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Former NFL players are almost infamous for suffering from serious financial troubles after they retire. Now the league is trying to help fix the problem.
In Baltimore recently, two former NFL stars stood huddled next to each other, looking down at a colorful pair of dress socks—the latest from the Plaxico Burress Collection. Former All-Pro Giant linebacker Carl Banks nodded his approval to Burress and marveled at the quality of the socks, something Burress said he has finally perfected after months of testing out samples.
"It's time to expand now," Banks emphasized to Burress, who currently sells his collection in two New York City boutiques.
The two exchanged phone numbers and agreed to be in touch about getting Burress' product in stores catered toward the big and tall, where Banks has significant connections.
The scene? The 2014 NFL Consumer Products Boot Camp where more than 15 past and present players are learning skills they hope will last them long after their playing days.
Banks is a success story for the NFL. The former linebacker who won two Super Bowls with the Giants has transformed himself off the field into a successful businessman and president of GIII Sports By Carl Banks.
Banks is working with the NFL to help others find success off the field and help NFL players avoid going from millionaire to just another statistic.
In 2009, Sports Illustrated reported that 78 percent of NFL players face bankruptcy or serious financial stresses within two years of leaving the league. The NFL disputes this figure, saying that NFL retirees have higher income than men of similar ages in the general population.
"There's only so much room in the broadcasting booth," Banks emphasizes to the group during one of the many sessions, which teach everything from marketing to copyright patent law.
The NFL has long held boot camps (broadcasting always the most popular) but this is the first one focused on consumer products.
"This is one of a number of experiences we do to expose our players to life after playing football," said Kimberly Fields, vice president of player engagement for the NFL. "We want to arm players with the tools and resources to do wonderful things in the community."
The players attending the boot camp come from all backgrounds and levels of business experience.
"I happen to be a player that has no clue what I want to do once I'm done with football, so I thought this program would be beneficial to me," said Torrey Smith, wide receiver for the 2013 Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
For other players, the week is about learning the necessary skills to take their products to the next level.
"A few years ago we came up with an idea to come up with a potty training package," said Mike Leach, a 37-year-old long snapper for the Arizona Cardinals. "Now we're trying to get manufacturing and distribution."
Leach, a 14-year veteran, says he has become more serious about his life off the field as his window in the NFL has shortened. He's attending the boot camp with his wife and business partner Julie, who says it has been great networking and is helping to provide them with resources, ideas and knowledge to move forward with their product.
Ten-year NFL veteran Phillip Buchanon has other motivations for being at boot camp. Several years ago, a bad business deal and pressure from friends and family almost put him in financial ruin.
"I had one deal where I lost $1.6 million," he said.
Today, he's hoping to tell his cautionary tale in a book and board game aimed at players coming into wealth quickly.
"I felt like this was a way for me to give back after long nights of dealing with bad business deals," Buchanon said.
He said the boot camp has taught him about marketing and being able to take his products and brand to the next level.
"I think just being here is very encouraging and motivating for me," said Buchanon.
Longtime NFL cornerback Phillip Buchanon is creating a board game to teach money management and other life skills to kids. Arizona Cardinals long snapper Mike Leach and his wife, Julie, are developing a product to help parents toilet train their toddlers. Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Plaxico Burress has introduced a line of colorful, luxury socks.
The budding entrepreneurs just need a little coaching — and not the sort involving the shriek of whistles — to assist them with such things as marketing, branding and contracts.
This Sunday, the group will join a dozen other current and former National Football League players — including Ravens' wide receiver Torrey Smith — at a four-day conference in Baltimore on getting started in consumer products sales. While the NFL has held "boot camps" on broadcasting and other topics, this is its first focusing on product pitches, and it's the first hosted by Baltimore.
The conference isn't designed only for players — such as Burress —who have already started businesses. The Burress collection includes fancy socks with names like "The Bold Stripe," "the Yacht Club" and the "the Paisley Park," each selling for $24 a pair.
"I'm hoping he brings socks for all of the (conference) participants," said former defensive back Troy Vincent, an executive with NFL Player Engagement, which provides off-the-field resources — such as the seminars — for current and former players.
For years, NFL players were often targeted for ill-advised investments. "It was good money going to bad because they were not informed," Vincent said "We lacked job readiness because we lacked the hands-on experience."
During the conference, the players will split into four teams and prepare and present a product pitch to judges, including Vincent and Henry C. Boyd III, associate chair of the marketing department at Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.
LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — A pair of former Washington Redskins are going Hollywood… or at least they’re taking some steps toward it by learning the business from some heavy hitters including the producer of The Dark Knight series.
Shaun Alexander and Phillip Buchanon, both of whom had brief stints in DC, are among 20 current and former players participating in the second annual “NFL Pro Hollywood Boot Camp.”
From March 11-15, the athletes will learn all facets of the industry, including screen writing, directing, producing, and film financing.
The players will be under the tutelage of actor/director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, Chicago Hope), producer Thomas Tull (The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception) and writer/actor/director Robert Townsend (The Five Heartbeats, Hollywood Shuffle). Tull is also a part-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Among the group of players participating is former Oakland Raiders running back Justin Fargas whose father portrayed the iconic jive-talking pimp Huggy Bear on the cult television classic Starsky and Hutch. The character was later played by rapper Snoop Dogg in the 2004 film revival starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.
Alexander, 35, had a cup of coffee with the Redskins in 2008, but has not played in the NFL since. In 2005, the first-round pick from Alabama was named NFL MVP after rushing for a staggering 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Buchanon, 32, also ended his 10-year NFL career in Washington where he played in 2010 and briefly in 2011.
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