Being prepared is a must for football players on game day, a must every time they take the field. If they aren't, it quickly shows, and many times can cost a team.
But no matter how prepared many NFL players are on game day, when their playing days end they are far from ready to transition to the next step in life.
That is why the NFL continues to expand the NFL Player Engagement program, providing current and former players with training for post-NFL careers. Two Steelers will be among the 28 NFL players taking advantage of the next program, as defensive lineman Brian Arnfelt and tight end Michael Palmer will both attend the NFL Business Management & Entrepreneurial Program (BM&E) at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business on April 3-6.
"It's a tremendous opportunity," said Arnfelt. "The NFL does a great job, at the rookie meetings and so forth, letting us know these opportunities are available to you and you just have to take advantage of it."
Arnfelt, a communication studies major with a minor in business institutions and legal studies while at Northwestern, understands the importance of constantly gaining knowledge, something that was instilled in him by his mother, Cathy Arnfelt.
"My mom was always real big on education," said Arnfelt. "I find it interesting to learn new things, meet new people and experience something out of the ordinary.
"It's a good foundation of new information. I am looking forward to working with the staff there and meeting some of the other players as well."
The players will hear from University of Notre Dame faculty members and business leaders on a variety of topics, including financial literacy and analysis, investing for impact, and business plan development. The players will work in groups to develop a business plan as a part of a competition at the end of the program.
In addition former NFL players, including Charlie Batch, will mentor the attendees.
"It's great being able to share some of things I have learned, the bumps in the road that contribute to where I am now," said Batch, who attended several of the programs when he was playing. "When the players are able to hear my side of it, it's able to register more because it's coming from someone who has been there. There was a point I was unsure what I wanted to do after football. It gave me a chance to network and bounce ideas off of people. It makes you think outside the box a little bit."
Attending the sessions was a tremendous asset for Batch in establishing his Best of the Batch Foundation and other business ventures, and he just wants to share his experiences and knowledge with today's players to help them find a path for post-football life.
"I want to tell them to first have a passion for what you want to do, second network and third is don't be afraid to ask for help," said Batch. "Players have this warrior mentality that it's not okay to ask for help. You are blessed to be able to play this game, but every player will be former. You have to build those relationships to have some idea to be able to transition from the game. It's tougher if you wait. You have to realize you don't know it all and you have to ask for help."
Ray Jackson, who handles the Steelers' player development programs, encourages players to take advantage of the programs, always making them aware of what is available.
"They play football, but it's not who they are. It's what they do," said Jackson. "Brian is going to be an educator when he is done, a father. He needs to expand on his education.
"But once football is done, what now? It gives guys an opportunity to think about what they want to do after football. When this door closes, you have to be able to transition to something else. I think it's very important to take advantage of these schools and all of the programs the NFL is providing for them."