Alfred Morris, other NFL players gain business knowledge at Michigan

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Alfred Morris came to the University of Michigan this week trying to figure out another piece of his future.

What happens next for Morris in the NFL is an unknown; he's heading toward free agency after four years with the Washington Redskins. The non-football piece -- that's what he was trying to find at the Ross School of Business at Michigan during the NFL's Business Academy, a week-long program to help athletes figure out post-football life.

And what did he learn?

"I do want to start a business one day, don't know what type of business and I was hoping coming here would give me a direction of which direction I would like to go," Morris said. "I know which direction not to go in. Fashion. They said don't make clothing, it's going to fail.

"It's just such a hard [business]. It was different people talking, and they mentioned that and then somebody else piggybacking saying, ‘Don't do that.' It's just such a hard market to tap into."

Morris said one player in the seminar told a story of starting a fashion company and having leftover inventory still in his garage. Morris asked about baby clothing and was told to stay away from all clothing. Small bits of information like that have been helpful to him the entire week.

Understanding the business world is part of the point of this week for the 30-plus current and former NFL players in attendance, including the Miami Dolphins' Cameron Wake and Green Bay Packers' Julius Peppers. Throughout the week, they had site visits for various companies while having seminars with professors at the Ross School learning about franchising, real estate and production design.

And most players came in with varying ideas and levels of experience.

"I wanted to look at it metaphorically as we're all sitting in the room as sponges, and my goal is to leave the room with the most content in my sponge, more than anybody in the room, all of my peers and colleagues," Detroit Lions tight end Tim Wright said. "Use that content that I attained and apply it right back to my operations that I got going right now."

Wright has a foundation, The Wright Way Academy, with plans on opening a barbershop in New Jersey by the end of 2016. He isn't the only one who wants to delve into the world of cosmetology.

San Francisco 49ers running back DuJuan Harris wanted to pick up business knowledge for himself and for his wife, who wants to open her own salon. Harris said he's thinking of attending again in 2017 and bringing her along.

"Every course we're going over is something new to me," Harris said. "I didn't have much knowledge of all this stuff before, but it's really been helpful."

The NFL also brought in former players who have succeeded in business to speak to the group, including former Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans linebacker Bradie James, who now works with Mooyah Burgers, a national burger chain. Franchising appealed to Morris, who saw it as somewhat similar to football.

And it could be an easier go than the fashion industry.

"Seeing the franchising side, I wouldn't mind doing that," Morris said. "Seeing a playbook that's already set and an idea of how business is run, what it takes to build a business up and what it takes from finding a location to contract and building it up and actually getting it to run and revenue ebbing and flowing through the door.

"So I wouldn't mind starting that way, figuring it out and then start launching my own thing. Who knows what direction that could go in?"