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Let's Get Down to Business: The NFL’s Second Business Academy Kicks Off

By Vince Agnew, Player Engagement Insider

The NFL arrived on the University of Michigan's campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business to kick off its 4th-Annual NFL Business Academy on Sunday, February 26. The academy is an intense five-day guide for current and former players and their significant others through various career paths of free enterprise. 

The 35 players in attendance range in resume from undrafted rookies to a college basketball player turned nine-year league veteran, Joe Reitz (Ravens, Colts), even including multiple number-one overall draft picks.

Everyone was challenged early with questions about their version of success in ten years and asked to share what they would do during the week to accelerate that vision.  The questions yielded various responses complicated by the uncertainty of a pro football player’s career status on a daily basis. However, Scott DeRue, the Dean of the School of Business had a simple blueprint to guide attendees during the introduction.

"Performance = Ability x Motivation," he casually wrote on a white board in the lecture-style classroom.

With a brief explanation it was understood that passion in life and business decisions are key to coming up with a vision, setting goals and making a plan to achieve them. Even when there is a lack of talent, a motivated individual will find ways to multiply their ability and create production. In contrast, when either ability or motivation is zero, it eliminates the other and mitigates performance. 

Following inspiring presentations, players proceeded to the top floor of the School of Business where the building’s namesake, Stephen Ross, would greet them alongside former NFL player Jamar Adams (Seahawks, Eagles), a University of Michigan graduate. 

Adams and Ross spoke to attendees sharing their journeys, keys to success, the power in simply betting on one’s self in business and in life, and stressing the importance of always taking time to give back.

Players and their significant others were placed into teams and charged with collaborating on a business model that they would have critiqued and vetted during the week by faculty before presenting to the entire group on the academy’s final day.

Since arriving on the campus of the Michigan Wolverines, attendees have been exposed to countless years of experience in building business plans, franchising and more. They have been able to visit large franchises and hear directly from executives at Orange Theory, Papa Johns and Jersey Mikes among others.

Several former players including Angelo Crowell, Van Jakes, Bradie James and Adams have also donated their time to sharing their experiences in transitioning to entrepreneurship—and there are several others still slated to present.

Basketball player turned NFL veteran, Joe Reitz, is no stranger to navigating transition, as he was a hoopster at Western Michigan University for four years. He said that he was noticed by a Baltimore Ravens scout at the Mid-American Conference basketball tournament but had not played a snap of football in nearly half a decade.

“[The Scout] probably saw that I was pretty big and could move my feet pretty well. I probably fouled out that game like I did in a lot of games being too physical,” he said jokingly.

After his senior season he was worked out by the club and signed with them initially just wanting to make it for a week, then a month and then a year. Now, Reitz is staring down season ten in the league and continuing to make investments in himself off the field, setting short term and long-term goals for success in business.

He is attending the NFL’s Business Academy for the second time looking to take advantage of the learning opportunity and build his network in hopes that when he does make his transition from football, that it will be smooth.

“There are so many great people here whether they are professors of Michigan, highly successful business people or former NFL players,” he said. “That’s what’s great about these programs. Not only do you learn a lot about business but you’re able to meet people who are very, very successful in business and they are willing to share the things that they did wrong and things they did well.”

Tuesday’s sessions especially spark his attention, as a focus is philanthropy and non-for-profit businesses. He has been involved for years with All-Pro Dads, an initiative to boost father’s presence in their homes and community. The non-profit is based in Indianapolis, and has long been endorsed by former NFL coach Tony Dungy.

“Philanthropy and giving back is a big interest of mine. Indianapolis is my home town and where I play, so it is extra special to me when I can go out and serve the community,” Reitz explained. “Hopefully translating NFL success into business success will allow me to continue to have a platform to give back and serve when I can. My number-one goal is to help people. Kids look up to us all across the country and It is important to teach them how to be a man first and a good athlete second.”

The league has gone great lengths to bring impactful speakers and experiences to the attendees at the 2017 Business Academy. The reach that the league and its current and former players have had on several facets of business is truly on display at the Ross School of Business and future ventures are being kindled among the players and their significant others.


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