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Justin Grant
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From Fame to Fortune: 7 Former Pro Athletes Who Are Winning on Wall Street

With the rush of competing in a pressurized environment that’s reminiscent of their playing days and the lure of big paychecks, former star athletes, including Hall of Fame QB Steve Young, see finance as a natural second career.

Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea that 10,000 hours of practice is the key to success in any field in his 2008 book, "Outliers." Professional athletes who have risen to the pinnacle of their respective sports surely can relate, having spent countless hours toiling on the practice field to reach the summit of athletic excellence.

But it takes more than practice to become a successful pro athlete; in addition to natural talent, it also takes a competitive fire -- one that most people lack. And when their brief playing careers draw to an inevitable close and the cheering stops, the competitive nature that defined star athletes' lives doesn't just disappear. While many former athletes struggle to redefine themselves after their professional sports careers, the world of finance -- which offers the lure of big paydays and a pressurized environment -- can be a natural fit for a comeback. And if you're raising money from investors, the notoriety that comes from being a big leaguer doesn't hurt.

Advanced Trading highlights seven former professional athletes who have launched successful careers in finance. 

Steve Young, Huntsman Gay Global Capital: During his 15-year career in the National Football League, Steve Young electrified San Francisco 49ers fans with a style of play that lit up scoreboards, won him a Super Bowl MVP award, filled the record books and earned him a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Most fans today know Young from his work on ESPN as an analyst for Monday Night Football. But his new day job actually is as managing director at Huntsman Gay Global Capital, a $1.1 billion private equity fund that he cofounded in 2007. The company conducts leveraged buyouts, recapitalizations and growth equity transactions in the middle market.

Brent Jones, Northgate Capital: His on-field style wasn’t nearly as flashy as former teammate Steve Young's, but Brent Jones' hard-nosed style as a tight end for the San Francisco 49ers during the late 1980s and 1990s garnered him All-Pro honors four times and helped him win three Super Bowl rings.

Today, Jones serves as managing director at Northgate Capital, a private equity firm that had $3 billion under management before being purchased in 2010 by the India-based financial services group Religare Enterprises Ltd. Northgate, which Jones cofounded in 2000, invests in alternative assets, with a mix of investments in both developed and emerging markets.

David Robinson, Admiral Capital: The National Basketball Association recognized David Robinson as one of the 50 greatest players of all time in 1996 as part of the league’s 50th anniversary celebration. In his 14 years in the NBA as the starting center for the San Antonio Spurs, Robinson collected two championships, one Most Valuable Player award and 10 trips to the NBA all-star game.

In 2008 Robinson teamed with former Goldman Sachs executive Daniel Bassichis to launch the private equity firm Admiral Capital Group, which says it looks to earn profits while generating a positive social impact along the way. The firm currently oversees $50 million in real estate assets.

Dave Brown, Greenhill & Co: New York Giants fans mostly remember Dave Brown for his disappointing tenure as the team's starting quarterback in the mid-1990s. Yet Brown managed to carve out a decade-long career in the NFL, where he also played for the Arizona Cardinals.

Brown had much more success during his days as Duke University's starting quarterback, where he led the team to its first bowl game in nearly 30 years. Today he's a managing director at the boutique investment bank Greenhill & Co, where he works in the firm's private capital advisory group. Prior to joining Greenhill in 2008, Brown was a senior VP at Lehman Brothers' private fund marketing group.

Tommy Vardell, Northgate Capital: By virtue of his role as a fullback for the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers, Tommy Vardell didn't win much acclaim during his eight-year career in the NFL. Most of his time in the league was spent doing dirty work, like clearing holes for running backs to race through or protecting the quarterback's blind side.

But during his days at Stanford University, Vardell's abilities in the classroom and on the gridiron earned him an Academic All-American of the Year Award, an honor given to the nation’s top scholar-athletes. Today he works alongside Brent Jones as a managing director at Northgate Capital, which he also cofounded.

Reggie Wilkes, Bank of America Merrill Lynch: Former NFL linebacker Reggie Wilkes was a starter on the 1980 Philadelphia Eagles team that lost Super Bowl XV to the Oakland Raiders. He closed out his decade-long career in the NFL with a two-year stint with the Atlanta Falcons. During his playing career, Wilkes spent his off-seasons working at Merrill Lynch.

Today he presides over the Wilkes Group, a division of Bank of America Merrill Lynch that helps high-net-worth individuals and families manage their wealth. Wilkes, who is also a registered financial adviser with the NFL's Players Association, has helped more than 40 NFL and NBA players manage their money in preparation for life after sports.

Eugene Profit, Profit Asset Management: Former NFL defensive back Eugene Profit didn't earn a big name for himself during his days playing for the Washington Redskins and New England Patriots. Knowing that he faced slim odds of a long football career, the Yale graduate says he kept tabs on what his former classmates were up to during his playing days.

When a torn hamstring ended his five-year football career in 1991, Profit got a job as a retail broker with asset manager Legg Mason. In 1996, armed with $100,000 in start-up capital, Profit launched his namesake firm, Profit Asset Management. Since then the firm has grown into a multibillion-dollar asset manager that boasts a wide range of institutional clients, including the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association.


As the Senior Editor of Advanced Trading, Justin Grant plays a key role in steering the magazine's coverage of the latest issues affecting the buy-side trading community. Since joining Advanced Trading in 2010, Grant's news analysis has touched on everything from the latest ... View Full Bio

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