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In the old days, before pro sports became the massive, high-paying institution in America that it’s been for a few decades now, athletes spent their offseasons working regular jobs. Many, even in the 1970s, made more money off the field or court than on it.

It’s a different sporting landscape now, but players still have to decide how to spend their offseasons — and plan for life after taking off the uniform for the last time. For NFL players Corbin Bryant and Kenny Moore, they’ve spent the past three weeks in Athens, learning and experiencing all they can during an externship with the UGA Athletic Association.

“I just want to be prepared to get a job after the league, because some day it’s going to stop,” said Moore, a Valdosta native that played at Division II Valdosta State and was a rookie cornerback with the Indianapolis Colts last season.

Moore’s line could have come straight from the athletic association’s The Georgia Way career development program mission statement. It’s what Leigh Futch, the Director of Student Development for Georgia athletics, preaches all the time: prepare for life after sports as hard as you prepare for every game.

The externship is part of a program coordinated by the NFL Players Association to get players out in the world and have them spend time in sports-related industries and fields that interest them. For Brown and Bryant, who are wrapping up their final week job shadowing at Georgia, they wanted an inside look at collegiate athletics.

Georgia and Maryland are the only two schools selected to participate in the externship program.

“A lot of players want to get back into sports and this is kind of a look behind the veil at what happens in college athletics, so (the NFLPA) asked us if we could provide an opportunity for the guys to come here on campus and to see what all it takes to run an athletic association,” Futch said.

Bryant is a free-agent defensive lineman with seven years in the NFL — with the New York Giants in 2017, he missed the season with an injury. A 6-foot-4, 300-pounder from Chicago, Bryant graduated from Northwestern with a master’s degree already in hand.

“There a lot of things in this area that I’ve seen during these three weeks where I’m like, wow, I’m interested in this or I’m interested in that,” Bryant said. “Definitely my top three things are academics, development and doing business accounting.”

Listen to Bryant speak for even a few minutes and you hear a man who knows where he wants to go: into the office of the director of athletics at a big-time school. In fact, he sounds an awful lot like Georgia men’s basketball fifth-year senior Juwan Parker, who is working on his second master’s and aspires to run a collegiate athletic department one day.

“That’s the end goal, but obviously with everything, just like my athletic career, I have to work my way up,” Bryant said.

Both Bryant and Moore went undrafted out of college; both players, despite their different backgrounds and present situations, have embraced the NFLPA’s externship program. This is Moore’s first go-round, but Bryant has also spent time in recent years at the University of Cincinnati, Under Armour and other institutions.

“You know, there’s no telling where we’ll end up after the ball is dropped to the ground. You just want to be prepared,” said Moore, whose path to the NFL was far more unlikely than Bryant’s.

The 5-9, 190-pound Moore played some football when he was young, but he didn’t pick it up again until his senior year of high school in Valdosta. He earned a scholarship to his hometown college, but essentially had a foot out the door from the beginning.

“I was very fortunate in how it worked out. … My freshman year of college, I wanted to go to the Air force, and I was telling my teammates, ‘I’m not really going to be here, I’m leaving for the Air Force, so if I don’t play this year, I’ll be gone,'” he said.

“I ended up starting my freshman year at some point and ended up staying in college. My mom is happy (laughs), so it’s been one heck of a road.”

That road led to Indianapolis, where Moore not only earned a roster spot but played in every game last season, starting five. Then the road led him closer to home, to Athens, and a chance to see a vastly different collegiate world than what he experienced at Valdosta State.

“Every day I come here, I just want to say, sign me back up for school. Please recruit me, UGA,” he said, laughing.

Georgia and the NFLPA have worked together in the recent past, with two Bulldogs — Aaron Davis and Steven Van Tiflin — participating last May in a week-long internship at the NFLPA’s offices in Washington. Futch said two more Bulldogs will get the same opportunity later this year.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to talk about what we do — it reiterates what we do,” she said of hosting the externship and working with the NFLPA. “We want (Georgia’s student-athletes) to know that these kinds of opportunities take place and even if you do go into the league, you need to take advantage of them.”



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March 1, 2018

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