Fifth Quarter

Football alumni take current Hawkeyes under their wing.

 

Broderick Binns let few quarterbacks out of his clutches during his playing days at Iowa. But when the former defensive end was cut from the Arizona Cardinals’ preseason camp in 2012, his NFL dreams slipped away from his grasp. Suddenly, he faced the question that blindsides so many college players after graduation:

Now what?

Today, Binns, 12BA, is helping the Hawkeyes’ current student-athletes consider that question long before playing their final game at Kinnick Stadium. The Iowa football program’s director of player development organized a career networking event earlier this summer that allowed members of the team to rub elbows with more than three dozen former Hawkeyes who understand the possibilities and pitfalls of life after football.

While the walls of the Iowa Football Performance Center—the training facility where the networking event took place—are lined with the names of past UI stars who have gone on to the NFL, the hard reality is that few make it professionally. Just 1.6 percent of all college football players play a single game in the NFL, according to the NCAA—a statistic emphasized by Binns and his fellow football alumni.

Former Iowa fullback Cliff King, center, speaks to members of this year’s football team during a networking event earlier this summer in Iowa City. Today, King works as a regional field manager for Nike. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)

“I kind of had to feel things out by myself, and that’s what most guys do after they graduate and don’t make the NFL,” said Binns, who coached high school football before returning to the UI football program as a graduate assistant, then moving into his new role this past spring. “This is great for our guys, because when they get in that situation, they have 40 new contacts they can reach out to.”

This marked the second straight year that Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz invited alumni back to campus for the event, which had current players donning suits and ties for a networking dinner and workshops.

Chuck Hartlieb, 88BBA, who helped organize the event, is among the many Hawkeyes who have forged successful careers after leaving Iowa City. The former all-Big Ten quarterback is now senior vice president for wealth management at a financial advisory firm in West Des Moines.

“When you see the grey hair up here, you see the balding hair, and you see the guts, most of you are saying, ‘These guys can’t relate to me,’” Hartlieb told the student-athletes in the team meeting room. “But I guarantee you, these are still our richest memories and we can still relate to where you’re at.”

In the small group sessions with players, Hartlieb discussed the importance of making connections while in school and leveraging their name recognition. Hartlieb said former football players also have a leg up entering the job market because of the “work-ethic, perseverance, leadership, and organizational skills” instilled as a student-athlete.

Cliff King, who played fullback at Iowa from 1990-93 and now works in Beaverton, Ore., as a regional field manager for Nike, was among the many alumni who returned to Iowa City for the event. King is the shoe giant’s representative for a number of pro and college teams—Iowa included—and he manages the signature accounts for NFL superstars like Russell Wilson and Odell Beckham Jr.

King told the student-athletes that it’s never too early to start thinking about other options if the NFL doesn’t come calling: “If they understand what is out there, they can position themselves now and put a game plan together while they’re at Iowa.”

– Josh O’Leary, Iowa Alumni Magazine

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