By Teresa Varley
Tight end Jonathan Dekker won't be taking part in the team's voluntary workouts for the next few days, but he has a good reason to be absent.
Dekker will be attending classes at the Harvard Business School in the second segment of the NFL Business Management Entrepreneurial Program. The program is part of an NFL-NFLPA initiative to assist players in preparing for life after football.
Dekker attended the first segment in late February at Harvard and gained vast knowledge of what it takes to operate a business
"They covered a ton of stuff. It's a little bit of everything but it's pretty intense," said Dekker. "Harvard uses the case study method so they give you the cases and disguise the people and rename them, but they are businesses that Harvard students started up. They let you read through it but they leave it open-ended so it creates discussion.
"We covered everything from starting a business to looking at balance sheets, revenue, the law aspect, real estate - all of the main parts of business."
When he returned from the first session Dekker dove right into, learning as much as he can about the business world through Internet searches and other means.
"I came home and was talking to my parents about it I was rattling off some of the stuff that I learned," said Dekker. "It really inspires you to look at all of the opportunities. I think the best thing they taught was when you are thinking about a business look for all of the things that go into it. They caution you to make sure you read over everything in depth and look over all of the facets that could cause you to be successful or not. It's important because you have to know your strengths and weakness."
And it wasn't just for fun he kept on searching for information. The players were given a "homework" assignment of sorts that they had to do in between the two sessions.
"We had to come up with a business proposal," said Dekker, not yet willing to reveal his plan. "Not necessarily anything we might do, but something we might be interested and might turn into something. "
One NFL player who previously attended the Harvard program came up with an idea for a housing project near Temple University. The idea took off and went through. Dekker isn't sure his idea will have the same success, but he is hoping to walk away from the program with business savvy.
"I just want to gain as much knowledge as I can," said Dekker. "I can see myself in the future when I am done with football doing something in the business or financial world. It's a side passion that I have right now."
Dekker doesn't want to have to put what he learned to work any time too soon as he would like his football career to continue to grow. But it was an opportunity he just couldn't pass on, going to one of the best business schools in the country and learning from the top professors.
"Anything you can do to put yourself in a better position down the road is advantageous," said Dekker. "The NFL offers it to us and to not take advantage of it is the worst thing you can do. It's right there at your fingertips. All of the players in this league know what the time span can be in this league so it's important to plan for your future.
"I had very little business background before this and after being there for three or four days it was 10-fold what I learned. Football is my main job right now, but I am looking at things and trying to broaden my financial horizons. It's never too early to start looking towards the future."