As NFL Kicks Off, Fordham, Leading Name In Finance Deal With Athlete Health; Off The Field

As we hit opening weekend in the NFL, the growing issue of athlete health and wellness off the field is still as big a topic as it is on the field. The departure of Andrew Luck a few weeks ago at age 29 stunned not just the football but the business world as well, as Luck talked openly about needing a break and getting the rest of his life going. Also that week, at the NFL 100 Kickoff at Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York Giants sensation Saquon Barkley sat with some of the NFL’s greatest running backs, including Hall of Famers like Terrell Davis and Barry Sanders and also talked about looking beyond the gridiron for what could be next and the interests he could have down the line.

Saquon Barkley (KA Sports Photos)

The Penn State star mentioned his promise to his mother about finishing his degree in Happy Valley, and although it was clear that he is ready to get things rolling for Big Blue, the tug for all of these athletes today to be ready should the end come some day, as it always does, is discussed more today than ever.

The same week, only a few football field lengths from Lincoln Center where the NFL 100 kickoff was held, some other former NFL’ers gathered to learn more about that time when the lights go down and life’s next challenges come up. The group of approximately 25 former NFLers, including Clinton Portis, Luke Pettigout, Ahmad Bradshaw, David Tyree and Nate Burleson are part of a program at Fordham University to look at the world of business and understand both the needs and the opportunities of what’s next.

MIchael Bapis

The program is led by Jack Brewer, former NFL player and now Founder and CEO of the Brewer Group Inc., and a frequent speaker on the life of the athlete beyond the game. This week long session also had the buy in (no pun intended) of some other pros in the financial world, including veteran Michael Bapis, a former NCAA golfer at the University of Utah who segued into the financial world, and in the past year has merged his business with Rockefeller Financial to form VIOS Rockefeller, which is working with individuals on all areas of financial planning and wealth management, with a growing focus on the athlete and how the elite man and woman can morph into an elite businessperson down the line.

Michael’s and Jack’s combined collaboration stems from their passion to change the landscape of wealth management for professional athletes by using their own stories of both success and failure to increase financial literacy knowledge and help get back on track as well as better prepare for a successful and prosperous retirement. Jack has had the valuable experience of being on both sides as a professional athlete and financial professional.

The first seminar in May at Fordham focused on financial literacy and real-life financial advice for the athletes and attendees. This time the focus was on economics. Bapis and Jimmy Chang, Chief Investment Strategist at Rockefeller Capital Management held a fireside chat, discussing the ins and outs of the markets, the upcoming elections and the looming trade wars and their impact on US and global growth. Chris Randazzo then led a great discussion on technology how it has transformed the financial services industry, as well as how the digital world has effected the way in which financial advice is given and perceived. The overall event was interactive, intriguing and inspirational as all attendees asked situational questions to help them better grasp real-life financial concepts, with the ultimate goal of learning to be more financially aware for a successful future.

Bapis, a Long Island resident, authored this piece this week on LinkedIn about the experience at Fordham and in Rock Center, with an interesting take on not just money management, but on how the athlete today should be able to also take advantage of entrepreneurship, philanthropy and business management, working to round out their post career just like they would handle all aspects of their lives on the field.

“The good news is that like improved play on the field, improved thought for life away from the game is starting to become more the norm. Today, there’s a whole new generation of entrepreneurial athletes who are changing the game off the field and after retirement,” Bapis added in the piece.

Does that type of advice stick with the players of today? “My focus is on my career right now, and all that means, and I won’t let anything change that that is in my control,” Barkley added at the event. “Do I see what some of these guys have done to be successful beyond the game and do I hear of some of the failures? Yes. I have a great opportunity to take advantage of here with the Giants and for the fans of New York, and if I do that right and keep things balanced, the rest will come and I will be ready for those challenges as well.”

Sometimes we miss the point when just watching the goings on as the ball kicks off; it’s great to see that more and more, with some big name help, athletes who we cheer for today we can root for in the business world after their careers are over. That is in the end, a real win.

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