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Life After the NFL: The Insurance Office

Professional football players make salaries that many of us can only dream of. The average NFL career is only a little over three years long though, and the average age of retirement is 30. Players who are first round draft picks, appear in multiple Pro Bowls or start in the first game of the season their rookie year can generally expect to have longer careers, but nothing near the Social Security retirement age of 67 for people born after 1960.

Add the young retirement age to the fact that many ex-NFL players have well documented financial problems after leaving the league, with wide range of estimates saying that anywhere from 16% to 78% of retired players experience bankruptcy, and it’s clear that these men need to find a post-game career.

For those looking for a challenge outside of sports, becoming an insurance agent is a path that lets players apply the lessons they learned on the field to their work in the office.

  • Dennis Havig went into insurance when he retired from the league in the 1970s. He’s been the owner-agent of a State Farm branch in the Atlanta area for more than 30 years.
  • When his pro-football career didn’t turn out as expected, Tommy Maddox stepped away from professional sports briefly and worked with his father as an Allstate agent in Houston, TX for three years before making an impressive comeback.
  • Emmet Johnson found a home off the field when he became a Liberty Mutual agent in 2005 and eventually opened Mid Atlantic Insurance Finance in Maryland in 2011. He’s commented that his new career is anything but boring—even after playing in the NFL.
  • Lincoln Kennedy spent 11 years in the NFL and played in three Pro Bowls. After retiring at the age of 32, he spent several years as a Farmers Insurance agent in Arizona before becoming a fulltime commentator and broadcaster for the Oakland Raiders and FOX Sports Radio. While he was an active agent, Kennedy used his history to bolster his agency with the slogan “All-Pro protection and service you can trust.”

The entrepreneurial, “be your own boss” spirit of working as an independent insurance agent appealed to both Johnson and Kennedy, and several former players who have become insurance agents have sited important lessons they learned as athletes as a source of inspiration for becoming successful agents.

Lessons from the Field

When it comes down to it, being a successful insurance agent is about working hard to stay ahead and face new challenges—traits retired athletes are well acquainted with.

In an interview with Erie Insurance, Johnson cited five main qualities he learned on the field that have helped him forge a successful career in insurance:

  • Be strategic: Insurance is a big field and top agents need to figure out how they can fit in, stand out and stay ahead of the competition.
  • Be competitive: Agents are competing for business in the insurance world just like players are competing for the championship. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication.
  • Always grow: Players are always learning new skills and improving their game. That same mentality of growth and learning can be embraced by any professional.
  • Face the unknown: Teams change plays and strategies throughout the game and players need to quickly adapt. The best agents will take this agility and apply it to the different aspects of running a business without being intimidated.
  • Put in the effort: As the saying goes, “You get out what you put in.” It’s all about hard work and commitment.

After six seasons on the field and nearly 40 years as an insurance agent, Dennis Havig has one more quality of success he’s carried with him: perseverance. You get hit in football and you get back up and move onto the next play. If players want a successful career outside of football they should keep that lesson close to heart.

While the public often see former athletes as coaches, commentators and spokesmen, becoming an insurance agent allows former football players to embrace all the best qualities of the game and translate them into a successful, rewarding career off the field.