NFL Touches Down at Harvard

UPDATED: March 22, 2012, at 7:53 p.m.

For the past few days, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Byron A. Leftwich has been running around—not on his familiar territory on a football field, but on the campus of Harvard Business School.

Leftwich is one of more than 30 professional football players enrolled in the National Football League Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program at the Business School. During the five-day program, the NFL players receive instruction from Business School faculty about topics ranging from finance to managing a personal brand.

“I’m at the point in my career where you can start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” Leftwich said. “It makes you ask yourself the question, ‘What am I going to do when I’m done?’”

Leftwich has played in the NFL since 2003, in a career that has included a Super Bowl win for the 2008 season. But like many professional athletes, Leftwich is now looking to broaden his skill set for his post-NFL career.

“I think this was a perfect opportunity for me to stick one leg through the door and just try to learn as much as I can,” Leftwich said.

The certificate program was introduced at Harvard in 2005, and the Business School has since hosted the initiative every year, except during the five-month NFL lockout in 2011.

“There are a lot of issues that players hit when they stop playing,” said Michael J. Roberts ’79, one of the instructors for the program. The program was created with help from the NFL and the NFL Players Association, he said, in order to “help them think about the next chapter after their playing careers.”

Leftwich said, “I think we can get into trouble as athletes sometimes, believing we know something that we really don’t know.”

He added, “Coming into it with the right mindset—‘hey, I know nothing’—that’s going to allow me to learn as much as I can from this program.”

Leftwich said that he hopes to don a business suit after he hangs up his uniform. “Hopefully, this [program] is the jumpstart of me becoming a businessman,” he said. “I’m in no rush to get there; I still want to play some football. But at the same time, I think this is a perfect place to learn what you need to learn for the business aspect.”

Leftwich, who played football for Marshall University, said this week has been “completely different” from his college experience. In particular, he said he enjoyed the Business School’s case study method. As he described it, “There are no right or wrong answers.”

Other students enrolled in this year’s program include Patriots safety Joshua R. Barrett, Colts fullback Chris Gronkowski, and Broncos guard Russ Hochstein, according to the New England Sports Network. The program is a joint effort with the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

—Staff writer Brian C. Zhang can be reached at brianzhang@college.harvard.edu.

This article has been revised to reflect the following corrections:

CORRECTION: March 22

An earlier version of this article stated that Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford Graduate School of Business participate in the National Football League Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program along with Harvard Business School and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. In fact, Penn and Stanford are no longer involved in the program. In addition, due to an editing error, the headline of the article read "NFL Touches Down in Cambridge." Harvard Business School is located in Boston, not Cambridge.

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