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With multiple days of television coverage it was hard not to watch the media-fest that was the player selection for one of our favorite national sports. I am always interested to see where the athletes I saw on the Combine coverage ended up (and yes, I watched several hours of that as well.)

Knowing the years of challenge these athletes have experienced both on and off the field I cannot help but be delighted for those who successfully attain this next level in their careers. Some will succeed and some will not, yet there is an unspoken understanding that it is all “Not For Long”.

As much God-given talent as these players have even Bo Jackson’s incredible athletic career ended. Most of these young men will not go out on top like Bo, but will struggle to stay a step ahead of the next recruiting class of younger, hungry athletes.

It was with great interest that I recently heard a radio segment about a university that has created an MBA program targeted specifically to athletes. Over 90% of the students in the class discussed were in the NFL perhaps because it is well known that long football careers are not the norm. The explanation one athlete gave for being in this degree program was his desire to understand balance sheets and other financial tools he will need as his foundation continues to grow while he continues to play football. His desire to keep control of his charitable work is commendable as it would be very easy to allow others to take his off field work off track.

Listening to these athletes as they were interviewed reminded me that we all need to prepare for the next part of our lives as objectively as they are. They clearly know that their career time in the NFL is limited and that early preparation for what will come next is just another part of the self-discipline they have had to exercise all of their lives. Are our careers and health any more guaranteed than theirs even though we are not being physically pounded each day?

The physical wear and tear of a career in the NFL greatly limits the tenure of these athletes, yet I see that the daily grind of a corporate career seems to create a suspiciously similar pattern of retirement. Perhaps not as young as football players, corporate veterans still seem to only last to a certain age and then need to move on. Whether by choice or through being “cut” by the system we all need to prepare for the next stage of our lives. Kudos to the athletes in this MBA program and other similar programs for recognizing the need to step out of their comfort zone and prepare for what lies ahead. Do we have the courage to follow their example?