The following is part two of an interview with a Consultant who played D1 football in college (he is also available to answer your questions). See part one here.
- Why did you get an MBA? how did the MBA change your career?
I got my MBA because I needed to change my career path like everyone else. I had this unique background. I had already finished one master, but I had no work experience. If I came out into the work force it would have been at an underwhelming start. Plus I needed time to think. Everyone criticizes football players for focusing on football. But no one criticizes the ballet dancer at Julliard. Point being...there's no way you can make it to an elite level without truly believing that you're destining for greatness.
Not to mentioned the ridiculous positive reinforcements that you get. I'm not talking about girls or pats on the back. I'm talking about the psychological lottery that you have won several times in your life. The odds that I would play college football are insane right?? Let's say 1:1,000,000. Well I won that lottery (pretty easily too). What are the odds that I would be a 3 year starter...what are the odds that I would be a captain? Basically...I would think the likelihood of a 3 year starter at a division one school who is team captain is pretty high...close enough that you can taste it.
If youre a smart committed athlete, school ends up being an athlete's insurance policy. But understand every elite athlete doesn't love the sport that they're in. Doesn't mean you can't be very good at your sport or school, but as as psych guy I know that there is no such thing as multi-tasking. You have a limited amount of attention that you can only spread so far. Sometimes you have to pick and choose.
But hey..I got hurt and I needed to cash in on that policy. But It was a struggle. There were nuances that kids had picked up in school and life that I had never had the opportunity to learn. Never been to a career fair. Never had to network. Never wrote a cover letter. Never had even heard of a multitude of career paths..Management consulting included. It was basically like 2 years of undergrad for me...but this time as a regular student.
- In your MBA program, did you consider not telling people about your background to avoid the negative stigma?
I never tell anyone unless it naturally comes up in a conversation. I try not to actively avoid it because I feel like that's being pretentious too and I've found out that people get pretty upset or embarrassed when we've had 4 conversations about college football and they found out that I played. So I just let it naturally come out. But... I stand out anyways. So people notice and take an interest in me pretty quickly for various reason..right or wrong.
- Re this statement: "But the most difficult thing about being doing well academically is that no one expects you to." Did this motivate you to prove them wrong? Or do a lot more harm than good?
No..never motivated to prove them wrong. Often you have to deal with a certain level of envy or animosity from the student body. They love you on one end for being good at what you do, but they hate you on the other end for taking attention and resources that were supposedly preordained for their use. The people who I hung out with (football players mostly) always acknowledged my intelligence. The issue was being better than average as opposed to just getting by when everyone else is ok with just getting by. So I wanted to do more than just graduate, but there was no one to turn to for advice, there was no one to go the distance with me. So at times it felt awkward because it was hard to see the purpose in putting forth more effort than my peer group. I was lucky enough to have a girlfriend (now fiance) who really really pushed me to keep going, to keep asking questions, to reach out to people
- How did the your success in sports help lead you to where you are now? how does it help you in your day to day activities now?
My athletic experience permeates every facet of my life. It shaped the way I view team work, effort, excellence. I understand what it means to sacrifice...to lead, to dominate, to acquiesce, to motivate.
- How do you apply your "team work, effort, excellence" mantra to your day to day life?
I apply my mantras in various ways. Its tough right now though because I use to be the leader of men..and now I'm working my way up. I have to catch myself at times and remind myself that it takes time to be as good at what I do now as I was at football. But I know I have a confidence and a presence when I walk in the room. I'm told that by coworkers that I have a maturity about me. I think what they are seeing is a confidence that only comes from the of stepping toe to toe with monsters (literally)...and running through brick walls knowing that it won't move. Yeah I could say that I work hard and all that...everyone does that and the kids I work with work hard too. But I have no problem staying cool when bullets are flying. So when the partner says..He's give us a run down of this deck real quick..thats not pressure..that's game time...
- How much did playing a D1 sport come up in job interviews / mba application process? Did it help you a lot?
Being a former football player is a double edged sword in the interview room. On one hand people appreciate your toughness...Ability to stay on schedule; stay on time...follow direction... You always have a great conversation starter. It's easy to grab a dinner with an important person and keep their interest. On the other end, that all they want to talk about and that may be all they see you as. It took me a long time to figure out a way to craft my story so my football experience was part of my abilities as opposed to the only thing that I could bring.
- After your time on the field and the big games you played, does "normal" life seem a bit dull at times?
After playing at such a high level it does take a serious adjustment to get use to regular life. But it's not about the 80k fans it's really about losing a way of life. I get pumped to play an intramural game...but what you lose is the camaraderie, the structure, the purpose. You go from always having a goal in life to all of a sudden feeling like you're wafting in the air. It's sickening and a lot of guys struggle with this feeling for a long time. A lot of guys make some real bad choices while they're in this funk. I would literally compare it to the level of disillusion that you see from military vets and ex cons. You're so use to a certain way of life...a schedule...a heighten sense of awareness that it take a serious adjustment to appreciate the simple stuff. Some guys never get there.
- What's your opinion on the new NFL safety rules? Should more be done in changing the game to protect players? Or should things be left as they are? (ie play at your own risk)
I have mixed emotion about the new rules. I understand that they're trying to save players from themselves. It's necessary because the sport is much more dangerous than the public knew. But it's not going to be the game we loved. People will still watch, they'll adjust... It's needs to be done. There's too much incentive to play hurt. You have to save guys from themselves. But they should do this by consulting the players as opposed to arbitrarily developing their own changes based off solely the commish's opinion.
- You can avoid this if you want - with the recent news of what happened at Georgia, did you see anything like this going on at your program? What are some of the things guys did during the season to keep up with school work ? ie lots of adderall use?
So I think you're talking about auburn...but it might as well be georgia, or LSU, or the SEC in general. Naw, honestly this didn't go on at my program. The truth is, that it would be a mistake to come to my school if that's what you were looking for. They take winning more seriously in other place around the country. Shit, Ole miss still sings "I wish I was in dixie" (confederate song) at their football games. My point is that people think differently about what is acceptable. For some schools, I don't think loosing is acceptable. They'll pay the NCAA fines and take the bans. But they're not taking losses.
As far as taking something to help players do better on test, I can assure you if anyone was taking a illegal substance it wasn't to study harder. I had one friend who had a real bad case of ADD and used adderall. But the truth is, not a lot of guys have intentions of being a "superstar" in the classroom. As you know from my story, I absolutely cared about doing well...but to a point. It wasn't until after I was done that I had a real sense of urgency. At my school no one was getting things under the table whether it be money or grades. I've seen several big time players get kicked out or held out of games because of grade issues. I'm talking starters and 1st round picks. My school was too small and student body and alumni are too stuffy for that. But you know... some times you have to bring a professor a sad story for an extension, but right behind us was probably some girl ready to shed some crocodile tear to get her extension too.
- Yeah that definitely goes against the general opinion (and surprised me) team with lowest
So team with lowest..first reason is because we have 84 guys on our team. Our isn't going to be as volatile as a girls team with 12 or 20 players. If they have 4 bad apples they look real bad. It's also because we have a lot of eye ball on us. If the football team has a 50% graduation rate..people get pissed, and want to start pointing fingers. That hurts the program. There is already going to be an undertone from the student body. That would get out of control. There was no call for excellence, but you can't be a clown and mess up the program. When I was recruited I believe we had a 97% graduation rate. Big factor for me when I chose schools. Another thing you have to remember is that the only student athletes who look like "student athletes" are the football and basketball players. No one can tell the difference when a baseball player is walking around campus or a field hockey player. The kids slide by with ease. These kids cause more damage than us on a regualr basis. But when the girls field hockey team has to take some girl to the hospital because she's so drunk...no body knows was a women's sport, why do you this this was? Do you think this is true at most schools?
- Growing up any role models / books / classes that really had an impact on you?
My role model is my parents... nothing elaborate there, but I was very fortunate to have two very good examples. Books...the world is flat, the clash that defined modern economics, 48 laws of power, unequal childhoods, the souls of black folk.
So I didn't have one particular class, but I was fortunate to have one professor in business school who took me under his wing. One day I sat in his office and he told me...if you listen to what I say I'll make sure you're a success. He was a former football player himself...way back in the day. But he was also a Harvard DBA and former dean of our business school. He gave me a list of 12 books that he told me to read over Christmas break. He was the first teacher to not allow me to think that I didn't have the ability to match the other students. He never let me say that "I couldn't" do something. He really encouraged and inspired me to take on classes and opportunities that I would never have attempted. He happened to teach our strategy class so he was great at proving me wrong...and doing it in a systematic way.
- Speaking of the connection with him, have you found this athlete bond occur a lot in your professional life? I've read several stories on WSO on how being a varsity athlete in college can be a huge plus, mainly it shows your leadership/work ethic, but also if the other person played sports = instant connection
So the connection I had with this teacher in my opinion ran deeper than just sports. He was in his late 60 or even early 70's. The tone of college athletics at the point were much different. But the athletic connection is great when you meet another athlete. It doesn't matter if it's a VP that use to play women's soccer or a associate that use to play minor league baseball. Their eye's light up when they hear that you played "ball". It's an instant connection because they can drop the pretenses. They can cuss a little more and lay back in their seats because they know where you came from. It's similar to being in a new place and meeting someone who went to a high school in your town and knew one of your buddies...like a friend of a friend
- That's a great story about your mentor. Any advice for how current students and young professionals can find a mentor?
Yes...you have to make people into mentors. No one is going to tap you on the shoulder and open up the world for you. You have to force people to apprentice you..to damn near adopt you.. by hanging around and annoying them until they see a little bit of themselves in you..But that's probably something I learned from playing sports. I'm coachable. I'm responsive and I know what people want to see out of a protege. Once they see that you cherish their insight...they'll go to bat for you. But you have to put this effort for every person you come across until you find that guy. Have your story read...let someone know that all you need is a chance.
- There are numerous current college athletes on this site that want to work in finance/consulting/business. What advice would you give them?
I guess this depends on how long you are in your career. If you just coming out of college than it's quite a weapon. You have to use it strategically, but people are interested and that's a huge advantage. You just have to find a way to make it create that story. If you're older than just coming out of school...I would suggest using your sports alumni network. Old guys that use to play love helping out the someone who played.