All courses are virtual for Howard University undergraduates during this fall semester, but student-athletes are on campus. Senior guard Jayla Thornton from Newark, New Jersey, is grateful for the opportunity to play hoops. Now is a time to help the freshmen acclimate to the pace of the college game and build team chemistry.

“Being able to learn my new teammates and grow with them on the court is always something I look forward to,” said Thornton, a graduate of Newark Tech High School and alumna of AAU IExcel. “We have study sessions. We try to keep the vibes good in practice. We’re getting to know each other. Overall, we just try to do the little things to help us come together on the court.”

The lone senior on Howard’s women’s basketball team, Thornton, who is team captain, is looking forward to seeing how the things the players work on every day in practice translate into games. The schedule is not yet set, but with several strong teams in the Washington, D.C. area—George Washington, Georgetown and University of Maryland—non-conference play should be intense.

In addition to coursework and basketball, Thornton is also taking part in an internship with NFL Events and Club Business Development, which touches all facets of the National Football League from the front office to all 32 clubs.

“One of my mentors informed me about the Experienceship program and I instantly applied. Grateful I was accepted,” said Thornton, whose major is sports management. “Their goal is to provide us with real life events and club business experience. Learn the logistics and components of major events.

“Building a network,” she continued. “They want us to work on our interpersonal soft skills. You get a pipeline for future opportunities.”

For now, everything in the internship is virtual. The networking calls have been extremely helpful. She’s also participating in the Map D League, a program for student-athletes to alert them to job opportunities. Thornton is also starting her own podcast, “Catch up with Jay,” and planning for the future.

“I want to further my education. I want to possibly compete on the professional level. Of course, my goal is to pursue a career in the sports and entertainment industry off the court,” said Thornton, who admires WNBA star Candace Parker, who balances TV commentary with her playing career.

The podcast will target student-athletes and let them share their perspectives. “Talk about various things going on in the sports world,” Thornton said. “I’m working on getting the content out.”

You can follow Thornton in her senior season on Instagram @__Jayboogiee and Twitter @JaylaThornton_.