As a retired football player with no college degree and no
real-world work experience, Brian Blados was hardly a model job
candidate when he left the NFL in 1991. In fact, the 6'6",
315-pound former North Carolina standout, who played eight
seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, the Indianapolis Colts and
the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, had never in his life put together a
resume. What's an offensive lineman to do?
This is an article from the June 7, 2004 issue
Blados turned to Dave Bente, the president of Interview with
Confidence, a Cincinnati career-counseling service that
specializes in helping former athletes manage their transition
into the workplace. "The toughest challenge for the athletes is
to stop living in the past," says the 50-year-old Bente, a former
professional boxer and a longtime human resources consultant.
"Some of them have to be brought down to earth."
Bente's approach centers on what he calls "change
management"--the ability to help people direct change instead of
being directed by it. For athletes, that means identifying and
building on skills they've developed on the field that translate
to the business world. Skills common to athletes, Bente says,
include teamwork, leadership, communication, strategic thinking,
quick decision-making and working efficiently under pressure.
Bente begins his consultations by asking clients what they enjoy.
Blados had passions for food--"I was always intrigued by how much
they got onto the training table," he says--and for people. After
he had Blados assemble a resume and cover letter, Bente put the
neophyte job candidate through a battery of tests, including mock
interviews and personality evaluations such as the widely used
Myers-Briggs test, to determine how Blados's personality meshed
with certain career options. The results revealed that Blados was
an extrovert, perfect for sales.
After five months of preparation Blados hit the pavement,
networking and interviewing with more than a dozen companies. In
the fall of 1999 he landed a sales job in Cincinnati with U.S.
Food Service, where he's now one of the top five salespeople in
his division. "Dave changed my life," says Blados, 42. "In the
NFL it's a fantasy world. You don't know what an everyday
existence is like."
Since founding Interview with Confidence in 1994, Bente has
helped about a dozen athletes, as well as numerous other clients,
start new careers. His first sports client was Ira Hillary, a
former Bengals special teams player. "Ira didn't think he had
value in the workplace," says Bente, whose one-time fee runs from
$5,000 to $10,000. "I said to him, 'Weren't you the one who
cross-trained at five positions and made the critical block on
Stanford Jennings's 93-yard kickoff return in Super Bowl XXIII?'"
To Bente those achievements indicated leadership skills. Hillary
engaged Bente's services, and he's now an assembly manager at 3M
Precision Optics in Cincinnati.
More than a decade ago the NFL recognized that, as Bente says,
"athletes aren't inherently ready to move on with their lives
after their playing careers are over." The league created a
comprehensive program to assist players in their transition to
life outside football. This off-season nearly 300 current NFLers
will take part in the league's internship program. Bengals
director of player development Eric Ball helps administer the
program in Cincinnati and has worked with Bente. "No one is
really prepared," says Ball, who admits that he had a tough
transition after his own six-year career as an NFL running back
came to a close in 1994. "Very few players end their careers on
their own terms." Ball points out that despite seemingly huge
salaries, only a small percentage of players leave the game
financially secure for life. That makes finding a second career a
It was for Barney Bussey. An NFL defensive back for 12 seasons,
Bussey retired in 1995. "Football was my so-called ticket," he
says, but he found out that the ticket didn't take him as far as
he thought it would. "It's an eye-opening experience to see the
difference in income [between the NFL and the real world]." He
met Bente in '97, and after nearly a year and more than 30
interviews, he now works in the same 3M facility as Hillary.
Managing 12-hour shifts in a factory making television lenses is
a far cry from playing in front of 60,000 fans on fall Sundays,
but Bussey is content with it for now. He has a wife and two kids
Bente places no time limit on his counseling services, and he
continues to meet with Bussey and the other football players he
has helped. (He has also branched out to other sports. Recently
he began counseling Tim Austin, the former IBF bantamweight
champion who's planning a comeback to the ring but wants to
prepare himself for a future after boxing.) Blados sits down to
meet with Bente several times a year. When he's feeling stagnant
at his job, he'll give Bente a call. "Dave will give me a pep
talk, and the next thing I know, I'm back out there," says
Blados. "He's my little guru."