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AUSTIN, Texas – When he’s not in the trenches looking for his next quarterback sack, Tennessee Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan is listening to The Full Ratchet, a podcast featuring venture capitalists and angel investors.
He’s Slacking with 10 to 15 NFL players and other athletes about off-the-field matters, like life after football, and exchanging business ideas for what’s next for their second career, talking business and investment deal structures with Los Angeles Chargers offensive lineman Russell Okung.
Morgan, a Lancaster, Penn. native, said he even spoke with a member of Carmelo Anthony’s inner circle and his venture capital firm Melo7 Tech Partners to glean insights and learnings about the investment fund.
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“There’s so much information out there, and there’s no excuse to be ignorant,” said the 28-year-old Morgan, who holds a business degree from Georgia Tech and received his MBA from Miami (Fla.). “I’m in the learning process. I’m trying to educate myself as much as I can…and take full advantage of my offseason.”
It’s an offseason narrative that is consistently resurfacing, one where athletes—particularly in the NFL and NBA—are trading the days of of playing video games, watching missed television shows and extensively recovering from the five- or six-month season into business opportunities for Career 2.0. They’re jetting cross-country to meet with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and utilizing Linkedin to schedule business meetings while on vacation, like New York Jets offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum, Jr. recently did when he traveled to Australia.
Morgan spends part of his offseason days with his wife and two kids catching up on Father Time he missed during the NFL grind but with a focus on learning more about the business world, like equity crowdfunding. He recently watched a popular YouTube video with angel investor Manny Fernandez and within 24 hours, Morgan was on the phone picking Fernandez’s brain.
“I’m not trying to go full blaze ahead into something I’m not really educated on,” said Morgan about his constantly-learning mentality. “I want to be calculated and strategic, not waste a lot of money. Time is money, and I want to avoid those pitfalls.”
At the South by Southwest Conference, Morgan also expounded upon Huddle Ventures, a newly-launched parent company for Opportunity Ecosystem and a future angel fund. Morgan is working with other Managing Partners Michael Peterson, a former business development professional at Hewlett Packard and IBM, along with Rodney Sampson, serial entrepreneur and Partner at TechSquare Labs, which is an Atlanta-based technology hub and venture fund.
According to Morgan, the trio’s current priority is Opportunity Ecosystem where they leverage capital and resources to impact underserved communities, such as fully-funding 100 students from HBCUs and PWIs to experience SXSW. Morgan said that by he and Peterson partnering with Sampson, they “didn’t have to reinvent the wheel with what he was already doing.”
Huddle Ventures’ future angel fund will give athletes, both current and retired, a hands-on approach to business as they’ll not only sit on company’s boards but also get their hands dirty, working closely with the people they’re investing in and more clearly understanding what it takes to run a successful business.
“It’s a great way for players to experience that side of things, to learn and in a lot of cases, leverage their brand and notoriety to help promote the company. That’s what we’re trying to tackle.”