AP Pro Football Writer
Forget lounging on the beach or 36 holes of golf a day. For 26 NFL players, their time in the next month is being spent commuting to real jobs.
As part of the NFL Players Association’s “Externship Program,” veterans such as Steelers safety Will Allen and guys coming off a first season in the league such as Broncos nose tackle Darius Kilgo — fresh with a Super Bowl ring, no less — have joined the workforce. Travel and housing are covered for the participants, but the temporary positions are unpaid.
Why not just take a break during the small window that pro football players get before offseason workouts begin?
“I’m not sure how much longer I’ll play,” says Allen, 33, who just finished his 12th NFL season and is spending the next three weeks working for Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Illinois), the ranking Democratic member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy and Power Subcommittee. “Doing an internship and building relationships and being educated about our nation’s efficiency in energy is important.
“This stems from my desire and interest. I want to see a culture change regarding energy and see our nation be more involved in how energy can be used alternatively and efficiently. I have had my mind set on it for a while … having a world where we can get energy prices lower and make it affordable for everyone and still create jobs. I want to be part of that mix, be instrumental in that technology.”
By working for the congressman, Allen is learning about U.S. energy policy and the politics around it. He’s also learning how bills are written and what goes into getting them constructed, then passed by the legislature.
“Congressman Rush has been on the subcommittee for energy and power for a while and he knows his stuff,” says Allen, who did an internship last year, but trails Chiefs receiver Frankie Hammond, who has worked for Comcast SportsNet and Under Armour the last two years under the program.
Also taking advantage of the program a second time are Browns defensive end Cam Johnson, Texans guard Karim Barton, and free agent defensive lineman Lawrence Sidbury.
The Redskins have four participants, the Lions three, and the Steelers, Jaguars and Saints each have two. In all 15 teams are represented, plus two free agents and one former player, running back Greg Jones.
The 10 organizations for which they are working range from college athletic departments (Arizona State, Maryland) to a hotelier to a restaurant chain to Under Armour, which has eight interns.
Kilgo is one of them.
Earlier this month, he was on the Levi’s Stadium field with his teammates, holding up the Lombardi Trophy as a rookie. Now, he’s working for a company that, in a way, he already has helped: Kilgo is a walking billboard for Under Armour.
“My whole time at Maryland, that’s all I bought and all I wore,” Kilgo says. “So when the NFLPA sent out emails to let guys know they have these opportunities, I saw Under Armour on the list and took advantage of it.
“When I was playing at Maryland, they would bring guys in and give us new products to test out in camp or during the season, and ask us for (comments). And a year later, or a couple months later, they improved it. From the first year I was at school, I wore their cleats and they have improved tremendously. I still wear them to this day.
“So this was an opportunity for me to get inside a company that really interests me.”
The companies’ playbooks cover topics such as market data analysis, hospitality, communications, health and safety innovation, sales, legislative processes, and networking. Kilgo and Allen expect to do “a bit of everything” during their stints. Mostly, they plan to learn about a workplace entirely different from their day jobs.
That is the idea, of course.
“Many players have been successful in football due to a linear focus on their athletic endeavors,” says Leslie Satchell, NFLPA senior manager of player affairs and development, and NFLPA Externship supervisor. “But the NFLPA recognizes the importance of taking time out to build professional relationships and experiences outside of football. We know it can be overwhelming to prepare for life after football, so that’s where we step in. We’ve recruited some of the best organizations to host our player externs, and they are fully committed to immersing participants in the business world.”