For 11 years, Ocala, Florida, native Drayton Florence played cornerback for the National Football League. The first chapter of his NFL career began with the San Diego Chargers. Drayton went on to play for other NFL teams, including the Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills, and Denver Broncos.
For many players, life after the NFL is a struggle emotionally and financially, but before retiring from the NFL, Drayton made one decision which set the stage for the next chapter of his life—he went back to school to obtain his college degree. In fact, his college graduation and retirement from the NFL were on the same day. Now, as a director of strategic partnerships for Tech From Vets, a mobile application development company; and as co-founder of the Vets 22 app, Drayton spends his days juggling family, community work, and entrepreneurship.
Recently recognized as a 40 Under 40 honoree by the Jacksonville Business Journal and a Champion of Education by the United Negro College Fund, BLACK ENTERPRISE caught up with Florence for some tips on starting a business after retirement.
Life after the NFL is a struggle for many retired players, what steps did you take to prepare for your retirement?
Florence: Any life-changing transition can be difficult; as there is no playbook to read on how to transition from the NFL successfully. I was very fortunate to play 11 years in the league which gave me more time to set up and plan a transition from the greatest team game on the planet. Internships in the offseason as well as engaging in the numerous business boot camps that the National Football League provided for us was very instrumental. I attended the Babson College Basic Training: It’s My Business program, and it changed my business perspective infinitely. The three-day program is designed to assist former players with understanding the role of a business owner, operator, or investor. The program also assists former players with assessing their interest in business, recognizing what they already know about running a business, understanding the complexities and challenges of business, and discerning a business focus. Recently, I was named to the Jacksonville Business Journals 40 Under 40 class of 2017, an honor that I directly attribute to the business education that I acquired through the Babson College program
Considering your experience in the NFL as well as your experience transitioning into the world of entrepreneurship, what advice would you give players to prepare for their next chapter?
I would tell them to leverage the NFL shield while they are currently playing the game and to not wait. Currently, any player in the NFL can get a meeting with any CEO in the country. It’s important to build partnerships in the industry you want to pursue upon retirement. Also, utilizing social media platforms to market yourself and any future brand you plan to launch is also key.LinkedIn has been a great business resource for me and many others in my industry.
You were recently honored by the UNCF for your philanthropic work in the community. Tell us why this work is important to you.
To me, I get a great sense of self-fulfillment by helping young student-athletes use their athletic ability to get into college and open their own doors of immense opportunity. I have coached and mentored various kids, and to see them enroll and graduate from college is a feeling that I can’t put into words. I will continue to work, mentor, inspire and help these young student-athletes; most of whom are first-generation college students in their family’s by leveraging my contacts and network of current and former players to ensure these young people succeed in life. This is extremely important because in our modern society, education will continue to outweigh athletics. My goal is to ensure that student-athletes understand and buy into that viewpoint before they transition into higher education.