Basketball has always been a big part of my life. I play it, coach it, talk it and watch it. It never gets old. That’s why this is such a fun time of year for me! NCAA® March Madness® takes over and everyone becomes a fan.

I got hooked on hoops in my hometown of San Antonio. I grew up there playing the game and became a star center at Sam Houston High School back in the early 1970s. Recruiters from colleges across the country came to watch me play. All totaled, more than 100 schools sent me scholarship offers. I could have gone virtually anywhere.

I chose Duke University. I felt Duke gave me the right mix of a school that was equally serious about both basketball and top-notch academics. You have to remember this was before Duke’s remarkable stretch of championships over the last few decades. Choosing Duke wasn’t the slam dunk it might seem like for recruits today.

Unfortunately, we never made the post-season in my 4 years there; no March Madness for us. Instead, I like to think our teams laid the foundation for future success. After all, we faced a lot of adversity. We had a different head coach in each of my first 3 years there. We had to adapt over and over again. We had to learn new systems. And by my senior season – our second under coach Bill Foster, we were just starting to hit our stride. Two years later, in fact, Foster took the team all the way to the 1978 NCAA National Championship game.

I might not have won any championships in college, but being a student-athlete helped me earn both a degree in economics and an MBA. Playing basketball also taught me the importance of teamwork, agility, problem-solving and other skills that I continue to rely on today as a manager on AT&T’s U-verse Operations Database and Infrastructure Services Team. We’re open 24/7, monitoring the network to help ensure nothing goes wrong. When it does, we’re quick to correct it for you, our customers.

Delivering video across the country is a complex orchestration of mostly automated processes and procedures. To make sure everything is running smoothly, we occasionally have to monitor a dozen video feeds all at once. That means I can see any game right from my desk. For the record, I want to be clear that I’m not watching television.  I’m doing random video-quality checks … and maybe a little cheering for my Blue Devils.

But you don’t need my job to keep up with all the action. We’ve got you covered with all the games on DIRECTV and U-verse. Starting with today’s games through the semifinals, tune to the DIRECTV Mix Channel (702) to see multiple games on one screen. On the go? Just download the NCAA March Madness Live app on your mobile device. AT&T is a co-presenting sponsor of the app.

This year, the Final Four is coming to my home state of Texas. If you plan to visit Houston for the games or if you’ll be following from afar, we’ve got you covered. Here are my Final Four suggestions to get the most out of this year’s madness:        

  • Share how you’re enjoying March Madness by using the #GameOn hashtag. You just might win a Samsung device from AT&T.
  • Head to the Final Four Fan Fest. We’re bringing the “Pressure Point” to Houston. It’s a simulator that gives you the last shot in the final seconds of the game, complete with crowd noise, lights and all the pressure. Tip from me: make sure you square up to the basket, follow through and just relax. You’ve got this.
  • Take in the March Madness Music Festival. The free Final Four concert kicks off April 1 at the AT&T Block Party with performances by Grammy-nominated artists Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco.
  • Download the Final Four App. AT&T is a presenting sponsor of the app, which you can use to get all of the info you need while in Houston.

Put me in, coach.  I’m ready to get this thing started. Let the madness begin!

Willie Hodge is an AT&T manager “coached” by Tom McCrady, Director of U-verse Operations. Willie played basketball for Duke University from 1972-1976. He pulled down 605 rebounds and scored 1,117 points during his college career. 

AT&T is a Proud Partner of NCAA March Madness.

NCAA, March Madness, and Final Four are trademarks of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Willie Hodge
Willie Hodge AT&T’s U-verse Operations Database and Infrastructure Services