CHARLOTTE – Long snapper JJ Jansen wouldn't trade his seven NFL seasons for anything in the world, but he knows that someday he'll have to.
In preparation for his eventual life after football, Jansen and several of his teammates recently took advantage of the NFL Next program that provides players with educational opportunities extending beyond Xs and Os.
"Business is very appealing to a lot of athletes – it's competitive – so it was fun to see another side of the business world," said Jansen, who attended the "NFL Boot Camp: Franchising" in April at the University of Michigan.
"Football provides an incredible head start in life," Jansen continued. "We're doing something that we love, but at the same time we know there's a lot more of life after football than there is time in football, so we have to continue to prepare ourselves through things that are interesting to us."
Jansen took part in the NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program last offseason at his alma mater, Notre Dame. Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards did the same this year, visiting Google and Facebook headquarters as a part of the program in San Francisco.
"I was a business major in school, so I'd love to stay in that field, but I'd also love to stay in the sports field as well," said Edwards, who added that learning about some giants of the tech world was just the tip of the iceberg for him. "We learned about pitching ideas to potential investors, but we also learned some basic finance and investing stuff.
"It also created an opportunity to talk to some former players about how they started their transition. That might have been more valuable than anything – the opportunity to talk to some former players about their process."
Jansen talked to his teammates about his experience since two of them attended the franchising summit with him. Kicker Graham Gano and punter Brad Nortman were among the attendees that also included Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who owns a stake in multiple Jimmy John's locations in the New Orleans area.
"Drew Brees was there as a student, just like us, even though he owns a bunch of Jimmy John's. He wants to learn more and get better at what he's doing," Gano said. "It gets people to start thinking about what they're going to do after football is over. You've got to start thinking about that early, because the average career for an NFL player is really short. You've got to start thinking ahead." Gano, Nortman and Jansen, who collectively call themselves the "Bomb Squad," said they didn't attend the seminar with a particular business model in mind.
But you just never know what might pop up in your neighborhood someday.
"Bomb Squad Academy? Or maybe Bomb Squad Burgers," Nortman said. "The wheels are still turning on that one."