With the average NFL career lasting about three and a half years, players have to worry about their post-playing careers. Athletes often seek employment in the sports industry, because most of the time it’s all they’ve ever known. Many agents make a long-term commitment to their clients by continuing to advise them when their playing days are over. Likewise, player associations play key roles in many athletes’ lives after retirement. The NFLPA is going the extra distance to help some of their players prepare for employment with the Internship Program for Players.
Players that are accepted to the program partake in a three-month, paid internship gaining experience in areas like communications, membership services, legal, and information systems. Sports marketing internships are also available through the union’s marketing and licensing arm, NFL PLAYERS. The pros must go through the same application process that students normally go through to get internships, by submitting an application, resume, cover letter, getting recommendations, submitting a writing sample, and a providing a transcript. The only qualification…candidates must have played at least one full season in the NFL and/or AFL. Tom DePaso, current Associate General Counsel and a Regional Director at the NFLPA and former NFL linebacker, participated in the internship back in 1984. Being his first off-the-field work experience, DePaso said that “I would not be where I am today without having had that experience.”
The internship program isn’t the only way that the NFLPA helps out retired players. The union holds a career opportunity expo as part of the NFLPA Retired Players Convention in Palm Springs. The most recent one had eight employers in attendance, including New York Life Insurance Company, Prudential, and The Corporate Playbook. Retired players can network and find out about employment opportunities from the companies in attendance, as well as have on-site interviews in private areas the expo has provided. This year’s expo marks the fifth year that this aspect of the convention has been held.
In addition to setting up conferences like the career opportunity expo, the union set up a NFL Player Job Board in 2008 as a resource for retired players to find jobs with employers specifically interested in hiring former professional football players. New Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has taken a proactive role in aiding former players find jobs. He recently sent a letter to over 1,000 retired players who own their own companies or work for corporations in Florida, Texas, and California asking for help in finding employment opportunities for other retired players by listing their companies on the job board. According to the NFLPA website, over 50 retired players have already found jobs using the job board.
While other unions like the MLBPA and NBPA help retired players find post-playing employment, the NFLPA’s efforts are even more necessary as the average career length is about two years shorter. Retired football players have several options and resources to explore. Agencies like Darren’s Dynasty Athlete Representation offer post-career guidance for their clients, and players often turn to their agents for help and advice when it comes to finding a new job because they have hopefully formed a trusting relationship over the years. But the NFLPA’s continuous effort to aid athletes after their playing days are over is a noteworthy action for its players.