By Jim Gehman, Player Engagement Insider
The NFL offseason gives players an opportunity to step back, take a breath and relax. On the other hand…
“I spoke to my agent and told him I wanted to do something in the offseason,” said Isaiah Johnson, a third-year safety with the Los Angeles Rams. “I didn’t want to waste my time by just traveling and blowing my money. I know that football isn’t going to be there forever, so I just wanted to do what I can to prepare myself for the next step.”
Part of that preparation is trying something new. This offseason, Johnson participated in the NFLPA’s (NFL Players Association) Externship program with Events DC in Washington. The official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, Events DC creates economic and community benefits through the attraction and promotion of business, athletic, entertainment, and cultural activities.
“I don’t necessarily want to be an event planner, but I knew that by going there, I would meet someone that I could learn from and just understand how to conduct business,” Johnson said. “I thought it was a great opportunity. It’s a beautiful thing that they have set up, but I looked at it more as a networking opportunity. I’m a man of faith and I knew that something positive would come from being part of that externship.”
Johnson, who while at Georgia Tech, began to set plans in motion to pursue careers in commercial real estate development and broadcasting following his playing days, wanted to experience all that Events DC had to offer.
“On the sports side, they have (RFK Stadium) and host a soccer team,” Johnson said. “Initially, they didn’t know exactly what they wanted to do with me, so they put me in the marketing department. And so, I was helping them come up with strategies for how to promote this year’s soccer team being in that arena.
“They were working with me and asked me what I would like to do. I told them that I would love to work with every department: marketing, sales, operations. Every department, just so I can get an understanding on how they operate as a business.
“My whole time, I spent learning and understanding their strategies and how they operate as a team. In football, it’s great; I love the game that we play because it has great correlation to anything in life, especially when it comes to business. o I was giving them strategies on how we operate and how communication is important. How, as a safety, communicating with the corners and communicating with the linebackers is important because if one person messes up, we all mess up. And that’s the same thing in their business.”
Would Johnson recommend other players take part in an externship?
“I would,” he said. “And for them to really get the most of their experience, they should come with a plan like how I did. I had a plan to go there and network. And, of course, make a great impression because not only am I representing myself, I’m representing the L.A. Rams and I’m representing the NFL as a whole. I definitely didn’t want to be disrespectful and step on anybody’s toes.
“I’d tell another player to have a plan and try to institute it. Go to whatever externship program there is for whatever you want to do and at the same time, network. It’s all about who you know and not necessarily what you know. Of course, we all have heard that, and it’s true. I’m a guy that’s not a big name in this league, but I know how to use this platform to leverage my way to network and everything else.”