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NFLPA creates program to expose players to tech industry: A player’s point of view – Mark Herzlich

In an effort expose its players to businesses in the tech space, the NFLPA set up site-visits and meetings for NFL players. In this piece, Mark Herzlich provides a first-person account of his visit to Andreesen-Horowitz and Facebook.

In an effort expose its players to businesses in the tech space, the NFLPA set up site-visits and meetings for NFL players to meet with some of the largest tech companies in the U.S. over Super Bowl week. Focuses included social media, gaming, venture capital, mobile apps and wearable technology  with companies such as Uber, Facebook, Twitter, EA, and Intel. It allowed the players an opportunity to network with top execs and staff at every level, and see what a career in tech looks like post –playing career. Over the next few days we will run a series of player contributions discussing what they learned and how they benefited from the NFLPA’s program. Here is the first contribution from the New York Giants Mark Herzlich.

SAN FRANCISCO – It felt like being a junior in college all over again. Walking into the headquarters of Andreesen-Horowitz and Facebook and Uber and Twitter. Sitting across from some of the biggest innovators in the country, and the world really, and having them be interested in what I had to say. Interested in what I could potentially offer them.

I can remember friends and classmates going through that process when we were all in our junior year at Boston College. Meeting with recruiters to lineup internships and part-time jobs that hopefully would lead to full-time positions.

Except this week, I was being given the chance to learn more about what my next steps are going to be.

As a 28-year-old in the NFL with five years under my belt, I know that there are no guarantees in this profession. While I am always constantly striving to be the best I can be at what I do on the field, I know that I have to be prepared for what will come when I can no longer be on it. That’s why this week – being shuttled around some of Silicon Valley’s most influential as part of the NFLPA’s Tech Tour – has been so enlightening.

It’s not just about going to these places and seeing the sprawling, self-contained campuses that they operate out of, it’s the connections that I am lucky enough to be afforded. The technology – at Facebook alone, David Fischer informed us about virtual reality being the next way to connect to fans while their head of sports, Dan Reed, told us that athletes are an increasingly growing distribution platform – is incredible.

Mark Herzlich attending a VR demo at Facebook.
Mark Herzlich attending a VR demo at Facebook.

Being around these people, you definitely get a feel of the spectrum and breadth of the NFLPA’s reach. And it’s not just about things we can do after football – there’s stuff that we can be doing right now. Being in these environments the last few days, you can’t help but be creative. All I kept thinking as I sat in with these tours was, ‘Man, everyone around here is just creating new ideas.’

A lot people think that because you play football, you’re going to be in football after you’re done playing. And part of that might be true for a lot of us. But we’re also more than just who we are on the field. We have ideas and designs for doing more. Now, with these tools that I’ve been given by the NFLPA’s connections in the business world here, I can take action on them. It’s about looking at the problems that are in society or the need in a market for an idea and how do you disrupt the marketplace and put your idea into it.

Sometimes it’s hard to do and think about things like that when we’re in the heat of a season, but now with these tools, it can be done.

To sit in the board room of a major venture-capital firm like Andreesen-Horowitz and listen to them gives us tips and ideas on not only investing, but business management as well, it’s hard not to get excited to jump right in. Even while I still put a helmet on every Sunday. As part of our day there, the great Joe Montana, told us about his experiences in business after he was done playing. Here’s one of the greatest players ever, who has now founded his own venture-capital firm and doing things that he never even imagined.

It was a great sales pitch to aim higher.

I’m not sure what avenue I will take or where I will turn my sights to. But the fact that I now have the infrastructure and tools to make things happen is such a confidence-builder. It made me feel like I did when I was a junior on Chestnut Hill, soaking everything in and preparing myself for the future.

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