Of the four major sports in the United States, NFL players on the whole have the shortest careers. While most fans believe that lucrative pro careers set up players for life, the truth is that many players have to pursue a second career when their playing days are over.
The NFL and NFLPA are acutely aware of this and took steps three years ago creating the NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program. Four of the most respected schools in the country participate in the program: the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the Harvard Business School, the Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University), and the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Many Texans are taking advantage of the program including Kris Brown and Chester Pitts. The pair missed the first few days of the Texans offseason program as they finished up their program at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Wharton School program, which ran Feb. 25-28 and April 1-4, focused on a broad range of business topics, including financial analysis, entrepreneurship, real estate development, stock market investing, negotiation skills, risk management and community reinvestment.
"Really it dealt with pretty much anything you can think of in regards to business, entrepreneurship, investments, how to run a business, the entire scope of the business world," Brown said.
Though Brown has known of the program since it's inception, this was the firs time he was able to take advantage.
"I hadn't been able to go the previous two years," Brown said. "My daughter was born last year so this was the first time I could fit it into my schedule."
Player enrollment criteria include level of education, professional business experience, interest in starting, owning, or managing a business, and leadership and community involvement. Under the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, players may be reimbursed for up to $15,000 a year for education expenses at an accredited institution of higher learning.
Judging from Brown's experience, he'll continue to take advantage of the program.
"I'll look into again next year for sure and I'm going to tell every guy in this locker room to look into doing it," he said.
Pitts attended Wharton this year after spending some time at the Harvard program a year ago.
"They're both great programs, I enjoyed them both, but the biggest thing is that they open your mind to things that I probably would have never seen or experienced," Pitts said. "Just your thought process, approach, it's just different when you're dealing with some of the smartest minds on the planet, it's nice just to sit back and listen."
Like Brown, Pitts will continue to take advantage of the program.
"Oh yeah," Pitts said when asked if he would enroll next year. "If Wharton does a part two, I'll definitely do that or if it's more advanced then I'll do Wharton again next year. If not I'll go to Kellogg and then finish at Stanford."
Neither Brown or Pitts currently own their own business. It's something that they're waiting to pursue after they are finished playing on Sundays. However, thanks to this program, the pair are now interested in pursuing a post graduate degree when their playing days are over.
"Absolutely," Brown said of possibly pursuing an MBA. "I was teetering a little bit as to whether or not I was going to do it and this just really confirmed my level of interest and I think this is something I think is going to open up a lot of doors."
Pitts is interested in an MBA too, though he admits that post graduate degrees are not just handed out to all that apply.
"I want to thank the NFL for making this possible and it really makes me think long and hard about going back and getting my MBA," Pitts says. "It would be a daunting test to pull it off, but it makes you think about it."
While Pitts and Brown are already thinking about their futures, they both hope that other players do the same thing before it's too late.
"Guys just need to go out and find what they are interested in," says Brown. "I think that's the biggest mistake guys make. They get done playing and they really have no clue what they want to do. They might have an idea and then they try going into a career that they don't know a whole lot about and spend some time in it and they realize they don't really enjoy it.
"I think that's where the problem is. Guys need to find something that they have that same passion for. It's been a dream and then you go into another career and you don't have that passion and that's where guys make mistakes."
That's not a problem for Brown, when his career is over, he knows he wants to work with people.
"I really enjoy helping people with personal finances and also I enjoy real estate and interestingly enough those both deal with people," Brown said.
For Pitts, if his career ended today, he too would look into real estate.
"As of today, if I had to select a job, I would say real estate development," Pitts said. "That really has my ear, but we'll see how it all plays out."
For now, both will continue suiting up for the Texans on Sundays.