The Next Generation of You: Jay Riemersma
Jan. 4, 2020 Professional Athletes Foundation
by Jim Gehman
“I can remember sitting around the dining room table just kind of listening to my folks talk about the issues of the day,” Riemersma said. “First and foremost, we’re a very Christian family, and so we believe that it’s our duty as Christians to be involved in the political process. So, after I retired from the NFL, my mom had actually worked at Family Research Council and the president of the organization had kind of followed the tail end of my career and said, ‘What is Jay going to do when he’s done?’
“Of course, everybody thinks they’re going to play forever. And then when I ended up tearing my Achilles (in 2004), it just seemed natural for me to go into something that was a passion of ours growing up.”
Founded in 1983, FRC is a nonprofit research and educational organization. Its mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview.
“I manage the sales team,” Riemersma said. “Anytime you’re working for a nonprofit, you have a group of individuals that are out in the field, in different parts of the country, raising money on behalf of the organization. And because of that, I’m traveling quite a bit doing a lot of that stuff myself.
“I love the work that we do. I love the fact that it’s a Christian organization that’s trying to advance a Christian worldview in the public policy arena. It’s been quite a bit different with the pandemic that we’ve been going through, but typically I’m in a week and out a week.”
A tight end chosen by Buffalo in the seventh round of the 1996 NFL Draft out of Michigan, Riemersma, “unknown, untested, and unproven,” beat the odds and spent nine seasons in the league with the Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers.
He had the opportunity to play for two Hall of Fame coaches, Marv Levy and Bill Cowher, and is using experiences he had with them to help now in his role as a manager.
“Playing for Marv and Coach Cowher, the leadership traits and characteristics and certainly the way they were able to push the right buttons for each individual player,” Riemersma says, “it’s completely different depending on who you’re trying to motivate.
“The great thing about sports, and football especially, you’re taking a group of men from all different backgrounds, with all different life experiences, and you’re trying to assemble the pieces of the puzzle that ultimately give you the best chance to win in a short window on a Sunday afternoon.
“So, those principles of leadership and character and integrity are things that I’ve taken into my career trying to lead people. The basics, the fundamentals, in leadership qualities that you learn from those guys translates in anything you do.”
Living in his hometown with his wife, Cara, and their children: Sophie, Trip, and Nick; what’s the best thing about being Jay Riemersma today?
“What I most enjoy is being Dad,” Riemersma said. “And I think I’m most proud of the fact that people in and around west Michigan that kind of know me, and in the cities that I played, Buffalo and Pittsburgh, those folks and fans, they know me as just Jay. He’s not Jay with an ego. I’m just a dad and a husband that’s trying to go and impact the world for Christ.”