By Jim Gehman, Player Engagement Insider
When the time arrives, Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Karim Barton will not be blindly going into his post-NFL life.
During the 2015 offseason, he participated in the NFLPA’s Externship program with Under Amour, a company that designs and manufactures sports apparel, shoes and accessories. In 2016, he did an externship with Fanatics, a company that offers customers a collection of officially licensed products from NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL teams, as well as the NCAA, NASCAR, the Olympics and others.
This year, Barton went to Washington, DC, where for three weeks in February and March, he took part in his third externship by working in Congresswoman Yvette Clarke’s [D-NY], Capitol Hill office.
“I would shadow the Congresswoman in different meetings and I got to spend time with the Congresswoman on her Energy and Commerce Committee and the Small Business Committee,” Barton said. “Just to see all these companies come around and sit in one room and are willing to state their issues and how they’re willing to solve those issues, it was just awesome.
“I also worked on the resolution (to posthumously absolve Jamaican civil rights activist) Marcus Garvey, which was definitely interesting. I worked with a few of my co-workers on different projects, (such as) the ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] raids that are going on in the different inner cities. I got to go to the (Congressional) Black Caucus, where I mingled with some of the heavyweights of Washington.
“One of the coolest parts was when Donald Trump spoke (to a joint session of Congress on February 28) and I was there in the audience. I was the Congresswoman’s guest of honor. When I walked in on the floor, she looked for me and made sure I was comfortable and all situated, which was awesome because she didn’t have to do it.
“Just to be in that room where the President is literally 100 or so feet in front of me, it was just awesome because coming from where I come from in Jamaica to where I’m at now, it’s been just mindboggling. The whole experience of just hearing the President talk, hearing the clapping… I’ve watched this at home, but to see it up close, it was crazy.”
Raised in Jamaica and later Los Angeles, Barton signed with Philadelphia as an undrafted free agent out of Morgan State in 2014. Waived by the Eagles, he spent that season on the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad. He would spend the 2015 campaign on the Houston Texans’ practice squad before being signed to the Titans’ practice squad for the 2016 season.
He began to think about his life after the NFL before he came into the league.
“Nothing was set in stone for me,” Barton said. “Living in Jamaica, I have that go-get-it mentality. You have to set it up for yourself, you have to continue to stride. You don’t reach a particular point and just become complacent all of a sudden. So I definitely have that mindset of just doing other things, put myself out there.
“I’m not going to say doing my first internship in 2015 was a piece of cake. I was definitely not up to it, but I put myself out there and look what happened. It just turned into a year after year type thing. It’s just been awesome to challenge myself in these environments. And it’s not easy. They put me to work. I didn’t just go there and sit. No, I went there and I put in the work and did all the stuff that my colleagues would be doing.
“Since I’ve been back (home in Tennessee), I’ve already talked to a few of my teammates here just to plant that seed (about trying an internship). Whenever you get free time in the offseason, why not just try something? Connect with some of these companies. Intern for a small period of time because you just never know. And remember that football is just a small period of your time. Use it as a stepping stone and go about it like that.”