It is tough to fathom 20 current and former NFL players cramming—willingly—into a classroom for anything. But there they were at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University last week, the title on the syllabus each carried, MUSIC INDUSTRY BOOT CAMP, explaining their enthusiasm. They had beaten out 100 other applicants for the program, the latest effort by the league to provide players with real-world career training—in this case, in a field that often seems to be the most desired second career of pro athletes.
The program was devised to mirror the league's broadcasting course, which, in its five years, has turned out such talking heads as Tim Hasselbeck and Ross Tucker. "The majority of the [students] are already in the business—but they've learned from magazines or TV," says Troy Vincent, a former All-Pro cornerback who, as the NFL's VP of Player Engagement, arranged the music conference as well as one for the film industry at Universal Studios in L.A. "We want to help them move forward. And if that means they walk away saying, 'I don't want to be in this [industry],' then we assisted a player in not making a bad decision."
Attendees included safeties Antoine Bethea of the Colts and Bryan Scott of the Bills; a Pro Bowl wide receiver, Brandon Lloyd; a future Hall of Famer, Torry Holt; even a punter, the Vikings' Chris Kluwe. And for four 12-hour sessions they soaked up wisdom from the likes of Davis and filmmaker Spike Lee. During Making the Record Part I, NYU's Nick Sansano, the institute's head of production studies, fielded techy questions from students like Giants defensive tackle Marvin Austin, who picked the professor's brain on analog versus digital sound quality.
The role reversal was so complete that when producer and artist Ryan Leslie (above, right) swaggered in to talk about social-media branding, grown men with seven-figure incomes whipped out their iPhones to snap fan photos.
Kluwe hopes to bring his alt-rock outfit, Tripping Icarus, to an audience more interested in the band's music than its athlete bassist. "Music is probably not the safest second career choice," he concedes. "But I hit the lottery once. Why not try again?"