Some kids dream about growing up to play football in the National Football League (NFL). Those lucky few who make it, often don’t dream any farther than that. The NFL and many individual teams, including teams sometimes considered “blue collar” like the Green Bay Packers, are working to help players prepare for life after football.
“An NFL player’s career can end at any moment due to injury or being cut, and you have to be prepared,” 28-year-old Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, a defensive end for the Packers told the Business Journal of Milwaukee. “You have to figure out what you are going to do after football while you are still playing because if you wait, you can end up in trouble.”
“I was just concentrating on keeping my spot on the team to earn enough money to pay the bills,” Turner Gill, former football player for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Canadian Football League as well as a minor league baseball player told the Business Journal. “As I look back, I should have taken more time to plan my future.”
Today, Gill has the opportunity to help other players avoid making the same mistakes he did. He is the full-time coach assigned to helping Green Bay Packers players develop off the field.
Recent years have seen an increase of player participation in the Packers player development program. The program was created in 1991 and has expanded over the years to include internships with local businesses, continuing education courses and tuition reimbursement. In addition, the NFL has worked with Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania to develop a curriculum for players interested in starting, building or buying their own business.
Packers players can be found working as interns at Smith Barney’s Green Bay office, track coaches at West De Pere High School and even as a sports reporter for Green Bay’s Channel 26. Through continuing education programs, players have learned to create resumes, interview for jobs and pass the test to get their real estate licenses. The tuition reimbursement program has allowed players to spend up to $15,000 a year for education expenses at accredited universities to complete their bachelor’s or master’s degree.
“When you get injured, it really makes you think about what you are going to do after your football days are over,” Packer offensive lineman Mark Tauscher told the Business Journal. Tauscher is spending the offseason studying history in Europe as he uses the tuition reimbursement program to complete his master’s degree in history at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
“I don’t want to end up as a statistic,” Gbaja-Biamila, one of 30 NFL players attending the Harvard entrepreneur program, told the Business Journal. “When I leave the NFL, I am going to have a lot of my life left to live. I want to make myself a success in the business world.
Gill told the Business Journal that players last an average of three years in the NFL and most do not earn millions of dollars. Edgar Bennett, a former Packer player and player development coach agrees that players need to prepare for life after football.
“Just being a former NFL player will not get you a job,” Bennett told the Business Journal. “Most guys get drafted right out of college and never have to interview or search for a job. We have to teach them how to do that."