By Lisa Zimmerman, Player Engagement Insider
The NFL currently offers numerous continuing education programs to players (current and retired) and their significant others, including its MBA certifications. Among them is the University of Miami’s Executive MBA for Artists & Athletes. On April 6, 2016, more than 30 of those in the current program attended a special forum at the NFL’s headquarters in New York City. Speakers from different departments within the league offered their insights on the NFL’s current business direction as well as advice on how to navigate and pursue individual opportunities as players move forward in the their post-NFL careers.
Speakers included a cross-section of NFL employees including, Troy Vincent, executive vice president of football operations, Charles Way, vice president of Player Engagement, Tracy Perlman, vice president of Entertainment and Promotions, Robert Morrissey, vice president, Player Engagement Operations, Debbie King, senior brand director, Marketing, Peter Ruocco, senior vice president, Management Council, Joseph Ruggiero, director, Strategy NFL Sponsorship, Michael Markovich, vice president, International Media, and Tod Leiweke, chief operating officer.
Highlighted was the availability of resources today that didn’t exist for earlier generations of players and the ability for those resources to help players once their days on the field are complete.
Vincent, a former Pro Bowl cornerback was forthright in his message, “Football is an experience, not a career. Shame on you when you don’t get involved; when you don’t take advantage of all the resources.”
A variety of topics were discussed including how players can best leverage social media to build their own brands while avoiding some of the pitfalls that can come along with that public persona. It was reiterated that future employers have the same access to social media as everyone else – and they use it.
“Be conscious about what you put up (online),” King said. “Be aware of what your brand is. [What you post] reflects on you and your brand.”
Players were highly engaged and spoke about why they chose to take the MBA certification course and attend the NFL forum
“Education was always instilled in me as something that was valued very, very highly,” Sergio Brown, safety for the Jacksonville Jaguars, said. “It was always important to further my education. It’s very powerful to have a degree and you’re still playing. The degree and those contacts work ten times as well when you’re still in the NFL. I know I’ll be able to use this. I couldn’t pass it up.”
Charity Morgan accompanied her husband, Derrick, a linebacker for the Tennessee Titans, and wants the message about the NFL’s programs to gain more attention. “Not enough people are aware of all the resources that the NFL is offering to families and players, “she said. “This program is one of the best things that we stumbled upon.”
Harrison Smith, a safety with the Minnesota Vikings, has always been interested in starting his own business once his years in the NFL is over and has found the program helpful in determining a focus and direction.
“Part of coming to this program was trying to hone in on that and meet people and find what I’m good at and what I’m not good at as well as finding people to help lead me in the right direction.”
There were in-depth discussions of the how the NFL continues to build and expand its brand on a global level and how that impacts the league in general and also players individually by offering increased awareness and opportunities for everyone.
Jack Brewer, 37, a retired safety who built his own multi-million dollar business and now has several business and charitable endeavors, and who helped organize the event, summed it up.
“There are 80 players who are about to get their MBAs,” he said. “That didn’t happen when I was playing. We have resources now that we’ve never had access to. Anybody who wants to take advantage of these programs can.”
Lisa Zimmerman is a long-time NFL writer and reporter. She was the Jets correspondent for CBSSports.com, SportsNet New York’s TheJetsBlog.com and Sirius NFL Radio. She has also written for NFL.com.