By Lisa Zimmerman, Player Engagement Insider
Corey Jackson’s NFL experience was brief – but it left a lasting impact and was the source of inspiration for his new business, Qwerkz.
Jackson arrived in the NFL in 2003 from the University of Nevada-Reno, which he had actually attended on a basketball scholarship. Having decided against playing professional basketball overseas in order to instead complete his degree in speech communications, the head coach of the school’s football team offered him a spot on the roster. It was the first time Jackson had played football since junior high school, having participated only in basketball and track in high school.
In spite of his brief experience, in 2003 the Cleveland Browns signed Jackson as an undrafted rookie free agent. He spent three years with the team on the practice squad and was elevated to the active roster for one regular season game. In 2006 he joined the Denver Broncos practice squad, but an injury ultimately led to the end of the road for him in the NFL.
However, the NFL is a place where life-long connections develop, regardless of the time spent. Jackson’s experience was no different. Along with developing those relationships, he also watched as many around him dealt with a variety of challenges that come with being a professional athlete.
“It really was my experience, and my friends’ experiences, of people discouraging us from being independent thinkers and being pushed into the realm of just play football,” Jackson said. “I saw some of my buddies fall into that trap. If you’re not an independent thinker, you start to depend on other people to think for you. I had people call me up and talk about devastating experiences with people they trusted and had relied on to think for them. That’s not the plan. It got me thinking, ‘What’s the solution?’”
The solution Jackson came up with was, Qwerkz. Qwerkz is an app for professional athletes to connect with each other and share ideas, experiences and information about any topic they choose, including business endeavors.
“The goal of Qwerkz is to create the atmosphere where guys can communicate with each other but succeed on their own,” Jackson said. “These guys are going to bring so much more value to each other. When we’re communicating I can find new opportunities for myself and I might not be as dependent on you as you would like me to be.
He pointed out that in any industry, the fastest way to find a job or a new opportunity is to know someone.
“Imagine how you can connect the dots at scale? Imagine my network was another player’s network and how we can engage each other’s networks and what we can create because of that.”
There is no subscription cost, but only professional athletes can subscribe. They apply via a private application process and are vetted by Qwerkz staff. In a world where so much is public, Jackson wanted to offer a space for athletes to interact privately, until they are ready to share what they might be working on, or thinking about, on a bigger scale.
Qwerkz currently has several hundred members, all of whom were connected via personal networking and word of mouth.
“We think it’s fair to say we’re going to bring you opportunities at scale. If you like them, we make a commission and if not, no harm, no foul,” Jackson explained. “Making sure athletes trust the platform is the most important thing. We have to be able to make them trust that we’re working for them. We’re betting on the athletes long-term. We’re saying we’re in it with you for the long run. We see how you can get there faster. The idea is to be able to get a global machine where we can connect athletes across other continents.”
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.