Over the last 60 days, I’ve had the opportunity to chat closely with my 2010 rookie class about their transitions into the NFL, what to expect and how to be successful.
I try to keep my instructional advice realistic and palpable for a young man about to embark on his dream of playing in the NFL. I reinforce these general guidelines with a step-by-step action plan. It’s been my experience that players react well to short lists, catchy slogans and simple outlines.
These are the five points I try to hammer home to my clients:
Body management: The player’s body is his production facility. Without it functioning at its maximum capabilities, there is no product or service he can offer. A player only has one body. It has to last, and it can’t be replaced. I encourage my players to take extremely good care of theirs, like a Formula 1 race team takes care of its car. A race car will perform at its peak with only the best fuel. I tell my players that the best investment they can make is in their bodies, so I promote spending money on superior super foods, personal trainers, nutritionists, massages, supplements, equipment and even on a great mattress. I also remind them that most of these investments are tax deductible.
Jerry Rice, Darrell Green, Teddy Bruschi, Emmitt Smith, Al Harris and many others who played 10 or more years did so by taking great care of their bodies. The body produces the paycheck!
Time management: I’m a believer that the busier one is, the more one can accomplish. I also believe the opposite is true: The more time you have, the less you will accomplish. Players are sometimes cursed with having too much time on their hands and not knowing the best ways to manage it. So I encourage my clients to set daily schedules for film study (at home and work) along with planning out their weeks, months and offseasons. I remind them that being late for any activity in the NFL leads to harsh fines. Being 15 minutes early is being on time. I tell them that if they find themselves in a fast-food drive-thru, they are not only NOT managing their time but also cheating on body management. If a player is in control of his time, it will reduce stress and give him an air of professionalism.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is a great time manager, and his ability to prioritize tasks is legendary. His game-week schedules are favored by players because they appreciate that he’s sensitive to their bodies and energy levels throughout the day. If players can get into routines that maximize their time, they will become exponentially successful.
Be 100 percent football-focused: For some college players who took their academics seriously and balanced their class commitments with football, it’s time to put 100 percent of their focus (aside from faith and family) on their football responsibilities. I challenge them with this philosophy: “Live, work and sacrifice like no other player WILL for three or four years, then you will live like no other player CAN for the rest of your life.” If a player can eliminate distractions from his life and give everything he can to becoming the best, limitless rewards will follow. Some players wait until their contract year to turn on the switch, which is sometimes too late. Those who get off to good starts early will build equity in their brand and in their future contracts. After the first few years, a player can start to enjoy some of the fruits of his labor.
Goal-setting: I encourage each of my clients to set realistic short- and long-term goals for themselves. I even ask them to pick the number of years they want to play. I instruct them to carry this goal sheet with them and look at it every morning and every night. I explain that “visualization” is a powerful tool and that their careers will only be what they “imagine” them to be.
Fiscal discipline: The No. 1 reason I got certified as an agent at age 24 in 1986 was to help players maximize their opportunities and preserve their wealth. Over time, I found that the greatest tool to building wealth is exercising fiscal discipline and responsibility, not making great investments.
One of my best clients spent frivously for the first seven years of his career. When I talked to him about it, he said he was “going to change,” but the cars and jewelry kept coming. Then one day, I reminded him that he was one of the most dedicated and hardest-working pros in the business. He proudly agreed. Then I ask him to apply his ability to be disciplined to his spending and savings. I explained that buying unnecessary material possessions is akin to being weak and lazy. From that moment on, he changed his ways.
I want all players to build an untouchable reserve of anywhere from $3 million to 20 million, depending on their contracts, as their No. 1 fiscal goal. Once they achieve that, they can take more risks, have some material luxuries and enjoy the fruits of their labor. In the meantime, their untouched reserve bucket can provide them with a lifetime of income that will afford them an amazing quality of life after football.
Rich players have many material things, wealthy players have solid investments.
I, like most agents who care about the well-being of their clients, will be reinforcing these five philosophies on a daily basis.
Follow me on Twitter: @jackbechta