For many players, it is difficult to think about life after football. It is inevitable that a player leaves the locker room for the last time, ending one phase of his life and moving on to the next in his career.
But how does one get a career out of all they know?
The Ravens have long worked with players to help them make this transition, and now they’re going one step further. On Saturday, the team hosted the Ravens Legends, current players and their families at the Under Armor Performance Center for its inaugural Business & Entertainment Summit.
There are two different groups, a Baltimore business group made up of local leaders and a Ravens legends group made up of ex-players who have successfully completed post-professional transitions. The event concludes with a career fair and networking opportunities for participants. The idea came from Jameel McClain, Ravens director of player engagement (a former Ravens linebacker) and Matt Little, senior manager of Legacy Engagement.
“At the summit, we want to give players the opportunity to build on their legacy – learn from industry leaders, network and build relationships with a variety of local and national employers to further their careers and professional development opportunities,” Little said . “Whether they’re currently playing or retired, it’s never too early or too late to do these things.”
Among the dozen or so attendees were former Ravens forward Jermaine Lewis and his wife Imara Stotts-Lewis, Keith Washington, Jordan Richards, Travis Taylor, Javin Hunt, David Pittman, Marcus Smith and Mike Wiley. The current roster includes forward Michael Pierce, linebacker Josh Rose and rookies Kebrook Kelly and Malik Hamm.
Lewis, best known for his 84-yard kickoff return touchdown in Baltimore’s Super Bowl XXXIV victory in 2000, found the summit to be an “A+ experience” and one that resonated most with the Baltimore business group. The conversation featured representatives of some of the city’s most influential companies, such as Ledo Pizza, Medium Rare, FX Studios and David S. Brown Enterprises.
“I feel like I can go back and learn more about the business and just keep doing that. Just hearing the stories, there’s a lot of success stories out there to motivate me, I’m just kind of looking forward to getting out there and trying to learn from what I’ve learned today A bigger purpose in a good guy,” Lewis said.
The former wide receiver/catcher’s wife could tell the meeting had an immediate impact on her husband.
“It’s one thing when I tell him something, but hearing it from them, I’m like, ‘I told you these things,’ but it’s different for him,” Stotts-Lewis said. “I can see the level of excitement on his face, I can see his motivation, I can see him giving it his all, I can see the change, I can see the difference.”
The second panel of the day consisted of former Ravens players who have embarked on successful post-football careers: Brendon Ayanbadejo (Orangethory Fitness), Chris Carr (senior attorney at Murray Osorio PLLC), Matt Stover (Player Charitable Fund) and Anthony Wayne Fer (Ravens assistant head coach/defensive line).
keith washington, who blocked a crucial shot Weaver’s words were especially moving during the 90-yard touchdown pass in the Ravens’ 2000 divisional playoff victory over Tennessee.
“The first thing he said was ‘let me in the room,’ and if you have the opportunity to be in the room, then it’s up to you for the rest,” Washington said. “You have to be ready, you have to be ambitious, you have to have a vision. So when he says that’s my theme song going forward, put me in the room. Whether we’re talking about football or the real world, let me be in the room.
“It really changed my outlook, just my mindset. It actually gave me a new sense of being and I can’t wait to go back and start preparing for it.”
As one of the oldest players on the team, it was especially important for Pierce to hear how his former peers have navigated life after football.
“As a 30-year-old, older in the league, going into Year 8, it’s important to start dealing with these things after football, and obviously the sooner you start the better,” Pierce said. “You never know when your career is over…these opportunities don’t come every day. Football ends at some point for everyone and it’s a life-changing message for free.”
Richards, who recently wrapped up football, welcomed twin babies at home shortly after spending three seasons in Baltimore before retiring in 2021. The career fair that concluded the event gave the former security man the opportunity to network with a number of local and national businesses, giving him a renewed confidence in himself.
“I went away just encouraging myself to keep working hard, to invest in my interests, to invest in my strengths, to identify my weaknesses, to identify areas where I could grow, areas where I could learn,” Richards said. Encouraging myself to step into what might seem daunting, but with the help of others and other professions, I can get in the door and gain the confidence to step into the unknown.
“It’s an opportunity to invest in someone you’re in the game or not in the game, so I encourage anyone to make that a priority and get something and be able to build on someone outside of football.”