A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the NFL Players Assocation’s (NFLPA) Collegiate Bowl in Los Angeles. Now you have to understand, I have been a football advocate since I was a child…as a player, a fan and the father of an athlete. Further, I have been a 30 year plus fan of the Washington Redskins, particularly the 1987 Superbowl winning Redskins with Farrell Green, Doug Williams, Art Monk, John Riggins, The Hogs, etc., etc……sorry, let me come back!
During my trip I had the chance to meet Darrell Green , Herm Edwards, Art Monk, Lorezno Neal, TJ Houshmandzadeh, Reed Dowdy, Charlie Batch and many others. Each of them have been very successful in their own right – hall of fame inductees, Super Bowl champions, etc. As kids, many of us dreamed of that opportunity, to be on the field, garnering the cheer of the crowd…and nowadays the endorsements, financial gain, etc. I mean that’s what we see from our vantage point every Sunday right? Ah, but spend some time with the players and you get a more holistic perspective.
While all of the hype on TV has it’s place and entertainment value – – for the players, this is a career. Further, it’s a short life-time career. I won’t get the #s exactly right, but the average career span of a NFL player is less than 10 years. In speaking with Charlie Batch, he is 15 years in…highly unusual and he knows he probably has a year or so left…maybe. That’s the other thing – – while it is a higher pay industry, it is also a higher churn industry, meaning that from season to season, many players don’t know if they are going to be employed.
Now, enter the NFLPA and their mission with this event. They want to ensure that the kids coming into the NFL in college are provided with education and tools that better prepares them for the transition….both NOW and in the FUTURE when it’s time for retirement, ON and OFF the field. Without going into details, imagine for moment, getting the job you’ve wanted since you were a child, playing for 5-8 years, then being unemployed at the age of 30 or 32, with no idea of what you want to do…and in some cases, a lack of finances. Problem! How do you change the trend? Education, training, tools, mentoring, etc., etc. and the Collegiate Bowl starts down that track. Through the course of the week, these students received wisdom from all the names I mentioned and more relative to how to get their heads right for what was ahead, building and protecting their brand, their families, their career and yes……wait for it…..life AFTER the NFL.
it’s been said that experience is the best teacher, but wisdom is learning from someone else’s experience. The NFLPA, the players and coaches I mentioned se hall of fame players, coaches and the NFLPA invested to provide their wisdom to help the younger guys coming “into the sport.” Ask yourself – – what sport do you or did you play and do you have some experience to offer someone that could provide them with invaluable insights to help them avoid some of the pitfalls you experienced and essentially allow them to be a few steps ahead of the game!
All that to say, I felt blessed to have had the opportunity to see the NFL from the perspective of this community that loves the sport, but loves life’s principals as much as, or more than the game itself. Hats off to the NFLPA for pulling it off!