It’s in Indy

Ollie and Rudy are probably bellied up at a local saloon talking about Notre Dame Football and the Milan High Indians tonight. Rudy can remember sports before all this twittering and tweeters. And Ollie shot a basketball underhand in a varsity high school basketball game so his opinion isn’t highly valued from an athlete’s perspective; however he’s part of the conversation because he made the shot. Ollie’s equally important, if not more important to the conversation though because he’s, to use Dave Kerpen‘s motto, Likeable.

One Hundred Fifty million people in 232 different countries will tune-in to watch Super Bowl XLVI on television. More people than ever before will also be tweeting, posting and sharing their Super Digital Experience simultaneously during this Sunday’s game. The world-famous Super Bowl commercials will air and ten days later no one will be talking about them. But this year more so than ever, digital integration during the Super-expensive commercials will transpire. Ad agencies probably realized after millions of wasted dollars spent on commercials, that people are not buying their products because of commercials on television. Consumers buy for various reasons, but it’s rare that we would buy a thing because we saw it on television. It’s much more likely that we participate in a conversation with people similar to us, be moved to action by someone we trust and purchase a product or service that came recommended. So instead of pushing mediocre ad campaigns at consumers, ad agencies will serve as connectors and amplifiers of their intended audiences this year more than ever before.

The energy surrounding the game will become a constant build of marketing buzz as the top of the Indianapolis skyline becomes visible from Southbound I-65. A groundswell of chatter and excitement will build as fans purchase, participate and talk about it at every opportunity. I included. – The party last night, the hotel room, the players to watch, what she’s wearing, who is going to be there, what club is open late, where to eat… All captured by that simple yet most important character of the week. The hashtag (#).

The hash tag has changed the game of football as much as any rule change since they started wearing plastic helmets in 1939. Every player has the opportunity and responsibility if he chooses to accept it, to broadcast himself and promote his brand to his fans. Likewise, fans have a platform to say whatever they please for the entire world to see by simply placing a targeted hash tag before their comment. Brands, services, celebrities and basically everyone who’s in Indianapolis will be influenced in some way by the hash tag (#) this week. The Super Bowl Committee has even constructed a social media control center to serve as traffic directors for the most talked about player this week in Indy… the hash tag. #invizible_ink #NFL #superbowl #Indy

4 tips to Listening in the Huddle


Twenty-One! Twenty-one!! Ok here we go: Explode to I-Buster right, lucy trade, 161 Y-shallow cross half back Ralfie, check, I-buster right, middle 27 bob-scissors on two…

Imagine you are in the huddle, it’s 3rd and goal with four seconds left to go in a tied playoff game and your team is down five points… Do you know what to do if the defense lines up in cover 1 but rolls to a cover 2 zone? What if they stay in Man? What if the Mike Linebacker blitzes? What if the strong safety blitzes? Do either of these plays have a built in “hot” route? – As you approach the line of scrimage and get into your stance you hear the quarterback make an “Omaha” call, what do you do now? – If you were an NFL tight-end, you would be required to process all of the previous information in less than six seconds. As an added variable, your team is the visitor and the home crowd is making so much noise you can actually feel the vibrations ringing in your helmet from the crowd.

– Plays called by NFL quarterbacks can be up to twenty words long. So as you might guess, it’s important to listen in the huddle. In business, like football, listening is a skill that requires some cognizant adherence in order to be great. We sometimes forget to listen or do a poor job of listening and the resulting outcome is undesirable. In comparison, if we would have done an exceptional job of listening, not only would our outcome have been favorable, but our ability to lead would be exemplified by creating an opportunity to help others understand. When you are in a huddle with time running off the game-clock you don’t have the luxury of asking questions or requesting the quarterback to recap what he just said; you do however, have to be prepared number one, and number two, you have to listen and have total concentration and focus in this situation.

Listening is a skill that separates many of us, and ultimately makes a leader special. As a manager, there are few actions you can demonstrate to your employees that will impact them personally more than being proactive in helping them accomplish their personal goals. Not only will your emplyees be impressed that you are willing to help them, but recalling the conversation in which you discussed goals with an employee will also show them you care. And if you show your employees that you care about them… Assuming you hired morally sound people, you can expect them to give you the same level of respect and do the extra little things it takes to be great. — At the end of the day, listening is about caring. If you care about people, you will listen to them and value what they have to say.

However, if you have a hard time paying attention and have a touch of Attention Deficeit Disorder like I do, a few tips I picked up along the way that might help you out include:

1) Make Eye Contact-
Looking at the person talking while simultaneously reading their lips will help you retain information. Using your sense of sight and hearing together will also help improve information retention. (especially if you are playing on the road)

2) Recap confusing or uncertain lessons-
Restating what someone tells you allows you to process the information, restate the information in your own words, and open the dialogue back up in case you missed an element of what you were told. Also, hearing the information a second or third time will help you recall the information when you need it.

3) Ask Questions-
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Please. First of all, there are very few places in business for shyness. Be accountable and ask questions in regard to information you are unclear about. It’s your responsibility to know what you need to know. It’s much more embarrassing to be the person on film running the wrong route or the person who brought the wrong presentation to the meeting.

4) Knock the chip off your shoulder-
Listening is about caring. Value the people around you and seek to learn from them at all cost. If you walk through your day believing you are too busy to talk to your employees then you are missing out on an invaluable education and almost guaranteeing that later when you are actually paying attention to a conversation, a previous topic will come up and you will be the one left in the dark. All because you didn’t think it important enough the first time… It’s hard to redeem yourself after this happens – It’s far better as well as utilitarian to simply care about your people and listen to what they have to say.

Does Sport Breed Entrepreneurs?


The game of football has taught me to be a leader, a teammate, a critical thinker, a problem solver and most of all to be accountable for my actions. It has also given me the confidence to know that I can do anything I set my mind to. I played the game of football competitively for sixteen years (Starting at age nine and retiring from the NFL at age 24). In all those years of playing this game, I have adopted a few themes as part of my life’s DNA which I believe define me as a man as well as an entrepreneur and member of society. Characteristics such as integrity, character, commitment, work ethic, leadership, and being a community ambassador have become the essence of what the game of football has taught me to replicate as I create my legacy.

I learned a long time ago, on a football field, that your team was the most important ingredient in the formula for success. Without others, one’s individual success is impossible; and so people should be every organization’s number one resource. On the football field, it’s imperative to have a talented quarterback, because that is generally the most important position on every team. However, without the entire team working for the same goal and respecting the quarterback, the likelihood of failure is high. The same holds true in business. Constructing a solid team is vital to an organization’s success. It’s essential to find a solid leader, someone the rest of the team will respect and follow to that end. The supporting team may be a variety of personalities and plethora of different skills and individual characteristics, but ultimately, a team needs a captain to lead that team to success.

Vince Lombardi, a legendary NFL coach said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” When building a business, it’s foolish to think one can do it alone. Employing the right people is essential to your team’s success. Also, the reward is much greater when a goal is accomplished as a group rather than alone. Having someone beside you to celebrate with is certainly more enjoyable than solitude. Togetherness is crucial when accomplishing, as well as celebrating. A football team requires eleven players on every play to be together to have success. If one player does not do their job, the play usually fails. Too many failures ultimately equal defeat. It’s really that simple at the end of the fourth quarter. A coach can evaluate a game by simply pointing out the times a team did not work together as one unit and find reason for a loss. The same holds true for success. A coach can evaluate a team’s win by pointing out the consistency of togetherness and number of times a team carried out what they had planned to do throughout its preparation period. Business is much like winning a football game. You prepare for a test by doing research, scouting the competition, preparing a strategy, implementing that strategy and measuring your success so that you can replicate it and understand through statistics where your team is inefficient, and where to focus your strengths and resources to capitalize on future opportunities.

It’s in this preparation time that I believe the sport of football teaches and prepares those that play the sport to be leaders and future successful entrepreneurs. The first reason is due to the amount of time required to be successful. Work ethic is of optimal necessity for an athlete wishing to play in the NFL. The competition is ruthless and the process to make a NFL team is at times, dare I say barbaric. The process is so incredibly demanding that many fail due to the lack of mental toughness. This defining element however, prepares players for future success by engraining a sense of work ethic that is incomparable to most industries. Training camp in the NFL is six weeks of fifteen-hour-days; and completion of that is just to earn consideration for a final position with their organization. Making it to the end of camp doesn’t mean you made the team, it means you made it through another round of interviews.

The executive staff and coaches will make the final decision for your future employment with their organization. Often times your salary requirements will not be in line with what the organization is proposing, or your experience may not be exactly what they are looking for. It may have absolutely nothing to do with your ability or potential; the timing may just not be right.

Football has prepared me for life in business though a multitude of successes as well as defeats. As an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to risk failure to attain your dreams and accomplish your goals. That’s what makes the reward so great!
I was told countless times upon college graduation I was wasting my time working out and preparing to play another football game. – And, after signing a contract but being cut before even having the opportunity to go to training camp my first year in the NFL, I thought maybe they were right… For about day.

I flew back to my hometown, woke up the next morning, and went to my high school practice field and ran gassers and sprints until all my frustrations of being fired were expelled… and that day I started to prepare for my next opportunity.

The game of football teaches resiliency and fortitude in a way no other sport can teach. The game of football takes so incredibly much physical strength and ability, but it also takes a unique mental composition to be the best of the best. Due to some very special people and an internal desire to succeed, I was more than ready for my next NFL opportunity, which came six months later in the form of a workout with the New York Giants… And later in the form of standing on the 50 yard line in Foxboro, Massachusetts while the National Anthem played over the loud speakers. A nationally televised game on ESPN and F-16 fighter jets buzzed the stadium as goose bumps and a tear formed on my skin; I overcame the odds of playing professional football and proved to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to.

3 Tips to Solidify your Pro Athlete Endorsement

Finding the right athlete who stands above all the rest to endorse your product or brand can be a circuitous challenge if you do not have a proper strategy for aligning the right personality with the role. It’s important to have a clear outcome and goals defined first, before aligning an athlete with your brand. By creating a plan for your promotion strategy based on specific goals, a brand manager can use the Invizzible Ink Selection Model for choosing an athlete and be confident their project will produce a favorable return on investment. Setting goals may seem like an obvious statement, however marketers are sometimes captivated by the opportunity to work with an A-lister, that they miss their target audience. When this occurs, not only does the project result in an unfavorable outcome from an investment standpoint, but your brand suffers a set-back in a volatile economy. It makes far greater sense to understand your entire project and choose representation based on a desired outcome, not a desired athlete.

The Invizzible Ink Selection Model is a personalized and multifaceted marketing tool used by brands to ensure their goals are met. The foundation of the selection model was built on a number of essential marketing elements that have proven to increase brand awareness, resonance, and revenue. The formula itself is complex in its entirety, however many of the weights assigned to each variable are simply common sense understandings of the sports world and market. While experience has proven to be a leading variable for our brand, it’s not the only element with which we have to base our decisions. What we can share today are tips to consider when choosing the right athlete to be the ambassador of your brand. Remember: No strategy is aligned for success without a plan and specified goals…

1. Background Check… Not with the DMV either. Depending on your project, your brand may have a need for a grassroots ambassador, or a major Public Relations identity. In either case, its vital to the success of the campaign to have the right person in place. One way to ensure your brand has the right person in place is to do your homework. Researching candidate’s backgrounds, i.e. – college course of study, family, interests outside of sports are just a few criteria I research before recommending an athlete. For example, if your firm is looking for a sports figure to be the spokesperson for a national PR campaign, you probably don’t want someone uncomfortable in a public speaking role. Going to a search engine and doing some light stalking will produce a plethora of information valuable to gaining insight to a sports figure. An athlete with a communications degree, a broadcast journalism degree, or a similar course of study will position your brand with an interested and qualified athlete. When this happens, the believability of the athlete’s message is increased and brand resonance is attained. By putting the right people in the right places, as Jim Collins expalins in his book, Good to Great, a win-win scenerio is accomplished for both athlete and brand.

2. Does your Brand align with a foundation or charity? Many athletes today have their own foundation, 501 c3, or preferred charity and will align their interests or even passions with brands that support the same programs. Particularly to those brands or organizations looking to hire sports figures in your smaller markets, this bit of information may be a gold mine. If your organization can align itself with this type of athlete while being savvy and strategic, you may find yourself a partner as opposed to paying for a speaker.

3. Who are you getting? — A good teammate? Good in the locker room? Have they worked with other brands? — Brand managers in the sports industry need to know the answers to these questions before signing a deal. I’ve seen far too many examples of athletes showing up late or not showing up at all for an appearance on behalf of an organization or brand, that it literally ruined the event. Disappointed students at a school, fans holding jerseys to be signed at the mall, teams waiting in the locker room before taking the field… Seen it all and felt for all of them. At the end of the day, if your organization is going to align with an athletic figure… Remember, there is a person behind that figure. All-Pro linebackers do not equate to all-pro people. The kids at your local middle school would much rather meet a pro football player and hear his story of what it’s like to be a back-up and play special teams in the NFL, rather than be big-timed by the star and promised a reschedule.

Broncos get Right Coach for the Job

The Denver Broncos recently hired a good friend and college teammate as the newest member of their coaching staff. Craig Aukerman was named defensive assistant coach after serving in the college ranks for ten years. I’m extremely proud of my friend and do not have a doubt in my mind that he will be an asset to their coaching staff. Craig has always displayed greatness on and off the field and I am confident that he will continue to be just that.

As we talked yesterday on the phone I asked him what he thought of the playbook and the sytem the Broncos exercise on defense… As I expected, he mentioned learning the extensive playbook would be his first challenge as a new coach in a new system. – Knowing Craig though, he will impress the coaching staff in Denver with his work ethic and football intelligence; and ultimately learn the playbook.Earlier today I read some cynical comments on Bronco blogs negatively portray the Bronco’s hire due to his small college experience at Western Kentucky, Miami (Ohio), and Kent State. I don’t want to bash the fans because they are the reason the NFL is what it is, but if you are hating on a guy because of where he learned to be a coach I have to ask the question… Are college athletes really that different in the MAC than they are in the Big 10 or the ACC or even the SEC? Does teaching a five-star collegiate athlete better suit a coach for the next level compared to teaching a three-star athlete? – I pose this rhetorical question because I don’t know the answer from a psychological perspective… From a physical ability standpoint I think generally we all agree that athletes are better equipped at Ohio State University than they are at Ohio Northern Universtiy but that’s the obvious.Here’s an example: Take a small college safety compared to a NFL safety reading the eyes of a quarterback from a cover-three zone. This means that the defensive player is watching the quarterback prepare to throw the ball and then breaking in the direction of the pass as soon as he believes he knows where the pass is going. A small college safety who runs a 4.6 second forty yard dash may have great instincts and as a result have many pass break ups and interceptions throughout the course of a season. The NFL safety who runs a 4.3 forty yd. dash may have decent instincts but not as many pass break ups or interceptions over the course of a season despite having more opportunity and more physical ability- Granted the quarterback play is much better at the NFL level so it’s not entirely an apples to apples comparison but it works for the sake of our discussion. Also assume the atheltes are similar in their preparation, intelligence, and reaction time; however, one is simply physically superior to the other. From a coaching perspective, if a coach is teaching the small college athlete what to look for in the quarterback’s progression and he is anticipating where the ball is going and is correct with his assumption, but he just isn’t fast enough to make a play on the ball; there’s not much else a coach can do or say to improve that athlete.While the athletes Aukerman coached at his previous assignments may not be capable of making plays in the NFL, I can assure the bloggers of Denver nation that they were well-coached and better men because of him. His ability and potential as a coach is part of the reason the Broncos hired him, but also measured by the Broncos organization is the quality of man becoming a part of their team and community. Don’t forget that building a TEAM takes more than talent sports fans. Jim Collins stresses in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Other’s Don’t, the importance of having the right people in the right places to ensure your company, brand, or team’s success. Craig Aukerman might not be the powerful household name Bronco fans were expecting but either was Josh McDaniels when he came to town. The 33-year-old had a lot to prove in Denver and I look for the new 33-year-old Aukerman to do the same.

You Win with People


My fist real mentor was my college strength coach. Cal Dietz helped me become the athlete I became on a number of platforms. The first platform was the wooden one I did power-cleans on in the University of Findlay weight room. I had no idea what I was doing and quite frankly I was lucky I didn’t hurt myself. But Cal saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He coached me, encouraged me, and developed the self-confidence I was lacking that ultimately led me to the NFL.

I’ll never forget the embarrassing first day of college football. For those that don’t know what testing day is, it’s the first day of the season that coaches can see the progress an athlete made in the off-season by having the athletes demonstrate various tests of strength and explosiveness. Players are tested on various strength tests such as the bench press and vertical jump. My first day as a skinny college athlete I did the 225lb bench press test zero reps. Yup, dropped the weight on my chest and couldn’t lift it. Good thing I could catch a football because that was the only thing that was impressive about me as a freshman at the University of Findlay.

It wasn’t until the following off-season when Cal came to the University of Findlay that I aspired to be the best football player I could be. He started by teaching me how to eat. That’s right; brought me to the dining hall and filled my plate with whole grain bread, deli-style turkey piled high – and I mean high, lots of vegetables, and two glasses of milk. I followed in his shadow as he explained why he was putting the different foods on my tray. “When you finish this tray, go back through the line and get the same thing again. If you need some ice cream to fill in the cracks that’s ok.” –  I guess he wanted me to gain some weight. Which I did, the right way. Nutritious food with a little humor- I’ll always remember that moment as Cal’s first day of coaching me. From there it was all business in the weight room. I was always a good athlete because I was blessed with talent but Cal helped me become great.

I’ve had a lot of great coaches and teachers in my life but none quite like Cal. It takes a special person to find personal success in helping others achieve their goals. Cal certainly has his own goals, which is another skill I learned from him, but he always cared about his athletes reaching their full potential. In his mind, if his athletes weren’t reaching their full potential, he wasn’t doing his job to his fullest potential. He gave us everything he had everyday as our coach, and in return, we gave him everything we had. It was the epitome of team. And I loved being a part of it. He made me want to be better every time I was around him.

Cal will always be a dear friend and mentor. We talk about business ventures and philosophy when we have time and most recently we discussed the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. One of the themes in Collin’s book is having the right people in the right positions for your organization. Maybe it’s the competitive nature of the NFL in me that has influenced me, or possibly jaded me, but this philosophy is not just a suggestion for managers to consider. If we do not have the right people in the right positions, a company will never be great. Just as Cal was the right person to help me, corporations have to find the same “right” people to ensure greatness. People are every company’s greatest resource and I completely believe a happy employee is one whom is passionate. Find employees who have a passion for your business and listen to them. Develop them into what they want to be and they will give you everything they have for your business. You may not bench-press 420 lbs when its all over, but you will have won the right way, with the right people on your team. – Thanks Cal for inspiring me to be great.

Fuel Up to Play60

The new NFL logo went into use at the 2008 draft.

The new NFL logo went into use at the 2008 draft. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had the best day today. I met with a friend who works as a Physical Therapist for special needs students in a district near and much like my hometown.

For the past year the American Dairy Association has been after our goal of placing Fuel Up to Play60 kits in schools. A kit contains tools that a school can use as part of supporting a healthy lifestyle in their building. We accomplished our goal and have been a part of some wonderful events as a result. Somewhere in the hustle and balancing of grad school and work though, I lost touch with the part of my job that allows me to be a part of changing kid’s lives. I felt that emotion again today for the first time in a while and I was reminded again that God is good.

The topic of our conversation was Fuel Up to Play60, a program designed by the Dairy Council and the NFL to create healthy lifestyles in schools. A typical school meeting usually includes getting as many students as possible to sign the pledge and track their progress online because their school can win some great prizes if they win the competitions. But this meeting was different. This meeting was how the program could be used in a one-on-one teaching scenerio between my friend and the special kids she works with.

I’m proud of the success of Fuel Up to Play60 in Ohio but there is also something to be said for the people like my friend who are able to take this program and use it with special kids to improve their quality of life too. One of the boys my friend was telling me about was paralyzed in a car accident from his chest down but despite his challenges was still a pretty good athlete and a football fan. She believes he could compete in wheel chair sports if given the opportunity and feels the Fuel Up to Play60 program will be the ideal program to motivate him. I hope it is.

Our programs and brands can and will be talkable but the people who are talking about us is really what makes our programs and brands what they are. Consumers are the reasons we do what we do. They are ultimately the consumers of our passions. We owe it to them to be our best, to be honest, and to be what we say we are; even when the going gets tough. In return, we receive knowledge and understanding of who our consumers are, what they care about, and what they are passionate about. That seems like a pretty fair trade.