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Thunderbird Helps Footballers Find Life After NFL

They might not need an education to make millions, but NFL athletes are heading to b-school to get their finances straight

By  Sunny Li

Fri Dec 11 2009

It’s the time of year that American football fanatics get excited about the Super Bowl, yet many ex-NFL superstars can only dream about a bit more cash for their Christmas shopping list.

By the time they have been retired for two years, 78 per cent of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.

In March New Orleans Saints all-time leading rusher Deuce McAllister filed for bankruptcy protection. And if you’ve been on eBay recently you’ve probably seen Carolina Panthers receiver Muhsin Muhammad putting his mansion in Charlotte, NC up for sale on the online auction site.

Well, someone out there thinks these American football wonder-kids, many of who skipped college for fat NFL pay checks, need some professional education.

It’s to address this pressing need that the Thunderbird School of Global Management has launched its first professional certificate program to help current and retired NFL players secure their future beyond football.

Instead of listening to their coaches yelling at them, NFL quarterbacks, cornerbacks, and linebacks will sit down in a lecture theater to study spreadsheets and tax returns.

The two-week program costs $11,750 and will include classes on entrepreneurship, business and global strategy, marketing and branding, global finance, effective business leadership, strategic business negotiation, business communication and management professionalism.

According to Terrell Jones, founder and CEO of TJones Group LLC, a consulting firm that is collaborating with Thunderbird on the program: “This program is designed to point athletes in the right direction”.

As well as claiming it’s “never early” for athletes to start preparing for a second career and to take control of their off-field affairs, Jones also said the program can provide players with “very valuable, foundational information about the business world”.

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Shawntae Spencer has shown an interest in the program: “I’m really excited because it’s really going to help me transition to life after football, and it just gives you those business intangibles that you need to get out there,” he said.

Not bad for a 27-year-old, and extra points to Spencer because he’s already earned a degree from University of Pittsburgh.

For those who aren’t as bright, a slate of high-profile guest speakers, including entrepreneur and former NFL defensive lineman Junior Bryant and Kim Williams, Chief Operating Officer of NFL Network, will be there for interactive sessions and discussions.

The program, titled “Develop Your Skills for High-performance Global Business Success", is set to take place from Feb 22 to March 5 next year, on Thunderbird’s campus in Glendale, AZ.

Besides getting a Business Management Certificate upon completion, participants in the program will also receive up to $5,000 credit toward a Thunderbird Executive MBA degree. It’s about time we had our first ex-NFL-superstar MBA.