NFL starts transition program for retired players

When life in the fast lane ends for NFL players, they’re not always sure which direction to head.

NEW YORK — When life in the fast lane ends for NFL players, they’re not always sure which direction to head.

The NFL and an organization created to help retired players move into the work force are offering some help.

They are combining on a career transition program that begins next month. A four-day course from June 7-10 at Georgia Tech will launch the program designed to help former players make the transition from football to the business world. The league will pay for tuition and accommodations.

Participating players will learn about personal finance; launching a new career with realistic expectations; developing a personal brand; communication skills; and the importance of health and well being.

Interested retired players must submit an application along with an essay about their goals for the program. The league hopes to accommodate 45 former players per session.

“The career transition program offers us an opportunity to broaden our relationship with the NFL to provide more services to players as they transition into their post-playing careers,” NFL Alumni president George Martin said Wednesday.

One player enrolled in the first session is Thomas Tapeh, a former Vikings and Eagles fullback.

“I’m looking forward to learning new things and meeting new people to help in my transition from the game,” he said. “Once football is over, life goes on.”

It doesn’t always go on so smoothly for pro athletes once they leave the game. As Martin points out, he had a wife and four children to take care of when he left the New York Giants.

So any programs that educate former players as they enter “real life” are valuable tools.

“This is absolutely essential,” said Martin, who spent 14 years in the NFL, retiring in 1988 with a Super Bowl ring. “Look at the fact there is a high attrition rate for players when they go from the role of professional athletes to the real world. They have a tough time adjusting. Aspects of this will address every player, although we recognize there are athletes who have a career path already determined . . . For them, this might not be applicable. But we hope it has far-reaching implications across a broad spectrum of athletes’ needs and concerns. We want to destigmatize the transition.”

Thomas to retire

MIAMI — Zach Thomas got the idea Wednesday, thinking maybe he could sign a one-day contract with the Miami Dolphins and retire as part of the franchise.

His agent asked the Dolphins. Thomas got his answer within minutes.

So on Thursday, Thomas signed a one-day contract, officially worth US$1 — but in actuality, worth so much more to Thomas, who long lamented not getting the chance to say a proper farewell when the Dolphins released him two years ago.

With that, he finally said good-bye.

“I’m a little bit nervous right now,” Thomas said at the team’s training facility in Davie, Fla. “More nervous than any game I ever played.”

Only a fifth-round draft pick out of Texas Tech in 1996, Thomas became a star during 12 seasons with the Dolphins. He was one of the faces of the franchise along with the likes of Dan Marino and Jason Taylor, who became Thomas’s brother-in-law. Thomas had 1,038 tackles, 19 1/2 sacks and 17 interceptions in 168 games for the Dolphins, and he was chosen for seven Pro Bowls.