Super Bowl Champion and NFL Alumni President Bart Oates

Bart, for those who may not be familiar with your story, can you give us a brief background?

I studied accounting in college and earned my BS from the Marriott School of Business there in 1985. That same year I was signed by the New York Giants, I was 26 years old. I was fortunate enough to go on to win two Super Bowls with the Giants (in 1987 & 1991) and then one with the 49ers in 1995. I attended law school at Seton Hall University during the offseasons while playing in the NFL. I am currently an attorney and also President of the NFL Alumni Association.

What inspired you to get your law degree while playing in the NFL?

There is a joke in the NFL; they say NFL stands for “Not for long.’ After seeing the insecurity of other NFL players, I realized I needed to control my own destiny. I was a nerdy guy, but I needed a scholarship, and football provided that for me. I got my workouts done early in the morning and then went to school. It worked out really well.

What did you learn in the NFL that you still use today in your life and business?

You learn you need to be disciplined and work hard. With football, you follow a program and keep doing it. I create a vision with my team, and we need to follow through with that as a team. I learned I need to do whatever it takes to win in life and business.

What did you find more challenging playing in the NFL or working in the business world?

I would say it’s harder to be an entrepreneur than a football player. Both have unique challenges and unique rewards. In the NFL, there is no ambiguity, and there is a clear winner at the end of the game and end of the season. In my 11 seasons, I was fortunate enough to win the Super Bowl 3 times. Being an entrepreneur, there are always defeats and successes, but if you have more successes than defeats, you will win as an entrepreneur.

Are you still practicing law? What do you enjoy most about being an attorney?

Yes, I am the General Council of the NFL Alumni Association. When I was practicing private law, what I liked best was helping people, many people came to me and needed help, and I was able to help them; that’s a good feeling.

Can you share with us the story of how you became the President of the NFL Alumni Association?

The NFL Alumni Association was organized in the late ’60s. I got involved ten years after retiring from the NFL. A former teammate asked me to run the New York / New Jersey chapter, and I ran that for about 10 years. I enjoyed helping the former players and the community. After being on the Board of Directors for a few years, I was asked to be President. I was honored to take on this role. I had lots of ideas to make a real difference in the organization and fulfill our mission.

Can you tell us more about the NFL Alumni Association and its mission?

The primary mission of the NFL Alumni is “Caring for Our Own.” We inform, assist, and serve players in their post-NFL lives. The former NFL players are offered a diverse package of medical, business, and legal services to help keep them and their families healthy and connected to the league and their former teammates. We are advocates for former NFL players. The NFL Alumni also has a mission of “Caring for Kids.” We give back to our local communities by raising funds for youth-related charities.

Are there many former NFL players that are now entrepreneurs?

Yes, almost all are entrepreneurs. Many former NFL players own their own businesses. Some sports-related and some non-sports-related.

What advice do you give former NFL players that are now entrepreneurs or any entrepreneur out there trying to make it?

For former athletes: Use the same attitude that you had that made you a great athlete and that will make you a great entrepreneur. Apply what you learned: discipline, practice, hard work, and working with a team, and you will be successful. For all entrepreneurs: Don’t give up, stay on track and never give up. Put the time and effort in and make the sacrifices to make your business successful.

It’s all about balance, spiritual balance, life balance, and career balance. You will never truly find success if everything in your life isn’t balanced. You will never truly be happy if you don’t have a well-balanced life. That is the key to success for all entrepreneurs.