Congratulations are in order to all active players and WAGS who have and will retire during the 2018-2019 season! Please pat yourselves on the back because you have accomplished quite a feat that only 0.1% of Americans have accomplished: signing a NFL contract.
Many more athletes will retire from The League now that the 2018-2019 NFL Season has finished. Some of the retirements were strategically planned, and some players will not get picked up by a team. Some will choose their last day as an active player, while some will be told when it is time to hang up his cleats. However it happens, the decision is inevitable.
I graduated from the University of Oklahoma as a five year senior in 2011 and transferred in with the class of 2010. This class hosted three of the top four NFL Draftees (Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy, and Trent Williams) who all received record breaking rookie contracts. I remember the excited, the shock, and the awe that surrounded this historic Draft.
Unfortunately, those feelings did not transfer to the end of the following season. There was more an air of fear, uncertainty, and unpreparedness (and rightfully so). What if you only prepared for one job your entire life, only to not be able to work without a backup plan?
The 2011 NFL Lockout revealed flaws in the system and teachable moments that shaped these men’s future, and I was determined to make an impact on the next Lockout. That year alone I had friends who were slated to be drafted yet never picked up by a team, who were projected to go in the first round become a Free Agent, and who were sidelined by injury and offseason infractions. I felt that because of my relationships with them, they would at the least consider what I had to say, so I began to learn about the nonprofit side of sports to balance out my work in sports operations with the University of Oklahoma Athletics Department and the NBA’s OKC Thunder.
Then ESPN released 30 for 30 Broke shortly after the start of the 2012 season and I was shook. I could not let my NFL friends go broke. The documentary truly impacted my career path because I knew it was a numbers game, and someone I knew would end up in that same situation. I knew the plight that these guys went through to make it to the pros, and for all of their hard work to end in poverty made my heart yearn for a solution. I did everything from have profound conversations with the guys to plan objectives with like-minded professionals to create a one-sized-fits-all plan.
I had worked in sports for about 10 years and seen success stories as well as athletes who were not prepared for life after sports. I was then presented an opportunity to work at the NFLPA with the Former Player Services Department in 2015, and I took the job for one reason only: to gain as much knowledge about the services NFL and NFLPA offer their players so I can assist my OU NFL friends prepare for life after football.
My time at the NFLPA was transformational, educational, and shifted my mindset. I learned that it is never too early to prepare for life after sports, it is never too late to prepare for life as a retired player, and that there is no one-size-fits-all plan to transition.
I also became aware of the preparation for a Lockout at the end of the 2020-2021 season. I cannot help but think about the 2011 Lockout as this season comes to an end, especially with the state of the relationship between the players and the owners. I know this is the time to make an impact, just as I have been preparing to do these last eight years.
In the next two months, I will provide the tools, confidence, and critical thinking skills to efficiently navigate the resources and services to prepare your family for the 2021 NFL Lockout. If there is not a Lockout, you will have prepared yourself for an easy transition.
We will focus on:
Just So You Know…
All of the current Collective Bargaining Agreements will be going up for renegotiation within the next THREE years (MLS in 2020, NFL and MLB in 2021, NBA as early as 2022, and NHL in 2022).
About Amber C. Edwards…
Amber is a native Texan and University of Oklahoma graduate. Her work experience comes from various positions with the NCAA, NBA, AHL, and NFLPA. She is also married to S. Johnathan Reese, a Columbia University Athletics Hall of Fame member and retired NFL New York Jets (2002 - 2004), Denver Broncos (2004), and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2004) Running Back.
Her most recent experience at the NFLPA Former Players Department provided valuable insight into players' career evolution to assist families in transition. Amber was a panelist at the inaugural WAGcademy Conference in 2018. Amber lives in Antigua and Barbuda with her husband.
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