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Kellogg School Clinical Professor Tim Calkins leads NFL players through a marketing module during the March 2-5, 2008, NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program.

NFL players tackle leadership challenges through unique Kellogg program

For third year, school delivers custom executive education curriculum tailored to needs of professional athletes seeking post-game careers

By Meg Washburn and Andrea Riviere

3/13/2008 - Understanding that the average NFL career lasts less than four years, the Kellogg School of Management has once more demonstrated its commitment to helping professional athletes build their business acumen for life after football. From March 2-5, 24 NFL players hit the books as part of the school’s NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program, which marked its third consecutive year at Kellogg.

Among those enrolled in the March 2-5, 2008, Kellogg School NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program was Washington Redskins wide receiver Antwaan Randle El.
Photo © Rich Foreman
NFL players from various teams, including Matt Light of the New England Patriots, Fred Miller Jr. of the Chicago Bears, and Antwaan Randle El of the Washington Redskins attended classes taught by several of the Kellogg School’s most sought-after professors, including IBM Professor of Regulation and Competitive Practice Daniel Diermeier; Gordon and Llura Gund Family Professor of Entrepreneurship Steven Rogers; and Clinical Professor of Marketing Tim Calkins.

Designed by Professor Rogers, the program’s objective was twofold. It provided players with a comprehensive tool kit to help them thrive in the business world. It also emphasized the importance of lifelong learning as a means to pursue a sustainable career.

“This unique program will empower the NFL players to leverage their personal brands following successful football careers,” said Rogers. “These athletes are talented both on and off the field, and Kellogg is providing them with the tools to prosper in future pursuits.”

The program’s curriculum offered players a foundation for developing and recognizing sound business plans. The classroom lessons also prepared them to ask key questions when analyzing opportunities. With subjects ranging from entrepreneurial finance to brand building, the academic modules mirrored those taught as part of the Kellogg MBA program.

In addition to maintaining a rigorous course load, players had the chance to learn firsthand from Gary Fencik ’85, former Bears player and Super Bowl champion. Now managing partner at private equity firm Adams Partners, Fencik discussed how to pursue a successful career after spending years on the gridiron.

Now Rogers is designing a similar program for the NBA, which will send players to Kellogg this summer. He also plans on extending the program to other athletic associations, including NASCAR and the NHL.

The Kellogg School has long been a leader in executive education, designing thousands of custom courses to address the leadership needs of executives in a range of organizations, including corporations, nonprofits, government and the sporting arena.