By Danielle Whaley
Moving forward to a professional career in sports is an aspiration for any student athlete, but a career off of the field of play is just as important.
The Vol For Life Career Development Night on Thursday evening gave current Tennessee football players the opportunity to interact with former Vols and discuss future endeavors while potentially making a few business connections along the way.
VFL Coordinator Antone Davis planned the night with the players' futures in mind, making sure they truly value this chance to make connections with other former Vols who could be beneficial for them in the future.
"The whole idea of the program is to have former players that are now business owners or at least decision makers in their companies that can, one, tell them the do's and don'ts, what they did right, what they did wrong when they were here, and also tell them how they're going to best get that job," Davis said. "The reality is everyone is not going to the NFL. Even if you do, you still may want to partner in a business with some of these people, so it's good to get down there to network and meet them."
As sophomore Jack Jones mentioned, the players have strong expectations they must meet on the field, but they hold the same expectation in the classroom.
"We're here to get our degree first and, you know, football is second," Jones said. "Football isn't going to work out for everybody and you can't bank on it."
While life after college is important to think about, junior Jashon Robertson noted that life after a potential professional football career is just as imperative to have a plan for.
"Let's say you have a good, long career in the NFL; not everyone has the same opportunity to gain generational welfare to set them up for the rest of their lives," Robertson mentioned. "You have to be able to progress on what you have already or you'll need a job."
That message of football not lasting forever is what the VFLs hope resonates with the players, just as former offensive lineman and current judge Tim Irwin pointed out.
"The key message that we have to get across to very impressionable young men is that someday, even if you play for a long time, football ends and you have to start thinking about what else you're going to do in life, how you're going to contribute to society," Irwin said. "It's a very interesting night for both perspectives. We get to meet the young men we've watched on the field and they get to meet some guys who have gone before them."
Junior Todd Kelly Jr. was especially grateful for the chance to network with professionals who are familiar to Tennessee and this football program.
"It means a lot just meeting, knowing and shaking hands with people who have been through the university before and seeing people outside of football," Kelly said. "Just seeing all of the things you can do outside of football is just tremendous, and it encourages our teammates to not only go hard on the field but in the classroom.
"Guys always like to look back on their glory days, and hopefully one day, you know, whether I play football in the NFL or not, I'll be able to come back and shake the hands of future VFLs."