Once Trace Armstrong entered the NFL in 1989 as a first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears, he quickly became known for the incredible effort he poured into all he did. So perhaps it comes as no surprise that the Pro Bowl defensive end’s legacy encompasses much more than his 15-year playing career.
After becoming the Bears Player Rep in his second season and serving on the NFLPA’s Executive Committee, Armstrong was elected as the union’s president in 1996. He went on to serve four consecutive two-year terms as President until his retirement from the NFL following the 2003 season, making him the longest tenured President in NFLPA history.
Although there were no strikes, lockouts or major antitrust suits filed during Armstrong’s NFLPA career, he left his mark by leading several union initiatives that benefited present and future players. Armstrong was the prime mover behind the NFLPA Financial Advisors Program when it was first implemented in 2001 and also served as a member of the Joint NFL/NFLPA Safety Committee, pushing for teams to implement protocols to better adjust to heat and conditioning at the start of training camp. Armstrong also helped form the NFL’s Diversity Committee in 2002, leading to the development of the Rooney Rule that requires teams to interview African-American coaching candidates for open positions.
During Armstrong's presidency, the NFLPA implemented the first nutritional supplements program, which helped players avoid substances that were banned under the NFL/NFLPA Policy on Performance Enhancing Drugs. Armstrong also pushed initiatives for agent regulation as well as helmet safety and player health and performance.
Known for his penchant to educate younger players about the history of the league and union, Armstrong was one of four finalists for the NFLPA’s Executive Director position in 2009 following Gene Upshaw’s death. Since retiring from the NFL as a member of the 100-sack club and earning a master's degree in business, Armstrong has spearheaded the coaching representation arm at Creative Artists Agency, serving as the agent for coaches like Ohio State's Urban Meyer and Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers, as well several sports broadcasters.