By Justin DeFreece
Six-year NFL veteran wide receiver Marlin Jackson sat down with Player Engagement to discuss his community outreach initiatives, including Prepared to Succeed. In this interview, Marlin shares what Prepared to Succeed is doing to help high-school and college athletes prepare for life in the pros.
Justin DeFreece, NFLPE: Great to speak with you, Marlin – what have you been doing since becoming a free agent?
Marlin Jackson: Thanks, Justin you too. I’m still keeping up with my training in case I return to the pros, but just in case I am making plans for my next career. I have also been working heavily with three of my community outreach initiatives, The Field of Dreams, Fight for Life, and Prepared to Succeed. Fight for Life is a program geared towards supporting the psychological and mental wellness in our youth and Prepare to Succeed is a best practices presentation for incoming rookies.
JD: Can you briefly describe the purpose of your Prepared to Succeed program and who it caters to?
MJ: Yes, absolutely. The PTS program is a five-hour presentation designed specifically for juniors and seniors in college who are about to enter the pros. The program is designed to give them a running start in smoothly transitioning into the NFL by surrounding themselves with the right people and making the right decisions. We cover everything from navigating the agent selection process, to choosing your financial advisor, the change in the dynamics of your family to expect, how to handle requests for cash and gifts, renting/buying a home as a rookie, and making positive decisions on the whole that will set you on a path for success. The program is very inclusive and provides invaluable info to rookies.
JD: What made you want to create the program?
MJ: My own experience and that of my roommate, Tim Massaquoi, who was also a rookie going through the same transition into the NFL as I was. I was a first round draft pick and my roommate was a practice squad player. We both realized that we were in the dark on so many vital issues that could affect our success in the NFL. For example: how to pick a good neighborhood, whether to rent or buy a home as rookies, how much to budget monthly, and who we should align ourselves with – so many basic life questions. That’s where our program comes into play – we start at square one and teach players how to make informed decisions. We have real-life role playing games and teach players in real-time the consequences of good and bad decisions in these foundational years. I think there’s an immense benefit to this hands-on approach.
JD: How do you feel this compliments existing NFL Player Engagement PREP programs?
MJ: The NFLPE programs are great – but we want to help educate players even before they are drafted. We want to try to spread the word even as they enter their junior or senior year of college. This way, players are more informed and thus better prepared to make these decisions as they are approached by agents and the real world is thrown upon them. Ideally, by the time [Rookie] Symposium takes place, a player will have already heard some of these messages and be more receptive to them. We feel our program can work together with the NFL and NFLPE’s programs.
JD: What else can we (the NFL) and society as a whole do to better prepare the PREP population for on and off-the-field success?
MJ: NFLPE has truly done a remarkable job. One of the only things I would do differently is a little more outreach and accessibility to NFL staff by players. I can honestly say that the difference in impact and successes of NFL player-focused programs after the NFLPE rebranding when Troy Vincent [VP of Player Engagement] took over was night and day. But even so, not enough players know about the incredible resources that are available to them. We need to keep pushing to reach these players.
JD: Any advice you would give to PREP athletes?
MJ: To be responsible and take control of your career. Don’t put your future in the hands of someone else and expect them to take care of it. You simply have to take control and use the resources out there.
JD: Thanks again for your time, Marlin! You’re definitely making an impact out there!
MJ: Thanks Justin, it’s up to all of us to set these guys on the right path. Best of luck with the 2012 Rookie Symposium.
This interview was conducted in June 2012.