By Jim Gehman, Player Engagement Insider
What's next? Many would surely like to be able to answer that question. However, few can do so.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Arrelious Benn is exploring at least one possibility of what may be ahead of him by taking part in the NFLPA's (NFL Players Association) Externship program. He is spending three weeks learning the ins and outs at Fanatics, an online retailer of licensed sports apparel and merchandise.
Based in Jacksonville, Fanatics offers customers a collection of officially licensed products from NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL teams, as well as the NCAA, NASCAR, the Olympics and others.
Benn, who was originally drafted out of the University of Illinois by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft, applied to participate in the externship not only to learn about the company, but also to experience a different profession.
"I had a lot of injuries early on in my career and I still have a lot of ball left in me, but I always knew that I can't do it forever," Benn said. "(Working with Fanatics is) very advantageous because you're coming across some good people. Seeing what you can branch off other than football, what other doors can open up, I think it's a great thing that the NFLPA has done along with Fanatics for us to come together and get a great opportunity and experience other things outside of catching a ball, running a route and tackling."
The program, in its third year of existence, has not only offered Benn a chance to network and build a professional relationship with Fanatics, it has also given him an opportunity to learn about what's behind their website.
"I'm the type of guy; I order things off of the Internet," Benn said. "And to know the whole and thorough process that it goes through – where they're ordering it from and who's touching it. Where is it coming from? How are they getting it? – That was an exciting thing to see because you never knew. All you know is that you push a button and your gear is coming. But it takes a lot of things. It's a process for that stuff to get to your house or where you want it to go.
"And for them to teach us some things as far as how to approach a person in a business or learn different techniques of what we should do or how we should set certain things up, they're instilling those things. It's a great opportunity.
"Fanatics kind of run their business almost like an NFL team. You have different departments, but everybody's coming together for one goal. From the person who owns it all the way down, they value their employees and how they're doing. I've never seen nothing like that.
"Quite frankly, I'm glad that I've done it. I thought I had my thing going, but it definitely opened up my eyes to figure some things out and deal with things differently."
Benn feels that the externship program has given him a sense of confidence. He feels more secure about the future when he is no longer playing football.
"Yeah, you're getting a sense of confidence and knowing what to expect and what not to expect," Benn said. "I've learned a lot of things about myself. Explaining in fine detail different things that I thought I would want to do as opposed to things that I would never have thought I'd do, and that I started liking it.
"And for me to learn all those things and coming together in a place in my life off the field and on the field, it's been tremendous. I just want to continue learning. To me, you learn something every day, football things. For a long time, I've always been afraid of that, but I'm not. It's quite a great service. It makes you almost feel complete.
"You always have that stereotype hey, you're a ballplayer, but what else can you do? I'm always looking for more. So for me to be in this situation and working with these people, it's definitely helped me out a lot. I can definitely see myself working for somebody like this."