But according to a report by Bloomberg News, some players in the NFL are interning at major corporations -- in between touchdowns and tackles. It's self-preservation. Despite big paychecks and celebratory headlines, NFL players typically have brief careers, and often find that the money doesn't last through all those years of retirement. In fact, 78 percent of NFL players are broke within two to five years of retirement, according to Sports Illustrated.
While on vacation, Thomas Welch, an offensive lineman with the Buffalo Bills (above), recently completed a six-week internship with the Merrill Lynch Wealth Management division of Bank of America, Bloomberg notes. He earns $540,000 a year as a football player, according to Sportrac.com, the sports salary website. But according to Bloomberg, "he is in the final year of a two-year contract" and says he knows that "his long-term future won't be on a football field."
Welch told Bloomberg that the internship "was a great experience." During his six-week stint, Welch was asked to put together a mock $1 million portfolio. And he did rather well on the test; his investments grew 4.98 percent during the first quarter of 2013. "I got a better understanding of what [bankers] do -- not just about wealth management, but all aspects of the financial industry."
And often these internships do lead to full-time jobs. David Howard, also 25, recently took a full-time position with the Merrill Lynch Wealth Management division after leaving the league. A 2010 draft pick of the Tennessee Titans, Howard also completed an internship during his career. "I've always known there would be life after football and career was more of a priority," he told Bloomberg.
The NFL encourages moonlighting and provides players with a robust training program to prepare for their next workplace. The training program includes a four-day career-training boot camp at some of the most prestigious business schools in the country -- such as Stanford and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. The program helps with basics of job search, such as resume writing and interviews. It also includes coursework covering the basics of different industries like hospitality and entertainment.
As Troy Vincent, who played from 1992 to 2006, told Bloomberg:
"Football is not a career; it is an experience. The body has an expiration date. It's out of your control when you are going to be released. They need to start planning their next career right away."
The $20 Million Players
Still, some NFL players are so great that they can surely wait till after they're out of the league before worrying about what comes next. The league's top quarterbacks, such as Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints famously make $20 million a year. But these players are the exceptions. In fact, most members in the league would have to be living in a fantasy not to plan their second careers, according to Vincent. The minimum wage for players in the 2012-13 season was $390,000 a year, and the average career lasts about 3½ years, Bloomberg reported.
"The player today has to make a conscious effort not to engage" in career planning, he told Bloomberg. "There is no excuse."