Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: It's Never Too Early to Plan for Post-NFL Life

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterMay 10, 2017

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 11:  Justin Forsett #20 of the Denver Broncos warming up before a game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on December 11, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  The Titans defeated the Broncos 13-10.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Justin Forsett offers a lesson to all players, the fight for marijuana use continues and will Jay Cutler be any good in the TV booth? 

   

1. Life After the NFL

There was a moment in December when everything changed for Justin Forsett. It happened quickly. 

Forsett had just been released by the Detroit Lions. Soon, the Broncos were on the phone, and just two days later, he'd join the team. It was Forsett's fifth franchise in four years and his third in the 2016 season alone.

Forsett had to leave immediately for Denver. His wife headed for Baltimore, where Forsett had started the season and where they still had a home. She was six months pregnant, but this is life in the NFL. She loaded up the car, with their other two kids, and drove nine hours in a snowstorm as Forsett headed to Denver.

That night stayed with Forsett, and last week, he decided he'd had enough. Forsett retired from the NFL after nine years. He left the game a vastly underrated player, a seventh-round pick who turned into a productive back, averaging 4.7 yards per carry and scoring 19 rushing touchdowns. He alsoand this is no exaggeration—was one of the most liked players in the sport. When he retired, a flood of well wishes poured across social media.

"After every game, I felt like I'd been in a car wreck, several times," he said in an interview with B/R. "The recovery time was getting longer. By midseason, it was taking me until Saturday to fully recover. I'm going to need shoulder surgery. Maybe some work on my knees. It was just time."

For Forsett, however, it wasn't necessarily a sad moment, because another chapter was beginning.

When he was at Cal, Forsett and two teammates, Wale Forrester and Wendell Hunter, dreamed of finding a solution to a problem a lot of college athletes have: finding the time to shower after multiple workouts. In college, players work out multiple times a day while also juggling classes. Showering four to five times a day was simply unrealistic. So the common joke among players was they needed a shower pill.

That stuck with Forsett, the way that night he went to Denver did, and sending his family to Baltimore through a snowstorm did. Eventually, Forsett and his colleagues would develop a brand called ShowerPill, and the flagship ShowerPill product is the Athletic Body Wipe.

The product is available now and has caught on not only with athletes, but also fitness enthusiasts. It's backed by an impressive group of investors, including Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart, future Hall of Fame receiver Steve Smith, former Saints defensive back Jabari Greer and 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

Forsett's story won't generate hot takes. It won't be debated on sports shows. But what Forsett is doing should be a lesson to NFL players, and maybe even all athletes. Forsett represents a growing legion of players who spend part of their careers looking toward what comes after football.

"A lot of guys, when they retire, they don't have anything to put their arms around," Lott told B/R, "but Justin found his calling."

The plan to take an idea hatched in college and make it into an actual product was in motion long before Forsett retired.

"He's one of the most passionate guys I know," Juszczyk added. "He convinced me to take part in this because I know he's not going to take unnecessary risks. He's one of those guys who was always looking ahead."

Lott has become one of the biggest believers in the wipes and thinks they may have use beyond the fitness industry. In water-challenged parts of the country and the world, Lott envisions the wipes being used as part of disaster relief when there's no clean running water. The company even sent product to Flint, Michigan, at the height of the water crisis there.

In many ways, Forsett is the anti-LaVar Ball, the father of UCLA hoops star Lonzo Ball, who is selling shoes for the price of a small island. This is not a shot at the elder Ball (or maybe it is), whose promotional ploys come off with a lot of bombast and seemingly haphazard direction, but it is a recognition that Forsett, unlike Ball, has approached his business in a logical and measured way. That, too, is a lesson for players.

Until recently, most players left the game unprepared for when their careers ended. Now, this seems to be changing, at least anecdotally. And stories like those of Forsett show players today are increasingly more prepared for when the game ends than perhaps ever before. 

"I preach to players all the time they need to get ready for life after football," said Lott, who has been involved in a number of business ventures in retirement. "I think players are finally getting the message that football is just a short part of your life."

The reason for the change, I believe, is the increased knowledge of CTE. Understanding the realities and risks of head trauma is finally forcing players to acknowledge their careers are finite. They've always known this intuitively, but now they're taking more active steps, early in their careers, to ensure they have an existence beyond the NFL.

"I'm ready for life after football," said Forsett.

    

2. Could the Niners Be Better Faster Than We Think?

Ben Margot/Associated Press

In March, Kyle Juszczyk signed the largest contract for a fullback ever at $21 million over four years with the 49ers. So after leaving a Ravens team that developed him into becoming one of the more prolific receiving backs in the league, who better to ask about the state of San Francisco's rebuild?

"I love the foundation we're building," Juszczyk told me. "It started in free agency. Then what we did in the draft. I think we're building something special, and I don't think you're going to see the results years down the road. We're going to be better than people think, faster than people think."

        

3. San Francisco's Front Office Impressing Many

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

I continue to hear many people across the league say how impressed they are with San Francisco's draft. Weeks later, scouts in football are still amazed by what the 49ers did, especially in pulling off one of the biggest coups in recent draft history with their trade of the No. 2 pick to Chicago to move down one spot in Round 1 while netting three additional selections.

Just wanted to pass that along.

    

4. Will Scot McCloughan Get Another Chance to Be a GM?

LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 19:   General manager Scot McCloughan of the Washington Redskins is seen before the game between the Washington Redskins and the New York Jets at FedExField on August 19, 2016 in Landover, Maryland.  The Redskins defeated the Jets 22
Larry French/Getty Images

The former Washington general manager was fired in March with two years left on his deal. Ever since, I'm told by team officials, he has been negotiating a severance package.

McCloughan's troubled background has been well documented and done so honestly, mostly by him. The way Washington handled McCloughan at the end of his tenure was dumb and cruel. That's true, too. 

Outside of Washington, McCloughan is still held in high esteem around the league. Team officials believe that it's only a matter of time before he lands an official advisory role with a new franchise, and possibly even another high-ranking team personnel role.

          

5. Nick Buoniconti's Toughest Fight

John Bazemore/Associated Press

If you don't know who Nick Buoniconti is, please let me tell you. This will only take a second.

One of the cornerstones of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, Buoniconti played middle linebacker for Don Shula's undefeated team. And though he was small for his position (standing at 5'11" and weighing 220 pounds), Buoniconti was tough, smart and mean.

You cannot write the history of 1970s football without Buoniconti. He's that vital.

When I interviewed him for a book I wrote on that '72 team, Buoniconti was gracious and had tons of stories. He did not seem to be fighting any effects from a deteriorating mind.

That's what makes the story about his memory loss and damaged motor skills in this week's Sports Illustrated all the more devastating, especially because it's unclear what's causing Buoniconti's issues.

Is it CTE? Is it part of his normal aging process? Some aspect of both? His doctors don't know yet.

Whatever the cause, it seems clear that these sorts of stories about the mental and physical decline of football players are not going away, maybe ever.

         

6. An Inspirational Rookie Story...

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

His name is hard to pronounce—it's Stevie Tu'ikolovatu ("Too-ee-kolo-vah-too")but his story is pretty amazing. Take a few moments to read the tale by Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Bay Times of how the Bucs' rookie lineman went from living in an SUV to playing in the NFL.

       

7. ...And a Warning to Rookies from Plaxico Burress

Mel Evans/Associated Press

The veteran receiver became the butt of jokes after shooting himself in the leg in a New York nightclub in 2008. This story by Burress in The Players' Tribune humanizes that moment and what happened after it. It's a story that every rookie—everyoneshould read.

     

8. The War for Pot

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 03:  NFLPA Assistant Executive Director of External Affairs George Atallah speaks during the NFL Players Association press conference at the Super Bowl XLV media center on February 3, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. The Green Bay Packers will
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The NFL has been historically, shall we say, a little slow when it comes to making changes that benefit player safety. Like, say, head trauma. Or monitoring painkiller medications. Or…or…or…

But nothing will change unless people speak out, and George Atallah, the NFLPA spokesman, recently did so, talking to PFT Live about how marijuana use can better the lives of players, while acknowledging some in the league, like Dallas owner Jerry Jones, even support using pot.

"This is clearly one that falls into that health-and-safety space," Atallah said. "We know exactly how players feel after the games, what their [careers] are like, and what their lives are like after they're done playing football. It's incumbent upon all of us to take the hard look and see how we can help players. And it's a little bit challenging at times to feel like [we're] the only entity who cares about these players as human beings, as men, as family men, when they're facing health-and-safety issues. And clearly we've made some significant advances over the last six to eight years, but on this particular issue I think it's incumbent on the league office to, and pardon my pun, keep up with the Joneses."

I cannot say he is completely wrong, nor is he talking out of school. Atallah expressed the views many players have about the NFL.

          

9. Jay Cutler, TV Analyst?

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 27:  Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears Illinois State Redbirds seen on the sideliens during a game against the Tennessee Titans
at Soldier Field on November 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Will the now-retired Bears quarterback make for a voice fans want to hear in the TV booth? It's a good question. And while some fans were surprised by the move, players as well have openly wondered in conversations with me if Cutler will be a proficient analyst.

I've been harsh on Cutler as a player. He was one of the largest wastes of pure quarterbacking talent in history. That is fair.

Assuming his lack of studying and dedication as a player means he'll be the same way as an analyst is unfair.

I'm guilty of it, and players speaking to me are as well. They think Cutler's lack of preparation as a player will make for a terrible analyst. But one doesn't necessarily lead to the other.

In some of the interviews I've heard so far, Cutler actually has been frank and colorful. Hopefully that continues and he'll impress a lot more people in the booth than he did on the field.

        

10. Super Bowl QB Still Available

Tony Avelar/Associated Press

It could change any minute, but for now, it still seems no team is even close to signing Colin Kaepernick. I can't find a team that's even discussed it. For now, the Kaepernick Watch continues.

        

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @mikefreemanNFL. 

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