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. Below is the final piece by Kelvin Beachum, and here is the first contribution from the New York Giants Mark Herzlich, and here for Shane Vereen’s post on his visit to Twitter.
SAN FRANCISCO – I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. When we began the Tech Tour of Silicon Valley organized by the NFLPA before last week’s Super Bowl, I thought it would be interesting. But what would I get out of it? Honestly, I didn’t know. Going in with my eyes wide open, the moment clicked with me during the second stop on Wednesday.
We were at the headquarters of Uber. I knew about Uber. Car service company, I thought. Cool. But then we sat in on a talk with Marshall Osborne, their head of business development. That’s when the purpose of this meet-and-greet became evident to me: It wasn’t about who we were meeting with; it was about who they were meeting with.
As he was running the panel, he starts out with a few opening remarks and then says: “What do you guys want? This is yours. Uber is yours.” As someone on the outside of all of this, it was something that I totally took for granted, but when he wanted to hear from us, I started to understand the reach that we were being introduced to.
Silicon Valley is a place of ideas. I truly grasp that now.
Even though we’re football players, we’re involved in so many facets of life that all crossover and intertwine is so many capacities. While I might be a 6-foot-3, 300-pound offensive lineman, I have ideas on what I want to do outside of football. So to hear someone who is part of a cutting-edge innovation like Uber asking us for our input was an eye-opener.
It blows my mind that I was able to be a part of this. It makes you think of yourself in a completely different way. Silicon Valley – the way they think and the way they act and do business – is so unique. The way they do business, how open and friendly and how strategic it is, was incredible to see up close. As a guy who was a seventh-round pick, you never think that you’ll be able to have the chance to enjoy these types of opportunities.
And yet, here I was.
This wasn’t just a blatant attempt to forge business relationships for the purpose of one side making money. The NFLPA already does so much for the benefit of players, but this was more than just another business opportunity. This was the foundation for something more, I felt. Especially in this day and age, when social media is everywhere and we as players can get so close to fans, they wanted to tap into that with us. And let us know that we could tap into it on our own.
All players can use Facebook. All players can use Uber. All players can choose to make an investment or place a stake in a venture-capital firm. But without the support net of knowing people like we were exposed to this week, it’s not an interactive process. Now I have those tools. Now I can email a Brandon Gayle at Instagram or a Dan Reed from Facebook with questions.
What other organization provides the opportunity to come face-to-face with these people, while also supporting what you do for a living?
No longer will I be able to say that I don’t have time to start thinking like this. On Thursday, I got up at 5 a.m., worked out, got my rehab in and still was able to do an all-day tour of places like this. It can be done. These people are so down to Earth, so willing to listen, so willing to invest and believe in you. They’re willing to give you a card and say, “Hey, call me, send me an email.”