Life after the game looks like saving an entire generation for former New York Giant Michael Stone. Now, the former NFL defensive back is a franchise owner for the National Academy of Athletics, a company focused on keeping the youth active.
Recently, Stone stopped by rolling out to discuss the new venture and his transition into business.
What do you have going on with the National Academy of Athletics?
I’m a partner in a franchise. The goal with our franchise is to educate kids about youth sports. We run a variety of programs—from summer camps to after-school clubs. We even provide physical education for schools that lack P.E. teachers.
Our ultimate objective is to excite kids about sports and inspire them to get involved, because research shows that long-term, healthy participation in sports contributes to a more successful adulthood.
What did sports do for you as a kid?
Sports offered me an opportunity to experience life at an accelerated pace. Through the course of a single little league football game, you could make a poor play, give up a big touchdown, and feel awful. Then, on the next play, you can bounce back with an interception for a touchdown and win the game.
Sports take you through a rollercoaster of emotions and help build your mental resilience. That’s where I gained most of my grit and determination.
When did you start thinking about life after the NFL?
Honestly, as an athlete, you don’t initially think it’s going to end. You’re usually focused on playing as long as possible. But injuries started mounting, and during my last year with the New York Giants, I had hip surgery. That’s when reality hit.
Before that point, I had already begun planning for my second career. As early as my second or third year playing football, I was exploring ways to leverage my NFL experiences and network for future opportunities.
What advice would you give to athletes approaching the end of their careers?
Start identifying your strengths and interests. Take advantage of your location; network with professionals in fields you’re curious about. Small introductions can lead to substantial relationships and potentially future partnerships.
When I played for the New York Giants, I was frequently in Manhattan. I visited Russell Simmons’ office initially without luck. So, I returned to the Giants’ stadium, grabbed an autographed helmet from my team, and left it at his office. The next day, I got a call from his secretary. That eventually led to collaborations on several projects.