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School Welcomes More Than 30 Current and Former NFL Players in ‘Second Season’ of School’s Executive MBA for Artists and Athletes Program

February 22, 2016
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harrison smith and parys haralson

Participants Harrison Smith, a Minnesota Vikings
defensive back (left),with free agent Parys Haralson.

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Minnesota Vikings defensive back Harrison Smith is looking forward to learning about finance, marketing and management, as well as his team’s latest pass coverage and blitzing schemes. “I want to gain the tools and knowledge so I can be a pro both off and on the field,” said Smith. “I have always been a fan of the University of Miami and now I can be a Hurricane, too.”

Smith and 30 other professional athletes, along with two player wives, are enrolled in the second cohort of the School’s Executive MBA for Artists and Athletes program, which is designed to help current and retired professionals leverage their athletic achievements into business success. It includes two-week residency modules in the spring, and online learning during the NFL season.

 “We believe our program will help you become better decision-makers, investors and contributors to our community,” said Gene Anderson to program participants during a welcome dinner Feb. 19 at the Biltmore Hotel. “Each of you bring something special to this program, and we are very excited to have you all here.”

tammy and brandon pettigrew

Participant Tammy Pettigrew with Brandon Pettigrew,
a Detroit Lions tight end.

Six-time Pro Bowl guard Jahri Evans and his wife Takia decided to enter the program as a team. “I was a science major as an undergraduate, and truly enjoy my NFL career,” said Jahri Evans, currently a free agent who most recently played for nine years with the New Orleans Saints. “I never thought I’d go back to school for another degree, but this program really fits the lifestyles of pro athletes.”

Takia Evans, who holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing, said the MBA program is ideal for expanding the Philadelphia couple’s business knowledge. “We have several real estate and business investments, and we are learning as we go along,” she said.

“Now we can gain the skills to take our businesses to the next level in a program with classmates who share similar goals.”

um coach mark richt

Miami head football coach Mark Richt, speaking
during welcome dinner.

Tammy Pettigrew, whose husband Brandon Pettigrew, is a tight end for the Detroit Lions, is also in the program. “We believe we will be more successful in business once we understand both the corporate and entrepreneurial aspects,” she said. “I earned my bachelor’s degree in sports management from Oklahoma State University, and have been wanting to get an MBA for some time. With two young children and [Brandon’s] NFL career, this was the perfect program for us.”

Former Hurricane star center K.C. Jones, who served as president of the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame, has long been interested in philanthropy and fundraising. A Denver native, Jones played on two Super Bowl championship teams for the Broncos in the 1990s. “I was able to live out my football dream in my hometown,” said Jones who is now a financial advisor. “This program will help me gain a competitive edge as I look at my future plans.”

The University’s new head football coach, Mark Richt, gave a lighthearted pep talk to the new MBA students during the welcome celebration.  After playing football at the University of Miami, Richt said he tried out for the NFL, and held a series of jobs before taking an assistant coaching position at Florida State University, followed by a head coaching position at the University of Georgia. 


Anuj Mehrotra, vice dean for graduate
business programs, with Yankees star Alex
Rodriguez, who spoke during orientation.

“Sometimes, it’s hard to find your way in life, but if you persevere and treat people right, good things happen,” Richt said. “No matter what has happened to you on the football field, you can start a new chapter in your life right here.”

During the orientation session earlier in the day, New York Yankees baseball star Alex Rodriguez, a member of the University’s Board of Trustees, spoke about making the transition from athletics to business. “A-Rod’s talk was really inspiring,” said Jason Bell, a former NFL cornerback who now has a career in private wealth management. “He emphasized the importance of making a successful transition to business, and why this program is so important for us.”

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