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Elfin: Life After The NFL Really Sneaks Up And You Better Be Ready

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There are plenty of terrific things about being an NFL player: fame, fortune, plenty of vacation time, lots of freebies, charter airplanes and luxury hotels.

The downsides are that your body gets battered and your career is short.

Knowing the latter is the case, Redskins center Will Montgomery and backup quarterback John Beck recently took advantage of a league program that sends players to some of the nation’s elite universities for five days of pre-paid business education. Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and cornerback Josh Wilson attended a similar seminar last week at Northwestern’s Kellogg School.  The 29-year-old Montgomery, whose 16 starts last season were more than he had made during his previous five years, and the 31-year-old Beck, whose three starts last year were his first since he was a rookie in 2007, each attended the program at Harvard.

Beck, who was planning to study business at Brigham Young before switching to the less rigorous communications major when he was named the starting quarterback as a freshman, had been wanting to take part in the Harvard seminar since his former BYU and Dolphins teammate John Denny raved about a similar program at Penn’s Wharton School a couple of years ago.

“Harvard had some of the things that I really wanted to focus on like entrepreneurship and financial analysis,” Beck said. “And from a networking standpoint, I’d get to meet some of the professors and students there.”

Unlike Beck, who was the 40th overall pick in his draft and expected to be Miami’s starting quarterback, Montgomery wasn’t selected until the seventh round so he came into the league insecure if he would even make Carolina’s roster as a rookie.

But Montgomery was always prepared for life after football.  The Centreville High graduate was recruited by Harvard’s Ivy League rivals Yale and Brown before accepting a full ride from Virginia Tech where he was an honors graduate in business information technology while also earning a master’s in health promotion.

“I don’t know long my (football) career is going to last and (Redskins right guard) Chris Chester went to the program at Wharton a couple of years ago so I thought that, at the worst, I could make some contacts and have something to slap on my resume,” said Montgomery, a Merrill Lynch intern a couple of offseason ago. “But I really enjoyed Harvard. We went over 15 case studies. (Yale graduate) Gary Fencik, who was a safety on the (Super Bowl champion) ’85 Bears and now helps run an investment management firm in Chicago, spoke to us. We had a couple of cocktail parties with people from other programs that were going on at the same time. One of them was for people who have started their own businesses that had to be worth between $25 (million) and $50 million. I made some good contacts.”

While Montgomery was looking ahead, Beck went back to the future by calling his father, Wendell, between classes in which they were studying the kind of negotiations which the Arizona commercial real estate developer conducts on a regular basis.

“I was constantly on investopedia.com looking up terms, definitions and meanings,” Beck said. “I was impressed that Will was able to buy the property for one of the lowest prices. He must be a pretty good negotiator. Harvard really did live up to my expectations. There were some really intelligent guys in the class, guys who are excited about something beyond football. Being there opened up my eyes to a world that I need to learn about. To this point in my life, everything has been about football, but when I’m done, it will be totally different. I want to find something that I love doing and can still support our family (he and his wife Barbara have three sons under 6), but that won’t take me away from them like I have been.”

While Montgomery, who signed a four-year, $12 million contract on Feb. 27, seems a sure starter again this season, Beck might not even have a job if the Redskins don’t keep a third quarterback behind expected rookie starter Robert Griffin III and Rex Grossman, who started 13 games in 2011. And at $1.3 million, Beck is pretty pricey for a third-stringer with a career 0-7 record. So the head start on his next career could come in very handy sooner than he hopes.

David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March.

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