Football is a tough sport.
But figuring out what you’d like to do after your body can no longer keep up with the passion, is arguably even more mind-boggling. Some players lose their sports identity after retirement and are bewildered on the next steps, others enjoy the riches they earned, and some plant the seeds for the next phase while still playing. Enter Jaylon Smith. The 24-year-old football player was drafted out of Notre Dame in 2016 by the Dallas Cowboys with their 34th pick in the second round. Since being drafted nearly 5 years ago, he’s proved to be a great addition to the defensive line– so much so that he was selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl. And beyond the turf, he’s doing big things too. In 2018 he founded the Minority Entrepreneurship Institute which aims to “connecting impact investors to quality & meaningful minority-owned investment opportunities.” CASSIUS got a chance to chop it up with Smith about his ambitions off the field and how he knew what his second chapter would shape up to be.
Welcome to Beyond Ballin’.
CASSIUS: When did you realize you wanted to be a football player?
Jaylon Smith: I have always aspired to be a football player from the time I was little.
C: Though you’re only a few years into your career have you had that moment where you realized there is a life after football?
JS: Yes, it is important to understand that football is not going to last forever. That’s why it is important to create generational wealth and have an entrepreneurial mindset.
C: Were there any athletes who inspired you to evolve into having interests outside of football? Inspiration like what Forbes8 is doing with its on-demand content for entrepreneurs?
JS: LeBron James. I’d love to see more entrepreneurial resources, like Forbes8, for those who want to build their skillset and learn from those who have “been there, done that.”
C: Did you deal with any self-doubt in stepping outside of the football world?
JS: With my Clear Eye View I have been able to find my passions and what my strengths are off the football field, which has given me an edge to be successful in that realm.
C: Tell us about the Minority Entrepreneurship Institution? What led to you founding it?
JS: My passion to always want to be an entrepreneur. I recognize the economical and educational gap between white America and minorities. They are lacking access to become successful entrepreneurs, so I started MEI to close the gap.
C: It’s one thing to get the money, it’s another trying to keep it and grow your wealth. Is financial literacy a part of the institution?
JS: We provide them with the financial funding, mentorship and strategic planning. It is hard for minorities to go out and get a loan from the bank and then pay the interest back on these loans. Lacking the access and the business experience to really know how to run a company, so with MEI we have put in place committee and experts to help field their guidelines and their needs. The mentorship is huge to help them understand how to run a company and how to build their infrastructure. From a financial funding statement, allowing them to get a loan and get capital funds to take it to the next level.
C: Is this a sneak peek at what you plan on doing after you retire?
JS: Yes, as mentioned, I am an entrepreneur at heart, and closing the economical and educational gap is a passion for me.
C: How do you see the agency growing over the next decade?
JS: This is only the beginning, we have so much to look forward to. The possibilities are endless!
C: As a film and television major at Notre Dame, have you given any thought to tackling that after football? And why was it so important for you to go back and get your degree?
JS: Getting my degree was so important because there are many things that I want to accomplish after my football career is over, and having my degree will definitely help get me there.
C: What would you say to another young Black kid trying to enter the NFL despite setbacks, like you did when tearing your ACL and MCL?
JS: Find your Clear Eye View. Focused vision, determined belief and earned dreams. It really helps me see clearly and know what I want to accomplish to walk in the path that God has created for me. Earned Dreams is putting in that work and labor to get to where I want to go. Live by his Clear Eye View every day and everyone should have their own Clear Eye View.
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