NFL Players as Campus Entrepreneurs

Cool article on ESPN by Anna K. Clemmons about NFL players going to Wharton, Stanford, Harvard, and Kellogg to learn to make better decisions and be more entrepreneurial. Seems like they are trying to protect the players (who have a lot of capital/cash) from being swindled, but also teach them to make smart investments.

From the article:

A brainchild of the NFL Players Association, the NFL and several professors, the Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program has become a sports business wunderkind. Since its inception four years ago, when 66 players attended Harvard and Wharton, annual attendance at four campuses has reached about 115 players. Each school is differentiated by its area of expertise: real estate/entrepreneurship at Wharton, sports business at Stanford, brand/franchise management at Northwestern’s Kellogg School and entrepreneurial/business management at Harvard.

In the back row, Linneman (also a professor at Wharton) chatted with Vernand Morency before class. The Green Bay running back was unique among his classmates — this was his second trip to Wharton. Afterward, the Miami native said he’s already seen a strong ROI (return on investment, for all you finance novices) after last year’s lessons. “Just coming here and being around savvy minds helped me save tons of money,” Morency said. “You can’t put a price on education.”

Morency says his long-term goal is to establish a real estate entrepreneurship that focuses on providing affordable housing for families. Since last spring’s session, Morency has developed several potential partnerships. It’s safe to call him a Wharton success story.

Professor Ken Shropshire, academic director of the program, said, “We’ve heard guys say, ‘I’ve invested in a restaurant, bar, etc. that didn’t do well.’ … There’s so much pressure from family [and] friends to do things that didn’t fit into the basic model of what should work.” As Linneman said, “If we saved just one player from being ripped off, the program has paid for itself many times over.”

I expected plenty of sports speak and coaching clichés. Sure enough, 30 seconds into the lecture, Linneman dropped his first sports metaphors. “Your first investment will probably also be your worst investment, like the first bad pass you ever threw,” he said, pointing toward Griese. “Your worst pass was probably at age 8, right? Well, that’s like investing. You’re going to make early mistakes.”

But not on Linneman’s watch. Before 10 minutes had passed, the players were crunching numbers, weighing the benefits and risk factors of an actual proposal sent to a NASCAR driver by a group of hopeful (and they’d soon learn, unwise) investors. When Linneman asked for the scheme’s red flags, hands shot up. Todd Steussie of the Rams, Mike McKenzie of the Saints and former linebacker Ricardo McDonald were particularly vocal. When a player pointed out that one of the proposal’s authors was a former NFL player, McDonald asked Linneman, “Shouldn’t we tell him his proposal is bad?” which drew a chorus of laughs. The players in this room were already looking smarter than a lot of their peers.


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