“I really wasn’t ready for it to be over,” Reggie Smith says. But it was: He played football since childhood, was a defensive star at University of Oklahoma, and played for the 49ers from 2008 to 2011 before being cut from the Panthers in 2012 and the Raiders in 2013. And that was it. Time to find a real job. And he had no plan.
So, Smith went back to the Oklahoma to get his BA. This past February, he did a three-week internship at Fanatics, the gigantic sports apparel company. (When you buy something online from the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, PGA, or more than 150 college or pro teams? Fanatics is handling that.) After graduating in May, he got a job offer from the company, and on July 27 he joined the corporate world as an outbound supervisor, meaning he oversees getting products sorted and shipped to customers.
These days, he works in a 525,000-square-foot warehouse in Jacksonville, Florida, and his pay is just a liiiiiiitle different. “You have to adjust to not getting those same huge checks we used to get in the NFL, and learn how to taper it back,” he told Maxim. But he’s found the transition surprisingly straightforward, because lessons he learned in football apply directly to the corporate world.
Lesson 1: You always have something to prove
“It’s just really humbling yourself to be able to go in each and every day knowing that you’re not the professional that other people are in this area,” Smith says, “so you have to step back and learn from each and every person there. You’re at the bottom and you’re trying to build back up to the level where you’re elite at this job.”
Lesson 2: Keep an eye out for the rookies
Once Smith had notched a few years in the NFL, he started looking out for the new guys. It wasn’t pure altruism; if he didn’t do it, a rookie might misunderstand a play and his team’s defense would be blown. “It’s the whole aspect of teamwork—having to rely on the next person to get the job done,” he says. “That’s kind of the same way in the fulfillment center.” Now he has 142 people reporting to him, and 100 more about to begin, and his department will be screwed if he doesn’t get everyone up to speed.