Notre Dame giving Young, other NFLers the business

ERIC HANSEN
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND - — Sam Young had hoped to squeeze in a practice or two while in town last week to get a glimpse of Notre Dame’s football future.

It turns out, peeking at and working on his own future dashed those plans.

“I did get to stop in the football office real briefly when I arrived,” the former ND four-year starter at offensive tackle offered. “But from that point on, my schedule was kind of action-packed.”

The fifth-year NFL veteran, who recently signed a two-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars, was immersed in the NFL Business Management & Entrepreneurial Program, staged Thursday through Sunday at Notre Dame’s top-rated Mendoza College of Business.

That his first four years in the league have comprised almost as many employing teams (Dallas, Buffalo, Jacksonville) as career starts (4), after setting the school record for consecutive starts at ND, Young knows life after football could kick in at any moment.

“I feel good about my situation with Jacksonville,” the former sixth-round draft choice said. “But if football ended tomorrow, would I be ready for the next step? I wish it was that easy. But I think this program is a piece of the puzzle that you could add.

“The NFL is really pushing it, which I think is a great move on their part to help guys prepare for the transition. And there’s 100 percent chance that you’re going to leave the NFL at one point or another, and you’ve got to be ready for the next career move.

“I made many great contacts and know all the mentors and all the staff were so eager to help. I think it is a process. It is not the sole answer, but it’s a giant step in the right direction.”

Young was one of 28 NFL players who attended the program, a group that included fellow Notre Dame alums Eric Olsen, a center recently signed by Tennessee; and J.J. Jansen, a long snapper with the Carolina Panthers.

Former Irish center Jeff Faine and ex-ND standout safety Deke Cooper were among the presenters at the event. Faine and former ND quarterback Brady Quinn, the only two Irish players to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft from 2000-2011, were instrumental in bringing the program to the Notre Dame campus over the past two years.

"It’s important for me to do this, as a former Notre Dame player," Faine, a film major while at ND, said in an earlier interview. "You always hear about professional athletes spending their money away. Two or three years after their career’s done, they’re broke.

"It’s important for me to show a little different light on the blessing of playing in the NFL, to have the income and environment you get in such a short amount of time. We want to show them how to make their money work for them. Being involved in something like this, to me, helps build the legacy of what it means to be a Notre Dame football player, long-term."

Young said the NFL also has similar programs for players aspiring to get into other fields, such as broadcasting/media, music and coaching.

“We believe in a shared responsibility to prepare our players for career opportunities after their NFL playing experience,” said Kimberly Fields, Vice President of NFL Player Engagement. “This program provides education, mentoring, and hands-on experience for those looking to succeed in the business world.”

Young said he’s also had opportunities to take advantage of job shadowing and internships.

“The NFL has done a really good job of helping guys, while they’re still playing, at preparing for that next move,” he said. “The fact is, you have a large amount of time during the offseason to take advantage of some of these opportunities, and I think it’s great that the NFL is offering it and guys are starting to take more and more advantage of it.

“In this program at Notre Dame, you get a lot of curriculum – everything from reading financial documents to your own investments to kind of a guide to how to start your business. I think even more important than that is the relationships you’re able to form.

“The NFL and Notre Dame brought a bunch of mentors in who worked with us while we were in the program. And being able to form some of relationships with these guys that have been there and done that is incredible.”

Young musings

-- Sam Young on Zack Martin, the player who replaced him at left tackle and who’s now preparing for the NFL Draft, May 8-10:

“From the time I spent with him and watched him grow into the player he is now over the past couple of seasons, I remember the day he got there. I remember seeing him take a set, he had probably the best feet I’ve ever seen, and I’m talking day one, freshman year. I couldn’t speak highly enough of how good they were.

“I think it’s something you look for in a tackle. It definitely helps you at guard, too. Now whether he’ll play guard or tackle in the pros, it’s funny, the NFL is an interesting thing. There are certain prototypes that they try to put certain guys in certain positions based on do they fit this particular mold? You look at it, and there are so many guys who don’t fit that mold.

“For one reason or another they thrive, even when their arms aren’t supposedly long enough or they’re not tall enough. I think time will tell what he’s best suited for. But from my personal view, he’s got a lot of things going for him, and I think he’ll do very well.”

-- On current Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand:

“I’ve heard nothing but good things about the offensive line coach, talking to different guys, like Zack Martin and Chris Watt. As a former player, that’s what you love to hear, that the guys are getting the best coaching possible. He’s helping to put them in the best situation on Saturdays.”

-- On the players rights’ issues that are coming to a head with the Northwestern player union movement and the Ed O’Bannon class-action antitrust suit filed against the NCAA:

“I don’t think I’ve looked at the union issues enough to really form an opinion on it. I think it’s really interesting what they’re able to do. I definitely have to applaud their creativity to go that route, but time will tell to see what happens from that situation.

“As far as the other issues, getting paid above your scholarship and making money from your own likeness, it’s definitely an issue that’s been around for a while now and that we used to talk about when we were playing at ND. You’re sitting there playing NCAA (video game) in your dorm room, and there you are — in the game — but you just don’t have a name, but it is you.

“It’s become a hot-button issue when you’ve got players like Johnny Manziel and they have an NCAA infraction for something, yet they’re generating certain revenue that’s tied directly to them and they’re not being additionally compensated for it.”

EHansen@SBTinfo.com

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Twitter: @hansenNDInsider

Former Irish offensive lineman Sam Young embraces quarterback Jimmy Clausen following a loss to Connecticut, in 2009.SBT  file photo