JACKSONVILLE – The opportunity is real, and it's rare.
If not for the NFL, Sam Young said he knows there's little chance he would have spent the week at the San Francisco campus of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.
He almost wouldn't have met a higher-up at Google, either.
That's why Young, a six-year veteran offensive tackle for the Jaguars, said he absolutely values the opportunity provided by the NFL Business Management & Entrepreneurial Program. It's why he took advantage of the opportunity last offseason.
And it's why he did it again this week.
"It's invaluable," Young said by telephone from San Francisco this week. "It's unbelievable. It's a great opportunity. It really is."
The program, also attended by former Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, began Monday and runs through Thursday. It's among several training programs NFL Player Engagement provides for current and ex-players as part of the NFL NEXT platform.
"We will continue to stand by our players to make sure they are prepared for career opportunities long after their playing days are over," Vice President of NFL Player Engagement Charles Way said in a statement. "This program is invaluable in providing the mentorship and business advice that will help players build their confidence, ultimately helping them succeed in the corporate world."
Participants heard this week not only from Wharton faculty, but from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. They also visited Facebook, Google and Luxe.
"It's guys who are thinking about what's after football, and guys who want to challenge themselves in a unique way," Young said. "It's an opportunity to learn from world-class people, whether it's about negotiating, leadership or business practices. That's what really drew me in."
Young, a business management major at Notre Dame, also attended the program last year when it was held at Notre Dame. Past events have been held at Harvard and Northwestern.
"I've been thinking about life after football, which is 100 percent: you can't play football forever," Young said. "I'm trying to learn as much as possible right now, just be a sponge and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.
Toward that end, Young said he figures it's key to take advantage of opportunities provided by the NFL while in the NFL.
"I try to make the most of my time as possible," he said. "The NFL offseason provides an avenue and the NFL has been great providing these programs."
The program covers topics such as financing, operations and business-plan development. Among the presenters at the event: former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Bloom, founder and chief executive officer of Integrate, a marketing software company.
"He really provided a unique perspective," Young said.
Young said the group on Wednesday met with Bill Maris, the founder of Google Ventures.
"To be able to sit and have a conversation and listen and learn from a guy at the top of his field – you can't really put a value on that," he said. "The NFL does a great job with player engagement, and this is just one small part of it."
Young, who has played in 36 games and started five in five NFL seasons, said he isn't yet sure his career path after football. But he has worked offseason internships with Merrill Lynch and Park Lane (a Los Angeles-based investment bank). He also has shadowed at multiple New York banks.
"I'm still in a discovery phase, so to speak," Young said. "Football has been my passion and is my passion. While I have the time in the offseason I'm trying to figure out something I can devote the same passion to."