- Veteran NFL linebacker Spencer Paysinger sent a letter to the NFL singing the praises for the ATU business combine.
- The ATU business combine was a five-day program in late February and early March that allowed 29 NFL players to explore potential careers and fields of interest after they retired.
- Paysinger said the program helped ease the nerves about retiring and said he hopes more NFL players will participate to find interests outside of football.
- The entire letter can be read below.
After taking part in the Athletes Transition U (ATU) business combine, veteran NFL linebacker Spencer Paysinger was inspired to send a letter to Roger Goodell, Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, and the NFLPA.
The ATU business combine was a week-long event organized by Kaleb Thornhill, the director of player engagement for the Miami Dolphins, designed to help NFL players find areas of interest for future careers when their playing days are over. The five-day event in New York City featured 29 NFL players taking part in panels, conferences, group activities, and job-shadows with founders, CEOs, and business leaders in finance, tech, real estate, marketing, media, and more.
Paysinger’s letter to the NFL attested to the impact the combine had on him, saying it helped ease his nerves about retiring and what’s next.
“I played seven seasons, won a Super Bowl and made enough money to sustain my lifestyle until I catch stride in a different profession,” Paysinger wrote in his letter. “There’s just one problem; I’ve never been the type to remain idle. This problem unearths the fact that retirement scares the hell out of me. I like order, structure and accomplishing goals. Football allowed me to scratch those itches, but now that I’m willingly walking into retirement, there’s no going back.”
Paysinger wrote in the letter, which was sent to the NFL on Tuesday, that he wanted to use the combine to make connections in film production, finance, and real estate world. He said the combine not only helped him make those connections, but helped him further identify interests, strengths, and weaknesses.
“A.T.U provided a business environment that laid a foundation where I could build on my strengths and improve on my weaknesses,” Paysinger wrote. “It doesn’t matter if I’m in a boardroom pitching to a group, attempting to perfect the latte heart, or stopping a running back on 4th and 2. If I’m passionate and willing to devote the time and effort to something; I’m unstoppable.”
Thornhill told Business Insider that he was inspired to build the ATU after seeing college football and NFL players leave the sport unprepared for the world outside of football. He said he hopes to expand the program to all 32 NFL teams and possibly universities.
“I hope more players decide to experience all that is A.T.U.,” Paysinger wrote .”Kaleb is building something great by giving us a chance to get a leg up on life after ball. I’ve seen firsthand what it can do, and as I head into retirement I can confidently say my future is strong!”
Read the entire letter below:
“Let’s get straight to the point- I’m retiring from the NFL on my own terms. After securing three games with the Carolina Panthers late in the season, they released me to activate a defensive lineman serving a four-game suspension. This was only the second time I have ever been cut, with the first coming a couple months prior by way of the New York Jets. Nonetheless, being cut twice was enough for me. I’m approaching 30, and my body isn’t the spring chicken it used to be. I played seven seasons, won a Super Bowl and made enough money to sustain my lifestyle until I catch stride in a different profession. There’s just one problem; I’ve never been the type to remain idle. This problem unearths the fact that retirement scares the hell out of me. I like order, structure and accomplishing goals. Football allowed me to scratch those itches, but now that I’m willingly walking into retirement, there’s no going back.
“Now, you might expect me to take a few trips, assess the past few years, or even binge eat since I’m no longer subject to an NFL team’s fine for being overweight. However, it’s quite the opposite. Instead, one of the first things I did when I got back to Los Angeles was reach out to Kaleb Thornhill. I was searching for new information regarding the upcoming business combine he’d been developing, and I wanted to offer any help I could provide. I’ll say it again, I HATE BEING IDLE! That being said, February 26th -March 2nd was circled on my calendar.
“Enter: Athlete Transition U. A platform designed to increase the success rate of athletes who are thinking about careers in business once their playing days are over. This wasn’t my first experience in career-building after football. I attended the Miami Dolphins’ business combine one year prior, which laid the groundwork for A.T.U. A few years prior, I completed an internship with Quest Diagnostics in their Blueprint For Athletes department under the tutelage of Richard Schwabacher, who’s since become a friend and mentor. But along with the positives came the all-too familiar misconceptions of being a professional athlete. Some companies chose to discount me for being “just an athlete,” assuming I had nothing to bring to the table. What A.T.U offered was opportunity. An opportunity to learn and network with entrepreneurs, CEOs and other business-minded individuals who are killing it in their respective fields.
“Coming into the week, I had a few specific goals; connect with people in film production, investment funds and real estate. These three avenues are where I see myself committing my time and effort now that I’m retiring, and the A.T.U set up guest speakers who fit the mold. From well-known heavyweights in sports culture such as Mav Carter (creator of Uninterrupted/business manager of LeBron James) and Jay Brown (CEO of Roc Nation), to entrepreneurs like Robert Reffkin (CEO/co-founder of Compass Real Estate), Ted Chung (founder of Cashmere Agency/ Stampede Management) and Jonathan Levine (founder of Master & Dynamic). Needless to say, I was glad I chose to attend.
“I learned lessons and absorbed quotes from these great business minds, but it was in the deep dives where I discovered some strengths, along with some weaknesses, of my own. The first deep dive split the athletes into three groups, with each group having their own product idea. We had two hours to come up with a pitch deck and present it to the room for funding. I’m all for collaboration mixed with some friendly competition, but when the time came to designate a group speaker, my team concluded I would be the best choice. After multiple failed attempts to convince Ndamukong Suh and Derrick Morgan to take over, I realized I was locked into the role and my guys were counting on me. With thirty minutes before pitch time, I was juggling my nerves while practicing for our presentation. Our group was lucky enough to go last, which allowed me to pick up tips on what would make for a dynamic, winning presentation. As Justin Pugh and I began our pitch, my nerves slowly subsided with every key point I delivered. I even talked a little s— too! Sorry Team 2.
“For my second deep dive I chose to spend the day with Kasper Garnell (Founding partner of Joe & the Juice). This opportunity was particularly interesting to me since I’m an investor in my neighborhood coffee shop Hilltop Cafe in Windsor Hills, California. Upon walking into their Spring Street location, I could tell I was in for a treat. As I grabbed one of their large energizer juices, I took a seat next to Kasper assuming we would be spending the majority of the day talking backstory and projections. I was wrong. Kasper talked for a moment before leading us downstairs to their training facility where I quickly found myself standing in front of a $20,000 coffee machine. I pumped out lattes as Kanye West blared from the speakers while my colleagues were in the pressure cooker that is the juice-making station. I never would’ve thought I’d find pride in being able to pour a cup of juice with such confidence and certainty. Thanks to their process of precision, I knew the pour would end at the cup’s brim without spilling over. The precision I speak of is the identity that drives Joe & the Juice. Kasper and his training crew take every employee through a rigorous multi-week process before they can serve the customer. This breeds a culture of limited mistakes where employees are passionate about the product they serve, and not pouring only for their paycheck.
“A.T.U provided a business environment that laid a foundation where I could build on my strengths and improve on my weaknesses. It doesn’t matter if I’m in a boardroom pitching to a group, attempting to perfect the latte heart, or stopping a running back on 4th and 2. If I’m passionate and willing to devote the time and effort to something; I’m unstoppable. Possessing that sense of energy is exciting now that I’m retiring. Mav Carter mentioned that we, as athletes, are not brands; because brands don’t change. His words ring true as I begin my transition out of the NFL. I must learn to adapt or else I’ll fall victim to the negative statistics surrounding retired athletes. The unknown can be scary, but I find solace in my diligence accompanied with the opportunities A.T.U has afforded me.
“I’m hard-pressed to find a better program that provides an education along with connections to top-tier companies. I hope more players decide to experience all that is A.T.U. Kaleb is building something great by giving us a chance to get a leg up on life after ball. I’ve seen firsthand what it can do, and as I head into retirement I can confidently say my future is strong!
“Salud, “Spencer Paysinger”