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.

High School Hoop Dreams

This weekend Value City Arena will host the OHSAA boys basketball state tournament. Just down Lane Avenue over the bridge, the Varsity Club will host high school basketball fans. You can join the conversation between games and enjoy a cold beverage before walking back to the Schott for the next game; or you can stay there all day and watch the games on STO. Whether you watch them live or on the big screen at the VC, its sure to be a good time. There will be a few groups of storytellers sure to be in attendance. Count on that.
Let the stories begin… When I was a junior at Ottawa-Glandorf High School, we played in the state championship title game and lost by one point. We had an unbelievable season and nearly pulled off an amazing 21-point-comeback championship victory, but it wasn’t meant to be. Coincidentally the school that beat us in 1996 won the semi-final game this afternoon and will play Saturday for another chance at a title. Orrville High School. If they win on Saturday, as part of my work’s partnership with the OHSAA, I will deliver a congratulatory speech to their team. – I am hoping Lima Central Catholic wins that game; but the kicker is that Lima beat Ottawa-Glandorf in this year’s regional tournament to get to the state tournament… Either way, O-G lost. And that finally is the point of this post… To the winner go the spoils, and no one remembers the losers. (Except maybe the story-telling patrons at the Varsity Club)
I will always remember the one-point loss to Orrville as a heartbreaker, but I will remember the emotional distraught of our seniors, coaches, and fans more than the loss.
I use this example of community comradery because its relevant to the curent events of the weekend for one, but also because it represents the essence of high school sports. For the past month, I have watched high school athletes win and lose in the state tournament of their respective winter sport. Wrestling, Swimming, and most recently girl’s and boy’s basketball tournaments have built character and taught lessons of sportmanship, integrity, and class to the athletes competing through the elation of winning and agony of defeat. I’m a firm believer we learn more about our personal fortitude through defeat than we do in winning, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept, especially at 17 years old.
I have been fortunate to watch many high school sporting events here of late due in part to the Refuel with Chocolate Milk campaign; and the one lasting image that stays with me is the image of an athlete brought to tears at the realization of their final game/match/event as a high school athlete resulting in a loss. To have come so far, but not far enough. I have to say, as an athlete who has been in those shoes, it’s a difficult situation to find yourself in; and managing those emotions can be impossible for the kid who literally invested his/her entire personal commitment to that team. For many, it’s their first true love. It may be overwhelming. Numbing. Maybe even sickening. But at the end of that bus trip home is a welcome reception… A community proud of their team. They may not have won first place, but even the consolation prize of a state tournament deserves respect from a community who have reaped so many exciting memories as a result of those 15-17 year old kids. The second place team may not have won gold, but they became stronger young men and women through the process; which reassures my belief that sport creates a greater good in our communities… A utilitarian greater-good that brings forth teamwork, commitment, and trust among young people. I hope all the teams competing this weekend as well as those communities enjoy the experience of a state tournament as much as I did fourteen years ago… even the kids from Orrville.

Individual Sports Hit Home


Over the course of the past two weekends I have spent time supporting high school sports in Ohio at the OHSAA state swimming and wrestling championship tournaments. Working in these sports have been a relatively new experience for me as I have always participated in team sports. My cousin Aaron was pretty much a stud swimmer in high school and went on to a successful career at Rutgers University, and many of my college football teammates at the University of Findlay were successful high school wrestlers, but was as close I really came to individual sports at the high school level besides my average showing each year as a member of the OGHS Track team.

What I’ve learned in the past few weeks is that there is something fundamentally different between team and individual sports at the high school level when it comes to competing at the state tournament. While I will always believe the greatest accomplishment one can achieve is a team championship title, at the end of the competitive day, it takes a group of individuals to contribute to that effort to accomplish that goal. There is certainly a crowned team award for first place in high school swimming and wrestling, but ultimately in sports such as swimming and wrestling, the attention is placed on the state champion. There is only one athlete atop the standings board in individual sports and I have been fortunate to experience some state champions in Ohio be crowned over the past two weeks.

Without a doubt the highlight of the past two weekends has been enjoying the all-access pass for the tournaments granted by the OHSAA. With the American Dairy Association’s involvement in high school sports and partnership negotiated with the OHSAA, we have been afforded access to the personal sights and emotions the athletes competing in the tournaments experience. As the relationship manager with the OHSAA, I have been quite fortunate to be in the action first hand. It’s wonderful to see up close and personal the emotion on a state champion’s face as they beat their opponent and realize they are number one.

Maybe the best feeling I’ve experienced in recent weeks came after experiencing the first state championship wrestling match of my life. The 103 lb match yielded a champion from Lakewood St. Edwards, Dean Heil. The kid is only a freshman but stood like a man in the circle of the Jerome Schottenstein Center platform as a champion. The excitemet on his face and abundance of emotion as the referee raised his arm as state champion caught me off guard. As the reality set in for Dean Heil that he was number one in the state of Ohio, reality set in with me that I was incredibly happy for him… Not so much that he had just earned points for his team, but because he was the best in the state of Ohio at what he does. It was a new feeling for me to experience, and I greatly appreciated the opportunity.

Heil was a gracious champ; shaking hands with his opponent and his opponet’s coaches. Then feeling the excitement take him over, he jumped into the arms of his awaiting coaches; embracing in a heart-felt bear hug. Soon after feeling the love from his coaches, Heil was grabbing his warm-up and off in a fast jog for the bleachers… At the end of his jog was his father; waiting for his son with a proud tear and open arms ready to embrace his state champ. It gave me goosebumps as I watched son and father share that moment. Overwhelming joy and pride radiating from a hug between father and son… It was a beautiful moment that only sport could have provided. As I approached hour 12 of that particular work day, I became overwhelmed with a sence of fulfillment and reward; and realized that sharing that particular moment with Dean Heil and his father was the reason that I do what I do… It wasn’t about the long workday any longer, it was about the brief moment that only a long day could have offered.

Invizzible Ink was created to highlight the positive aspects and rewards that sport offers our communities. Experiencing first hand a freshman in high school take the Division I honor of best of the best was a beautiful and very rewarding opportunity. It reminded me that sports marketing and working in sport is more than a business, it’s an opportunity to make a difference.