By John Ingoldsby, Player Engagement Insider
Last year the Oakland Raiders had a season to remember on the field, and this year many of their players had a memorable season off the field. One of those players was linebacker Tyrell Adams and he took full advantage of unique and innovative educational opportunities presented by the organization.
Following up five years of the PRO SERIES which exposes players to successful industry experts and business leaders, this offseason the team took advantage of its proximity to Silicon Valley with their new PRO S(ERIES) ON THE MOVE, where this May they visited the nearby campuses of iconic companies YouTube and EA Sports.
“Both one-day outings were really cool, and the best part of it all was seeing the campuses and to experience that side of it with the setting where they work,” said the University of West Georgia alumnus.
“At EA Sports, we learned about the history of the company and got on the Internet with the workers, and of course saw and played a bunch of their games, some of which they gave us to take home,” recalled the 6’2” 228-pounder.
“Then at YouTube, they showed us different videos and introduced us to the virtual reality experience, which was really cool,” said Adams, noting that these were his first two off-site adventures with the Raiders. “They also talked to us about building our brand as individual players through video and social networks, and we even got to go down the big slide in the middle of their office, so it was unconventional for sure.”
Best of all, Adams made these Spring sojourns with his fellow Raider teammates including Austin Howard, Marshall Newhouse, Jon Feliciano, Brendan Jackson, Antonio Hamilton, and Ian Silberman at EA Sports, as well as Jimmy Bean, Taiwan Jones, Jaydon Mickens, Jelani Jenkins, Silbermann and KJ Brent alongside June McKenzie (wife of General Manager Reggie McKenzie) at YouTube.
But that was only the road show section of the series, since back at the Raiders’ facility the players got to hear compelling speakers, including wealth manager Scott Swift (father of Grammy-winning singer Taylor Swift) and John Minnich of the Swift Group (1.1 Billion in assets; 35 + years of experience), and in a separate session tech venture capitalist and author Ben Horowitz and best-selling author, convicted murderer Shaka Senghor.
“Scott Swift preached on building a brand, and asked us where we want to be in life, and then broke down how to start the process to get there,” observed Adams of Swift’s topic termed Building Your Empire: leveraging your NFL brand to create revenue and wealth outside the game. “Best of all, he told us, and then reiterated, that we can reach out to him at any time for further advice.”
The Raiders also heard Horowitz and Senghor talk on the subject of “Resilience: Seeking Success when your circumstances say there is none.”
“It was fascinating to listen to two guys from completely different cultures who became best friends, so it was really different and cool to hear,” Adams said.
Fascinating indeed, and mission accomplished with the Raiders’ stated PRO SERIES goal of exposing players to influential and successful individuals outside of the football sphere to enhance and elevate their business acumen and expand upon their professional network.
Same for the PROS(ERIES)ON THE MOVE program where the Raiders take advantage of the innovation hub that is the Bay Area and allows its players to travel to the campuses of the world’s leading companies to get first-hand experience of their cultures, their technological advances, and to come in contact with the people who create the future.
More specifically, at EA Sports the Raiders’ players spent their off-day learning about a different way to play football with just a TV and a gaming console at one of the world’s leading video gaming companies. Players toured the EA campus, learned about the history of the company and the evolution of sports video games, and met with company executives. Additionally, former NFL offensive lineman and current Madden game designer Clint Oldenburg furthered the players’ knowledge on the creative process and implementation of Madden, as well as his own journey from player to play designer.
At YouTube headquarters, the Raiders’ veterans broadened their knowledge beyond football at the world’s leading video streaming site. While there, they gained knowledge about the company’s history, values, and culture, as well as the benefits for athletes to create a YouTube Channel to build or enhance their personal brand. Aside from a campus tour, players sat in on presentations and employee panels tailored to them stressing the endless opportunities in the YouTube and Google workforce once they reach “life after football.” Players also got a peek into the future through virtual reality demonstrations, had a chance to network with some of the brightest people in technology and, of course, took advantage of the opportunity to slide down the YouTube slide.
Next up is training camp and making more memories on the field.
John Ingoldsby is the President and Founder of IIR Sports, Inc., a sports media firm based in Boston. He has covered the NFL throughout his career that began as a newspaper reporter/editor, which includes articles in Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine (NFL Player Engagement), London-based Financial Times newspaper (NFL's international strategy), the Philadelphia Daily News (annual NFC Coaches Breakfast) and the Boston Globe (Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll).