By Jim Gehman, Player Engagement Insider
Tank Williams’ NFL career did not go as planned because of knee injuries. However, because he took advantage of the league’s entrepreneurship programs and Broadcast Boot Camps while he was playing safety for the Tennessee Titans, he’s now doing very well in his second careers.
“It was one of those things where I loved playing football, I was passionate about football, but I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to play forever. Especially once I started having injuries to my knees,” Williams said. “So, I wanted to explore various opportunities to see what life after football would look like.
“The NFL did a really good job with those entrepreneurship programs. I was able to attend (ones offered at) Harvard, Stanford and Wharton (School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania). It helped me drill down on what I wanted to pursue after I retired.
“(At the Wharton School program was) when I really was drawn to real estate. I built a connection with Peter Linneman, one of the professors there, and was able to bounce ideas off of him and build a relationship over email. And another professor that I built a relationship with was Kenneth Shropshire.”
Tennessee’s second-round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft out of Stanford, Williams spent four seasons with the Titans before signing as a free agent with the Minnesota Vikings. Missing the 2006 campaign because of a knee injury, he played in 2007 with the Vikings, signed with the New England Patriots in 2008, and suffered another knee injury. He was released by the Patriots in 2009 and retired.
Williams moved to the San Francisco area and used his Stanford contacts to connect with the Quattro Realty Group and Blake Hunt Ventures, brother-sister companies, in Danville, California.
“I felt like I was on a trajectory where I could have a solid career and then once I suffered some knee injuries, it was the reverse side of it where you have some adversity and you have to battle back,” Williams said. “That flipside of things, the business side, definitely gave me more perspective than I feel most guys get because I’ve seen both sides. So, I’ve just been able to use that to my advantage, dealing with the adversity of not having a lot of business experience.
“And so, you retire and it’s like, what’s next? All I’ve done is play football for the past 23 years. I had to have the mindset that I was interested in real estate and these guys gave me the opportunity. But, of course, I didn’t have the skill set where I should be paid. I basically went in there and worked for free and busted my ass and showed that I was really passionate about what I was doing and that I could pick up on it and that I could be good at it.
“After I put in that time and hard work and effort, it materialized with me going up the ranks and I ended up becoming a vice president of the company before I left and started my own real estate business.”
Williams founded the residential real estate company, Pro West Invest LLC, in May 2012.
“I was working in commercial real estate for about four years, and during that time I had the opportunity to work with various product types. Whether it was office, retail, industrial,” Williams said. “It really kind of gave me a taste of each and allowed me to focus on what I wanted to do, and that was residential. I felt like people were working from home more. And internet sales were really affecting some of the retail box stores in real estate, so I figured that no matter what, people are always going to need a roof over their head.
“Pro West Invest was an opportunity for me to go out and basically just start flipping properties here in the San Francisco Bay area. Whereas prices had dipped after the downturn, it was a good opportunity to go in and buy homes at below market value prices, fix them up, and then sell them and make pretty good money off of it.
“When you go inside of a deferred maintenance property and you have a vision for it that a lot of people don’t really see, and then you bring that vision into a reality, that’s a really satisfying feeling. To have that materialize, it’s definitely gratifying.”
In addition to real estate, three years ago, Williams sharpened the skills he learned at three of the league’s Broadcast Boot Camps to begin working as an NFL fantasy and college football online video analyst for Yahoo! Sports.
“That started off the same way (as real estate), where I basically just went in because I had a love for the game, I worked for free the first year and then I started getting paid last year and they expanded my role this year,” Williams said.
“It’s one of those things where you have to have the mindset that if you don’t have experience, that’s something you just have to work hard at, be diligent and put your heart and soul into it. If you continue to do that and you produce, then you can make waves in whatever field you want to pursue.”