I met NFL player Derrick Morgan at a Beats by Dre Party in Manhattan’s SoHo District in February of 2014. Although Super Bowl XLVIII was less than 24 hours away, we got to talking about business, technology and startups. Our paths would cross again in April of this year when he and several students from an MBA Program stopped by the Google offices in Chelsea.
Derrick is part of the inaugural class of the University of Miami’s Executive MBA for Artists and Athletes. The 18 month program is designed to introduce athletes and entertainers to a wide array of business and entrepreneurship courses. As he told me, “this program helps me gain more insight and more exposure to different fields. We’ve had classes ranging from economics, to entrepreneurship, to real estate finance. We’ve been all over, touching on the main aspects of business.”
By all intents and purposes, Derrick Morgan has “made it”. He was drafted 16th overall by the Tennessee Titans in 2010 and last year, he signed a $30 million contract extension, keeping him in Nashville until at-least 2019. But Derrick is already thinking about life after football. After all, the average NFL career spans but three seasons. Thus, it’s never too early to think ahead.
“It’s going to be difficult going from doing something your whole life to not doing it anymore.” He continues, “so after my playing days are over, I want to make the transition as smooth as possible.”
The words “professional NFL Player” and “intellectual” aren’t often associated. Even within the league, some see extracurricular activities as a distraction. Former NFL Player Rashard Mendenhall surprised most when he retired at only 26 years old. As he put it, he wanted to pursue other interests, like writing for the HBO Show “Ballers” In early April, he commented how NFL Scouts were worried about his voracious reading when he was coming into the league.
“While I respected that culture totally and knew that I was a part of it, it was tough for me personally. I would tweet a picture of a book that I was reading and there would be people who would write, like, ‘Why are you reading books? You should be reading a playbook.’ I was like, ‘Dang, this is the offseason.'”
If it sounds antiquated, it’s because it is. And as Morgan said, a certain stigma around the “NFL Intellectual” still exists. “’I’ve received nothing but support from my coaches and staff. But you hear stories about how some coaches question your commitment if you’re not solely focused on the game.” From a league wide level though, he does give credit to the NFL for giving its players opportunities and resources to learn.
The MBA Program hasn’t so much presented as heightened Morgan’s interest in Real Estate, as he says it’s a field he’s actively researching. Being in Nashville, and looking at our the booming real estate market sparked my interest in the field. Jurrell Casey, one of my teammates, has always been passionate about Real Estate. We’ve both talked working together. And being in business school, you get motivated by the students around you.”
Derrick Morgan is in the prime of his playing career and is just 27. So I must admit, I was quite surprised when he told me about his plans post football. Ask someone to tell you about their upcoming trip and they’ll run you through their detailed itinerary. But ask them about their goals for the next year or two and chances are you’ll get a blank stare and a few “umms” as your reply.
Simply put, most people spend more time planning a vacation than planning their lives. The general train of thought seems to be “well, I’ll figure it out and keep my options open.” The ironic part is, that the more successful one becomes the less attention they give to the next phases of their lives. It’s like the lose the hustle that got them there in the first place. And if a multimillionaire athlete is actively planning ahead, then what excuse do you have?
Before we concluded our conversation, I had to ask him about Waze. After all, I’m a proud company man. “I like Waze, but when you have a police escort to other stadiums, you don’t really need anything else. We’re going to get to game time anyway we can.” He said with a laugh.
With or without Waze, it’s clear that Derrick Morgan is on the right track. I just hope he stays far away from Derek Carr come September 25th.
Eric M. Ruiz is a writer and strategist for Waze, the Social GPS and Navigation app that was acquired by Google in 2013. A native of Modesto, Calif., Eric currently resides in New York City. Views and opinions are his own.