When the game ends: Midstate athletes transition to business
No more crowds cheer their names once professional athletes leave their sports.
But life goes on, and many athletes still need a job to make ends meet. We talked to four well-known midstate athletes about how they transitioned into the business world after they retired or how they're currently preparing for it:
High school: Cedar Cliff in Lower Allen Township, Cumberland County
When younger players asked Kyle Brady how to prepare for a post-football financial life, he told them all the same thing.
“Treat this like the best temp job you'll ever have,” he said. “You never know when it's going to end. If you treat it that way, you'll be fine.”
That's how the 13-year NFL tight end treated it. And after a well-deserved six-month break after he retired, Brady made the moves that would shape his post-NFL career.
He went back to school and took law classes in Florida after graduating from Penn State more than a decade earlier. He earned his law degree and obtained his securities licenses. He now is a certified financial planner at Disciplined Equity Management, a Neptune Beach, Fla., financial advisement firm run by former NFL defensive lineman Don Davey. A small part of the business is advising professional athletes on how to set themselves up when their playing days end.
“I had a resume that said I had a Penn State degree and was a professional athlete for 13 years,” he said. “But honestly, it had no transferable skills, no marketing, no business knowledge. Just being a professional athlete isn't recognizable for a potential employer. I'm lucky. I lasted longer than I thought I would (in the NFL) and was able to take time to do what I wanted. A lot of guys don't get that opportunity. I'm very lucky.”
Played with: Hershey Bears for parts of nine seasons
Beloved former Bear Tim Tookey envisioned always being around hockey.
For about 12 years after his retirement, he ran summer hockey camps and helped coaches with preparation in the hopes of landing a coaching or management position with a team. His post-playing days also included an eight-year stint as the hockey manager at Twin Ponds ice rink in Lower Paxton Township, he said.
But he gave up that pursuit and kicked around jobs until he performed an apprenticeship in the sprinkler-fitting industry. He is now happy as a certified fitter outside of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
“You realize it's a small world, and there are so many ex-hockey players looking for jobs, that the world keeps getting smaller,” he said. “I realized I had to do something else, and sprinkler fitting came out of the blue.”
He advised today's players to take advantage of the opportunities available — online courses, summer courses — to get a college degree or just go through college, to prepare them for life after sports.
“When I was playing, there weren't a lot of kids getting drafted out of college, but now some of the best players come from college,” he said. “Make sure you're getting your education.”
Sport: Ultimate Fighting Championship
High school: Harrisburg
A national champion wrestler at Penn State, Phil Davis didn't automatically turn pro. He did find his way into sports and competition, however, and is 12-2 as a 29-year-old fighter in the UFC.
Even though he's been fighting for only a couple of years and hopes to have a few more years of fighting in him, he's already looking at his days after the Octagon. That's why he put his connections with both Penn State and UFC to work to develop www.MMADraft.com, a website started in 2010 that helps potential UFC fighters get noticed. He started the site with friend and fellow UFC fighter Urijah Faber. Along with the website, he said, he's trying to get into the broadcasting end of UFC as a fight analyst.
He said he always has an eye on his career after UFC and started laying the groundwork in college by networking with alumni and volunteering for speaking engagements.
Davis knows his UFC fighting days will last less than a decade, and he's already planning how to tackle his next career.
“You have to stay flexible,” he said. “You always want to plan for the future, but you also have to allow things to happen. If my plans change, I don't want to put all of my eggs in one basket.”
High school: Bishop McDevitt, Swatara Township, Dauphin County
Eleven-year NFL running back Ricky Watters had some great assets when he retired in 2001. Money. Good advice. Strong family.
Those three things afforded him the opportunity to work with his charities, such as the Ricky Watters Family Foundation, and to write a book — “For Who For What: A Warrior's Journey” — about his life in football.
He's developed an itch for broadcasting, has completed the NFL's “Broadcast Boot Camp” and has worked as an analyst on the NFL Network. He's also done color commentary for arena football games in China.
And though it probably won't translate into his new career, Watters is heading back to South Bend, Ind., this summer to finish his education at Notre Dame, which he put on hold in 1990 to enter the NFL after four years of college.
“I didn't do the most practical thing. I enrolled in the architectural engineering program at Notre Dame when I started, but it's a five-year program,” he said. “At that point, I hadn't even thought about professional football. In hindsight, I probably should have taken more business courses, because professional football really is a business.”
While he doesn't expect to use his degree professionally, he said, it's an important lesson for the young people he mentors and for his children.
“I'm still working on my post-football career,” he said. “And this gives me more options. I preach to the kids I mentor and to my own kids, 'Finish what you start.' I also think this is what will give me the best options going forward.”