Last year I read an ESPN article on the difficulties many former NFL players have had in their post-football lives. Sadly, this was followed by a number of high-profile tragedies involving both past and current athletes.
However, one past player who proves there can be life after professional football is Carl Banks. The former linebacker spent 12 years in the NFL and was a part of two Super Bowl Championships while with the New York Giants.
Since leaving football in 1995 Banks has become a successful businessman and is now president of his own clothing line, G-III Sports by Carl Banks.
I recently had the chance to speak with Banks and ask him a few questions about his transition from the NFL to the business world. I was surprised to learn that Banks had been preparing for life after football just as his NFL career was beginning.
“It was my second year in the league when I started planning my transition,” Banks said. He explained that, in most cases, players become first-time millionaires, but without a marketable skill when they leave the game, the money can quickly disappear.
Banks got a broadcasting degree from Michigan State and says it was something that he was interested in pursuing whether he played pro football or not. Banks didn’t wait long to get this part of his career started. While playing for the Giants, he convinced radio station WNEW to allow him to host a post-game show.
“I would shower after the game and then go talk about it on my own show," Banks stated.
At the same time, Banks discovered a passion for fashion and would often spend his off days in Manhattan’s Fashion District: “I endorsed products and understood the relationship between sports and fashion.”
He became proactive and found areas in the apparel market that were not yet licensed. He began with NFL jackets for big and tall men. “I established relationships and became an NFL franchisee & licensee for outerwear,” said Banks.
Banks is involved in all aspects of his business. He sits with the designers, explores opportunities in the marketplace and inspects the quality of all products.
His company’s newest clothing line is G-III 4Her by Carl Banks. It features pro and college sportswear for women.
Linebackers and the Home Shopping Network don’t seem like an obvious match, but Banks has been a partner with HSN for the last eight years. He appears on the channel about ten times a year during football season.
“I’m proud to say that I'm the number one sports apparel vendor that they have,” he said.
Another recent project was the release of a limited edition Detroit Lions varsity jacket that is a replica of the one worn by Eddie Murphy’s character Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop. Banks said, “We thought that redoing iconic jackets that were in movies would be great, especially if they were never sold in retail.”
Banks has also relaunched the Starter Brand line of 80’s satin team jackets and says “there’s a buzz around it”. The limited edition NFL jackets will be coming out in late August, while NBA jackets will follow in November.
In addition to running G-III Sports by Carl Banks, the former player can still be heard on the radio. He serves as a host for a number of shows on WFAN Sports Radio in New York.
Banks offered the following advice for other players about preparing for life after football: “Prepare as soon as you start because it's like a used car. The end is near as soon as you start. You have to ask questions, meet people and take advantage of the opportunities that being a professional player gives you.”