Ryan McNeil is a former American college and professional football player who was a defensive back in the National Football League (NFL) for eleven seasons and played for the St. Louis Rams, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos. After McNeil retired from professional football, he founded the Professional Business & Financial Network, an organization designed to provide professional athletes with the fundamental tools they need to succeed in business. He is also the publisher of OT Magazine, a lifestyle magazine dedicated to helping professional athletes manage their money. I had the privilege of connecting with Ryan to hear how he integrated his amazing athletic talents into creating a successful enterprise. Take a listen to Ryan’s amazing journey:
Jay: The excitement for football brims from fans everywhere. As a former player, do you enjoy watching the action?
Ryan: To be honest with you Jay, watching football with other fans is very difficult. As a former player I see the game differently than fans do. After playing in the NFL for over 11 seasons as a defensive back I don’t get excited about a high scoring explosive game. I know what to anticipate in a game and I’m often critical of the way the defense performs. It’s a completely different focus. It’s only now after nearly ten years since I’ve retired that I’m slowly able to enjoy watching the game with family and friends. I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy it like fans do, but I enjoy spending the time with my family while also watching the game.
Jay: Playing in the NFL for over a decade is an amazing accomplishment. How tough is that to stay in such great shape, physically and emotionally?
Ryan: It’s funny because while I played in the NFL I looked at myself as if I was running a business. I knew that eventually my professional sports career would come to a close and the moment I neglected to take care of my body I knew that I wouldn’t be able to compete at a high level. The fact that I had the capability of keeping my NFL “business” open for over 10 years was nothing short of a blessing. On average, an NFL career is just 3.1 years, whereas in the world of business, most careers span many decades. I was lucky not to have endured too many injuries and I knew that in order to keep playing at such a high level I needed to keep my body in top flight shape.
Jay: I’ve always believed that players accrue a tremendous amount of skills beyond the athletic talent we see on the field. Are there any connections you’d make between what has made you successful in sports as well as in business?
Ryan: True point Jay, and there’s no question about it. The accomplishments I’ve made post my career are hinged on many of the fundamentals I learned while playing in the NFL. Starting a business is no easy task and having a competitive mindset, a never quit attitude, dedication to getting the job done and the discipline to do everything you need to do to make sure you perfect your craft are all skills I learned while playing in the NFL. It’s funny to see how life turns out. To be honest, in my high school years my true love was track and field. The greatest thing about track was that there were no excuses even possible to make. It’s you and track and that’s it. In other sports you see players shifting the blame to “the other guy”, I was so competitive I wanted to hold myself accountable for every move I made. That competitiveness is still with me today and I attribute that to much of my success.
Jay: Your started your own company OT Enterprises, Inc., which originally was called OT Magazine. How did that start?
Ryan: I’ve always believed that athletes are born and not made. There’s a certain amount of talent which you either possess or you don’t, it’s that simple. Because only a few make it to the professional level and it’s even fewer than that who can make the transition into business and start a new career I saw an opportunity to bring long term value to these players. While I was playing, I saw how interested I was to understand more of the fundamentals of finance, economics and entrepreneurship. There were so many players that had access to a significant amount of capital, but had no knowledge as to how to use that money. In 2000 I published OT Magazine which had articles about finance, health and fitness, charity and philanthropy. Being in the NFL gave me access to so many different former and retired players and with time we started to pick up significant traction.
Jay: You’ve now grown your business and have created SportsID, Inc. What is involved in that transition?
Ryan: I’ve always been involved in data and analytics, specifically geared towards sports and athletics. The SportsID platform (www.sportsid.io) that we’re creating will allow organizations, athletes, coaches, camps, tournaments and even consumers to have access to many different scenarios in sports that you’d encounter on a frequent basis. Whether it’s in the process of recruiting athletes and the ability to collect data on their performance, or data that a team would use before hiring a coach, or for parents to have better knowledge about what sports camp to send their child to during the summer. We want to collect data that we can qualify and quantify in a way that will make it extremely easy for the consumer to use. Once you have data you’ll be much more comfortable with the decisions you make being that you’ve drastically reduced the risk. We’re excited to see our own progress and we look forward to our placing the tools needed to navigate the decision making process in the palm of your hand!
After his NFL career, Ryan McNeil founded OT Enterprises, Inc. (OTEI), the spin-off of his previous venture PBFN-Professional Business & Financial Network an organization designed to provide professional athletes with the fundamental tools they need to succeed in business. He is also the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of OT Magazine, a print and online publication profiling the business and lifestyle of sports.
McNeil’s strong business acumen allowed him the perspective to see beyond his professional football career. As a result of his contribution to the changing face of entrepreneurship and business in the sports industry, Mr. McNeil has received several awards, including the Minorities in Business Magazine Sports Leadership Award for 2004 and a 2003 NV Award.