Watching current NFL players EJ Henderson and Eric Frampton of the Minnesota Vikings, Kevin Boothe of the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, free agents Derrick Dockery, Ukee Dozier, and Bernard Berrian and former players Don Davis (who is an NFLPA player advocate), Marcus Stroud, Arturo Freeman, Jonas Jennings, my former teammate Lance Johnstone, my fellow IU alumni Antwaan Randle El, and Jerome McDougle during this week’s class session of the George Washington University StarEMBA program, which we hosted here at the NFLPA offices, I witnessed current and former athletes honing their will to succeed. Watching them stand up in front of their peers and professors and put their research, hard work and teamwork to the test against each other showed me that these athletes are ready to take the next step on the road to a successful transition from their playing career to the rest of their lives. These athletes have learned to translate the will to win to the will to succeed.
Everybody talks about the will to win – everybody knows the phrase. The Raiders and Al Davis made the phrase famous. It is the indomitable spirit that resides inside some athletes allowing them to triumph over all the odds and any adversity. That will is very prevalent in sports but how does one translate that will to win into the will to succeed and a better life off the field? The traits that give one the will to win are the same traits give one the will to succeed. Three of those traits are fearlessness, adaptability, and overcoming adversity.
It takes a certain fearlessness to undertake an unfamiliar endeavor where you put yourself in a situation that you might not be comfortable with or stretch yourself beyond your known capabilities in order to succeed. Many people cannot take this step but many athletes have this ability which is what allowed them to where they are today, so they are uniquely skilled at transferring this innate ability into the classroom, or the board room with the proper training.
Most athletes understand that due to the continuously evolving and changing situations they find themselves on the field play they must adapt to be successful. On the football field an offensive tackle might have to be prepared to play offensive guard or center due to an injury. A left defensive tackle might have to switch sides if there is an opportunity to exploit a weakness. Even more dramatic is when you see a college basketball player turned into an All-Pro tight end. Being able to harness that ability to adapt and use it to their advantage is a key strength for many athletes in their careers. Adaptability is an absolute must in the business world. Harnessing your adaptability makes that transition from one business situation, or life situation, to the next step up the rung on the ladder to success.
Adversity is something that all athletes must deal with in order to be successful: the adversity of losing the big game; the adversity of coming back from a major career threatening injury; the adversity of playing in hostile territory and performing at your peak; the adversity of losing your job, either to injury or for economic reasons. In the business world, adversity rules. When the terms of the deal change, you must be prepared to counter and win the business. When your company downsizes and your division is eliminated. When the business plan fails and it’s up to you to save the company. Some athletes are uniquely suited through years of training and experience to deal with the adversity of the business world, if they can transfer their talents from their sport to the board room.
Watching the current and former players stand up in front of their peers and professors and put their research, hard work and teamwork to the test against each other showed me that these athletes are ready to take the next step on the road to a successful transition from their playing career to the rest of their lives. These athletes are using the skills they’ve earned and learning to transfer them to the business world. These athletes have learned to transfer the will to win, to the will to succeed.
By Nolan Harrison III, MBA
Nolan is the Senior Director of the NFLPA Former Players. Nolan played defensive end and defensive tackle for 10 years in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins. After retirement Nolan spent three years as an entrepreneur and seven years as an executive in the financial services industry before accepting his position on the NFLPA staff. Follow Nolan at @NolanHarrison74 and @NFLPALegends