I’m in the midst of writing a book that will be released next summer, focused on “Team Building” as it relates to my years in the National Football League and over the course of my military service. Though my background has been in athletics, I’m relating the lessons and techniques used to build a successful NFL franchise with those of all sorts of vocations and industries out in the “real world”.
The Best Example
To effectively present the point, I’ve traveled across the country interviewing various leaders & team builders who understand the parallels between sports and business. One person I’ve had the privilege to interview is Dr. Harvey Schiller. Dr. Schiller is a Citadel graduate, former Command Pilot, Viet Nam veteran, permanent professor of Chemistry & Associate Athletic Director at the United States Air Force Academy and retired Brigadier General.
After a 24 year career in the Air Force, Dr. Schiller went on to become the Commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, Executive Director and Secretary General of the United States Olympic Committee, President of Turner Sports Inc., President of the NHL Atlanta Thrashers, Chairman and CEO of YankeesNets (an integrated sports-based media company with ownership of the New York Yankees, New Jersey Nets, and New Jersey Devils), President of the International Baseball Federation and currently serves as Chairman of the Board and CEO of Global Operations Group, a multidisciplinary international risk management and business solutions company.
His career and philanthropic accomplishments go on and on. He is a man I have truly admired for many years. During our discussions, Dr. Schiller pointed out the tremendous pressures on Academy graduates to perform and succeed, early and often in their young careers. High achievement is at the forefront of everything. So much so that by the time many have reached the end of their military service, it becomes difficult to fathom what is left to accomplish?
Dr. Schiller was quick to remind me that the majority of the things we discussed in his very illustrious career were accomplished after he retired from the Air Force and begun just before he reached the age of 50. He pointed out that even though I had already competed on the United States Bobsled Team, served as an Intelligence Officer during the Cold War in Berlin, played & coached football at the United States Air Force Academy, served as Director of College Scouting and General Manager of the Denver Broncos for over 16 years, been a part of two Super Bowl Championships and many other exciting ventures….life was just starting.
I bring this up because I turn 50 years old today (May 1) and life really is just starting. There is so much more to be experienced, so many more people to meet, so much more to be a part of.
That’s true for all NFL veterans as well. I think of Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins’ recent retirement. His decorated 16 year career with Philadelphia and Denver brought memories galore to both Eagles and Broncos fans alike. “I know I’m shedding tears because I’m thinking back and reminiscing, but this is a happy time for me. I chose to walk out the way that I’m walking out…” Dawkins said.
Build upon your success
It should be a “happy time”. Dawkins is just getting started and there is still much yet to be accomplished. For many NFL players the future after football seems murky at best. What can top the thrill of having competed as a professional football player in the National Football League? There really is nothing quite like it out there to replace the feeling of Sundays in the fall. And as with every NFL season, 2012 will see long time careers come to an end and aspiring young careers never get off the ground.
But as Dr. Schiller told me, “You’re just getting started”. So as I reflect on my own “first 50” and try to pass on a little wisdom from the knowledge of having been there, I encourage all current and former NFL players the same advice. Use your own experiences to build upon and benefit others. People want to be around you, be part of your efforts and energy. Whether in private business, public service or charitable work, you are a former NFL player… a privilege a very small few will ever get to experience. It will catapult you to even better things down the road.
After all, “You’re just getting started.”