AC in the AM: Ross Giving His Players A Big Assist

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I can't tell you how many players I have covered over the years who had no post football plan, who spent just about everything they made on frivolous things and then found themselves at the end of their career with no sensible alternatives and very little money.

If only they had the luxury of what Owner Steven Ross is providing to today's players then maybe things would have been different.

I've got to believe they would have been.

Lost somewhat in the free agency frenzy of last week was a three-day business combine for Dolphins' players, hosted by Ross in New York and designed to give the players some post football alternatives and some important knowledge to assist them in making the right career decisions.

Entering its second year, the business combine's goal is to provide unique opportunities and experiences to our players to prepare for life after football.

This is the second year Ross has offered his players this valuable assistance. Fifteen players took advantage of it. All of them seemed to embrace this rare opportunity.

"I was blown away by our owner," said young wide receiver Drew Morgan. "He's such a humble man. To do the things that he is doing is incredible, not just in New York City or South Florida, he has so much to do with how the world works. Just being there for three days and seeing his world makes me want to be more like him."

Added cornerback Tony Lippett: "I gained so much by listening to these incredible people. I've always appreciated Mr. Ross for so many reasons. But this opened me up to so many other things. Just to see how he operates, and the amazing people he has hired was an inexperience I'll never forget."

The business combine hit on all sorts of topics from real estate to technology, to fashion to business development and investing.

"I think I want to start a Boys and Girls Club in my hometown," said Lippett. "I got plenty of ideas for that."

How meaningful it must have been for these players to sit in on a weekly development meeting at Ross' Related Companies?

How educational it must have been taking a tour of Hudson Yards led by Bruce Beal, President, Related Companies, the largest private real estate development in the country's history and another Ross project?

How beneficial it must have been learning about RSE Ventures, a sports and entertainment company founded by Ross and Dolphins' executive Matt Higgins?

How important it must have been to hear about the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress from Kim Miller, Vice President, Leadership and Education Programs of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE).

How special it must have been listening to so many impressive and successful people from CEO's to vice presidents?

These players know all about game plans. But this was about life's game plan, about making the right decisions and focusing on the right areas and about preparing these players for a journey that doesn't include packed stadiums and blinding spotlights. This was about planting seeds and hoping that someday they sprout into something beneficial, something to help these players find similar success off the field as they found on.

This was about caring.

Enter it's second year, the business combine's goal is to provide unique opportunities and experience to Dolphins players to prepare for life after football.

"Any organization works best when the people know that the head of the organization cares about them," Ross said. "I thought it was incumbent on me and a responsibility that I had to show them the opportunities they can have when they finish their careers.

"I think every team should do this and it is a very important initiative that all owners should follow."

I couldn't agree more. We often have a tendency to lose sight of the human beings inside the helmet. It's so easy to place them on some gaudy pedestal and judge them by what they accomplish on a sun-splashed Sunday afternoon and nothing else. But these football careers, for the most part, are very short and these players will have the majority of their lives in front of them when they play their final down. Those years after football will ultimately help define who they are and this makes what Ross is doing just about invaluable.

"Mr. Ross surrounds himself with great people and those people surround themselves with great people," said Morgan. "That's what makes a great team and that's a lesson I learned on this trip that I will carry with me.

"Athletes have tunnel vision when it comes to football. We forget about the outside world. This was a great reminder."

A reminder spearheaded by an owner who genuinely wants to see his players succeed long after their careers are over. "It's more than football for him," said safety Reshad Jones.

Nothing demonstrated that more than those three days last week when two different worlds converged and 15 players got a whole lot smarter because of it.

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