The Big Pivot: From College Football To The Military To An MBA At Stanford

David Harris, left, about to sack Western Michigan’s quarterback in the Idaho Potato Bowl in 2015. Harris has been admitted to the Stanford Graduate School of Business MBA Class of 2024. Courtesy photo

When David Harris was 6 years old, his family asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He replied, “A manager.”

“I remember my uncle bursting into laughter,” Harris tells Poets&Quants. “My mother’s a teacher, and my family was expecting a more scholarly response. But my answer was simply that I wanted to be a manager.”

It wasn’t simple precociousness: Seeing how his family had been affected by racial discrimination in the workplace, Harris says, he had internalized much of these experiences.

“I figured that if I was a manager, I could control what goes on at work and provide a safe space for my family,” he explains.


David Harris

Growing up watching his mother put her all into the well-being of her students, Harris knew he wanted to serve others, too. As long as he can remember, his motto has been, “How can I serve the community best?” — a principle that has guided him to three inflection points in his life: first as a Division I football player, then as a graduate of the Air Force Academy with a subsequent five-year military career, and now as a Stanford Graduate School of Business admit currently doing a pre-MBA internship at Blackstone.

Harris’ next mission: to use private equity as a force for good. “I want to deploy capital to where it’s needed in a lot of the minority communities where it doesn’t readily flow,” he says. “This is my next way to be of service.”

“Six months ago, I never would have thought I’d be sitting in this Blackstone conference room and about to attend Stanford GSB. It’s beyond my wildest dreams.”


Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Harris grew up playing football. “I’m a Cowboys fan by law,” he laughs.

Following high school, he was recruited by the Air Force Academy. There, he played on the football team and pursued a degree in Management. “Sports started as a way to do something that’s bigger than myself,” he says.

But the best thing to happen during his academic journey was the day an investment banker visited his finance class as a guest speaker. “A light bulb went off,” he explains. “I had no idea that investment banking was even a profession. It just clicked.”

His interest in finance continued to grow. When he graduated from the Air Force Academy, he had two months before going into active service. He decided to pursue a private equity internship at Pharos Capital in Dallas to fill in that time.

“It was amazing, and the work was something I could see myself doing in the future.”


Harris put his interest in finance temporarily on the shelf while he focused on his first active duty base at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. There, he was a Nuclear Cruise Missile Manufacturing and Production Program Manager for the U.S. Air Force. Three years later, he pivoted to serve in the United States Space Force’s National Reconnaissance Office

But the call to pursue finance was still strong.

Through a military program called Defense Ventures, he had an opportunity to work at a venture capital firm for three months. Harris landed a role at Scout Ventures, an early-stage VC firm focused on dual-use tech that’s used privately and for the government.

“This experience was amazing, and made me realize I want to become an investor in the long run,” explains Harris.

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