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Nwagbuo is a man with a plan

Posted Jul 9, 2012

CHARLOTTE - Ogemdi Nwagbuo has a passion for football, but the Panthers’ defensive tackle also has a nose for business.

That’s why he’s preparing himself in case the business of football sidetracks his passion.

Nwagbuo was one of 37 NFL players to take part in the NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program at the prestigious Harvard Business School earlier in the offseason.

“The pinnacle of your athletic career is very temporary, so you’re back-up plan can become your Plan A real quick,” Nwagbuo said. “It was a great opportunity to utilize some of the resources the NFL provides for us. There are a lot out there that guys don’t take full advantage of, but it was a great experience for me.”

Nwagbuo, who played four games for the San Diego Chargers last season before being waived and joining the Panthers for the final four games, knows football can be fleeting. That’s why the fourth-year pro has faithfully worked toward building a better back-up plan than the one he had as a rookie.

Nwagbuo wasn’t drafted in 2008 out of Michigan State. The New York Giants signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent, but after they waived him at the end of the preseason, he wasn’t picked up until the Chargers added him to their practice squad with just three weeks left in the regular season.

In the interim, Nwagbuo scrambled to land a job at Enterprise Rent-A-Car to make ends meet, but he plans to be in the driver’s seat in terms of his career path once football is no longer an option.

“When I’m done playing, I want to get my master’s degree at San Diego State in their business school,” Nwagbuo said. “I sat in on a couple of classes there, and I’m studying for the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) right now, which you need to get into business school. That’s the direction I want to take.”

That’s only the latest educational pursuit for Nwagbuo, who has a bachelor’s degree in human resources management from Michigan State. Following the 2009 season, Nwagbuo interned at the Neighborhood House Association in San Diego. In 2010, he interned at the NFL league offices in New York, and in 2011 he interned at Qualcomm in San Diego.

This offseason, he joined the likes of quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and Brady Quinn in a five-day program taught by Harvard Business School faculty.

“There was an enormous amount of information about how to run a business and be successful in the business world,” Nwagbuo said. “They really gave us a lot of pointers for our post-football aspirations.

“I’m interested in human resources specifically because you get to interact with people, and it’s such a broad field. You can work in benefits, employee relations – whatever suits you. It sounds boring, but it’s pretty fun.”

Nwagbuo may be planning for his future after football, but his real focus these days is on preparing for the Panthers’ upcoming season and a spirited battle for playing time and roster spots along the defensive line.

“There’s a lot of competition in the room. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a room where guys are competing at every spot like this,” Nwagbuo said. “There are a lot of talented people here, and it’s a fight every day to get reps. If you’re not your best one day, you might be gone the next day. You’ve got to stay on top of your game.”