not where you want to go…it's where you want to BE that is important.

Women’s Issues

"Men Have Gender Too!" For far too long "gender studies" and differences have been seen through the eyes of women. The lack of male perspective has led to a narrow view of men and how to communicate/work with them. As women assume a greater role in American business and culture, how they understand masculinity and their relationship with men become critically important to their success.

Related Speakers View all

More like Don