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When you think of a professional athlete, you probably don’t think about what they’re planning to do after they retire. Turns out, most athletes don’t either, but a small number of them are blazing the trail into entrepreneurship.
Two of them participated on a panel during SXSW. Walter Powell and Josh Martin, alongside sports agent Justin Giangrande, answered questions posed by Erica Duignan Minnihan, Founding Partner at 1000 Angels & Reign Ventures.
The two athlete-founders had different motivations for why they started thinking beyond their careers in sports.
Powell found himself unfulfilled in his career, and he turned to his older brother for advice. Powell found he had no answer when his brother asked him, “What’s your purpose?” After a lot of soul-searching, Powell discovered he had a passion for keeping people informed about politics, so he launched a startup called Politiscope with his best friend - before development of the app, his friend was his own personal Politiscope.
Martin on the other hand, always had one eye on the exit. He didn’t get picked up in the draft, and when he finally did get signed to a team, he ended up playing for four different teams in his first year. He knew after that first year that his football career could end at any moment. He holds his education at Columbia in high regard, and says his motivation to play for them was the job security his degree could get him. Now he runs a podcast and is planning a trip across America to ask regular people about the issues affecting them.
The two players mused on stage over the short duration of an NFL paycheck for the vast majority of players. The average player has 2.6 years in the NFL, and the average contract length is 2 years. That’s not a lot of runway.
When asked about how they got involved in entrepreneurship, for both players, it was all about the networking. The support system is crucial. According to Giangrande, new, nimble, and future-focused agencies do what they can with players to support them in every decision they want to make, whether on the field or off it. Powell chimed in that current players will never be more relevant than they are now, and they should use their school’s alumni network to get plugged in early. Martin added, don’t be afraid, use your time in the limelight to practice your networking, and set yourself up for future success.
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