Dermontti Dawson is one of those great football success stories. He played in the NFL for 13 years, and stayed with one team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, through his entire career. He was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times, and made it to one Super Bowl. Last week, he was named as a semi-finalist for the 2012 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Dawson recently started working as the Vice President of Sales for Prime Time Plus, a promotional product agency, working out of their west coast office in southern California. He has taken a lot of the lessons he learned on the football field and applied them to his life after football, but he also cautions current NFL players that there are a lot of other factors beyond what you learn on the field that you need to understand.
The first hurdle is to select a post-football career, and Dawson advises to get started figuring that out early. “Start thinking [while you are playing] about what you want to do, and don’t think about trying to make a lot of money,” Dawson advises. “You’ve been blessed to make whatever you made. Do something that you love and that’s going to benefit somebody.”
“I think sometimes we go into business where we just want to keep making more and more money. But there’s got to be something that’s close to your heart and something that you understand.”
Dawson has found a calling that he enjoys and has successfully made the transition from cleats and pads to wearing a suit every day. In addition to finding something that you care about doing, Dawson has some very pragmatic advice as well.
“If you go into business, you better know the industry and what you are getting into,” he warns, explaining that industry-specific knowledge is as important as hard work. He suggests that players “get good financial advice, legal advice, for whatever industry or whatever business they may want to start. That kind of gets your brain thinking in a different direction when it comes to a career after football.”
The transition can be difficult, and thinking and preparing for it early during your football career can put you in a much better position to succeed once you’re playing days are over. Of course, there are a lot of on-the-field lessons that do translate and provide a foundation for post-football success.
“Lessons we learn in football about teamwork and hard work and dedication – all those things transcend football,” Dawson explains. “Those things that helped you in football can be applied post-football as well.”
For Dawson, what has been the most useful lesson that he took away from football, and that has helped him to succeed in business? “I don’t like to fail,” Dawson said.
“When bad things happen, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going.”
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