"The news really hurt," says Halterman, 28, who'd been in the league for three seasons as a tight end for the Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, and Houston Texans. "I'd put all my eggs into the basket of coming back to the NFL. I didn't know what to do."
So he was very excited when he received notification of the four-day Career Transition Program that the NFL first offered through the College of Management's Huang Executive Education Center in summer 2010.Recognizing the Need
Chris Henry, vice president of player development for the NFL, explains that the program was developed to address the difficulties many players have transitioning from pro football. While players who plan their transition carefully are often set for life, some fall into bankruptcy without a clear path into other career opportunities. Depression and health problems also run high among retired players, according to a recent study.
About 25 former players, most of whom were fresh out of the league, participated in the inaugural Career Transition Program at Georgia Tech. It covered topics such as developing a personal brand, launching a career search with realistic expectations, the psychology of changing careers, networking, interviewing and communication skills, personal finance, and health/nutrition. The NFL paid for participants' tuition and accommodations.
"It was a really great program," says Halterman. "It was very well planned and really laid out the steps of a successful transition. It even covered how to stay healthy after you get a new job. We're not athletes anymore, and life slows down as far as our physical activity level."
Holding a BS in psychology from the University of Indiana Bloomington, Halterman is returning to his alma mater this fall to earn a PhD in counseling. He'd like to enter the field of sports psychology, focusing on injury recovery and career transition, running his own practice or working for a university or an NFL team in player development.Leading the Way
La'Roi Glover, a defensive tackle who retired from the NFL in 2009 after 13 seasons, has had an easier time transitioning from the NFL than many players. Currently head of player development for the St. Louis Rams, he attended the Career Transition Program for not only what he could learn, but also what he could share with other former players.
Glover, 36, says he got a wake-up call about the need to start planning for the end of his football career right when he was starting out. Drafted by the Oakland Raiders, he got cut after his rookie season. Though he got picked up by the New Orleans Saints that same week, he decided that he better finish school and pursue corporate internship opportunities while still playing for such teams as the Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams.
Glover, who earned a sports business management-focused MBA from San Diego State, has also worked in broadcasting for ESPN and other media outlets. "I'm considered successful in my transition," he says. "But it's important to have a program like this for players. It's inevitable that they'll have to retire one day. A small percentage ever leaves on their own terms, so they face depression and other issues. Some who've been out for two or three years have the mentality that they're still playing, so they're still spending. But no checks are coming in."
Jim Kranzusch, executive director of Georgia Tech's Jones MBA Career Center, encouraged participants to leverage skills they honed in the game, such as work ethic and competitiveness, in their pursuit of new opportunities. "If you want to be competitive, I assure you, you can find competition in business," he said.
After the successful pilot of the Career Transition Program, the NFL is sending more former players to Georgia Tech in September 2010 for similar career development. The NFL is one of a growing list of organizations that have benefited from the Huang Executive Education Center's ability to tailor-make leadership development programs to meet their particular needs.