NFL Business Academy hopes to be a problem-solving solution
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) The NFL, hoping to help current and former players transition to life after football, is kicking off its first business academy on Monday at the University of Michigan.
''When you leave something you've been doing your entire life, especially if it's a high-profile job, it's a challenge when you retire,'' said Charles Way, vice president of NFL player engagement and former New York Giants fullback. ''We're just trying to make that time in players' lives a little smoother.''
Green Bay Packers linebacker Julius Peppers is among the 30-plus active players who are expected to attend five-day program that will include instruction and hand-on experiences with management, entrepreneurship, franchising, product design and real estate.
''The academy is set up to help the players identify if they have a passion or liking for one of the career opportunities that will be presented to them at Michigan,'' Way said.
Len Middleton, a faculty co-director of the program, hopes the opposite happens for some of the participants.
''If after the week is over and someone says, `I know that is not for me,' then that to me is one of the successful outcomes,'' said Middleton, a professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at Michigan.
Lawrence Jackson is one of the few former players taking advantage of the opportunity that Way said was offered to all of the NFL's current and retired players, whose expenses other than travel are covered as part of the league's collective bargaining agreement with the union.
Jackson was drafted out of USC in the first round of the 2008 draft by Seattle. The former defensive end spent two seasons with the Seahawks and three years with the Detroit Lions before retiring in 2012. His post-playing career has included investing in real estate and a company that sells crushed fruit.
''When NFL players walk away from the game, they walk into a world with weak legs that were once strong,'' Jackson said. ''I think this academy is a cool opportunity for us to get a lot of information in a short amount of time about different components of business that may or may not interest us.''