Career Alternatives, Football, Sports

Career Alternatives for Attorneys: Football Coach

We’ve written before about how cheerleading for football teams is a possible career for J.D.s, but what about coaching football teams? A Detroit Lions assistant secondary coach, Daron Roberts, has done just that. The Harvard Law graduate and former Biglaw attorney is coaching in the NFL, notwithstanding the fact that he had no prior coaching experience before he left Biglaw behind. ESPN the Magazine reports:

Roberts got the bug when he tagged along with a friend who was working as a counselor at Steve Spurrier’s prep camp in South Carolina. He had long been a gridiron fanatic; in high school, he spent twice as many hours at football practice as he did studying. But working at Spurrier’s camp, he began to entertain thoughts of becoming the next Jon Gruden (whose book, Do You Love Football?!, was a big hit with Roberts). Something inside the law student changed during those three days. “The best part was sitting with the campers at night,” Roberts says. “Our talks would switch from zone technique to girlfriends. That’s when I realized football is the most powerful conduit for reaching young men in America, and that I had to be a coach.”

You’ll forgive me if I feel a little kindred connection with Roberts. Here’s a guy who had a law degree and a high-paying job and gave it up to pursue something he truly loved. His story is further proof that you can break out of the Biglaw box, if you want it badly enough…

ESPN the Mag writer Vivian Chum lays out Roberts’s six-step plan:

* Step 1: Work For Free, Go For Broke
* Step 2: Keep Your Resume To Yourself
* Step 3: Find The Biggest Skeptic — And Make Him Your Mentor
* Step 4: Fake It Until You Make It
* Step 5: Embrace Your Inner Nerd
* Step 6: Crack A Book, Or Two — Or 100

Trust me, Step 1 is the hardest part. My bank account did not enjoy going from my Debevoise salary to my (initially unpaid) internship at the New York Press (enjoyed it less = my creditors). But that’s the price of getting out, and Daron Roberts was certainly willing to pay it:

Like most organizations, the Kansas City Chiefs received a truckload’s worth of applications for their internship program. But Roberts’ entry, and his utter lack of football experience, caught the eye of Herm Edwards, then the head coach. Edwards offered Roberts one of two internships available. “He was a guy who had the opportunity to advance his professional career in law,” Edwards says, “and he was willing to go backward in football. That says passion to me.”

Typically, NFL interns start right before training camp begins in July and slog through until it ends in August. By the time the preseason gets going, they have two options: beg to stay on with the team as an unpaid volunteer or head home. On the last day of training camp, Roberts worked up the courage to tell Edwards he was willing to do whatever it took to stick around. “He stood in front of me with all that schooling, saying he wanted to be a football coach,” Edwards says. “I thought, Either there’s something wrong with him, or he really does want to coach.”…

When the Chiefs headed to Houston for their first game, Roberts flew on his own dime, then rented a car, met the team at its downtown hotel, attended Saturday night meetings and drove 15 miles to the cheapest motel he could find. (He had some savings from his summer jobs in law school and was also teaching two online courses, in government and economics, for Northeast Texas Community College. Even so, many of his meals consisted of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches finagled from the team kitchen at Arrowhead Stadium.) On game day, Roberts helped out on the sideline, then hopped a flight back to Kansas City. His bosses took notice. “For every game after that,” Roberts says, “I flew with the team.”

Roberts went from random Biglaw lawyer to paid NFL assistant coach in a little over a year. Oh, and he did this in the worst economy since the Great Depression.

One jump ahead of the hoofbeats
One hop ahead of the hump
One trick ahead of disaster
They’re quick, but I’m much faster
Here goes, better throw my hand in
Wish me happy landin’
All I gotta do is jump

If you want to get out of Biglaw, you just have to trust yourself.

Earlier: Extracurricular Pursuits for Attorneys: St. Louis Rams Cheerleader

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