What are former football greats Ron Jaworski, Thurman Thomas, Bart Oates and Beasley Reece doing now that their playing days in the NFL are over? Each has found success in the business world, and each appeared on the PGA Forum Stage presented by OMEGA on Thursday afternoon to share their insights on entrepreneurship, leadership, golf and lessons they learned while transitioning from the football field to other careers.
“One thing all of us on this stage have in common is that we all played under some great coaches and great leaders,” said Jaworski, the former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback who now owns and operates seven golf courses as the CEO of Ron Jaworski Golf. “I played for coaches who won more than 1,000 games and they taught me that you have to compete every day. They taught me not to be good, be great. They taught me the importance of teamwork and how to deal with pressure.
“All of those things I learned playing football have translated to business,” continued Jaworski. “Business is the consummate team game that demands great leadership at the top and an understanding of what makes your employees tick. Dick Vermeil, my coach with the Eagles, was a great coach because he was a great people person. He would ask how your kids are doing. It’s the same at my golf courses today. I have tried to build good teams at each course and provide the leadership to be successful. The other thing I’ve learned in the business world – you have to hire slow and fire fast when it comes to employees.”
Former Buffalo Bills star Thurman Thomas, the president of 34 Group, a highly successful construction company, drew the parallel between the Bills taking a chance on him when he came out of college (despite an injured knee), and an entrepreneur taking a chance on going into business and in hiring unproven employees.
“I’m a big believer in taking a chance on people in business and in life,” said Thomas, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “I don’t know where I would be today if the Bills hadn’t taken a chance on me and drafted me in 1988, even though I had a bum knee. Surrounding yourself with good, professional people is important in life and business. We grew our business too fast initially and it was a disaster. Fortunately, we found a new CEO who knows the construction business in and out, and he has really turned it around for us.”
Beasley Reece, who played with the Cowboys, Giants and Buccaneers in the NFL, transitioned to a successful career in broadcasting with CBS Sports. He is an entrepreneur who also serves as CEO of the NFL Alumni Association, which stages 15-20 golf tournaments for charitable causes each year.
“I benefitted tremendously from the knowledge and understanding of some of the greatest coaches in the NFL; they prepared me for life after the NFL, whether I knew it or not,” says Reece. “These philosophers and leaders were teaching us much more than football. They were teaching us about life and business. Every day, from 9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., Tom Landry (the Dallas Cowboys coach) would give a speech about the importance of family, about leadership and about life. He taught us a lot more than just football.”
Said Oates, the President of the NFL Alumni Association, who played for the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers: “I learned from playing for so many different coaches with so many different personalities that there are many different ways to teach and get something done. I started in the USFL with Jim Mora coaching and then played for the Giants under Bill Parcells, who was a straightforward, strict coach. Then I played for George Seifert with the 49ers and he would delegate authority to his assistant coaches. He wouldn’t say anything at practices, yet he was highly successful.
“What they all had in common is they knew how to distill trust. They were leaders in the finest sense, but used different methods. It’s the same in business.”