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Robert Smith making all pro moves in the social health technology space
Giant Steps
By Alan Grant

As a running back, Robert Smith was something of a long-strider. His motion was smooth, efficient, and graceful. He moved with purpose. During his eight years in the National Football League, Smith had an air about him that made it seem like he was always heading towards a place beyond the end zone. So it stands to reason that fifteen years after walking away from football, Smith’s new pursuit has taken him back to the competitive arena…and beyond.

Smith’s unique career at Ohio State is well documented—not just for his on field feats, but for his dedication to the pursuit of all around development. The Ohio State coaching staff either didn’t understand or fully grasp Smith’s desire for academic excellence. So he took a year off from football and became a sprinter. After some reconciliation from Coach John Cooper, Smith returned to resume his football career. But even then, that career was taking him to other places.

While in Columbus, Smith had plans to attend medical school. While taking courses in cloning and sequencing of genes, Smith had an epiphany. “I wanted to go to medical school,” he says, “but I didn’t want to be a doctor. That’s when I realized I was really interested in personalized medicine.”

Smith spent eight years with the Vikings where he went to a pair of Pro Bowls and (before the Adrian Peterson era) became the Vikings all-time leading rusher. But that desire to attain a well-rounded life led to a then controversial decision that these days has become rather commonplace. Smith abruptly retired from football with sound mind, healthy body, and clean conscience.

A few years his retirement, a chance meeting at the airport, led to Smith his next professional pursuit. Smith met a guy named Drew Hewitt from AT&T.  After an enlightening discussion about topics like social media and mobile applications, Smith was intrigued. “I created a Twitter account right after that,” says Smith. Smith then hooked up with Taqtile, a Seattle based company known for its wizardry in mobile strategy. The result was Fan Health Network. Launched in April of 2015, Fan Health Network is an interactive app that provides fitness tips and health guidelines.

Smith’s vision was to combine the social media craze with the pursuit of healthy living. Fan Health is licensed with Ohio State to use the school’s logo and Smith immediately got some big name Buckeye running backs to entice Buckeye Nation. Former Chicago Bears running back Raymont Harris and Eddie George both of whom battle high cholesterol, are two of the “captains” who generate content for the site. Former Buckeye linebacker Tom Cousineau, (also a co-founder) basketball analyst Clark Kellogg, and NFL Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter are other famous Buckeyes captains in the Fan Health mix. Espn’s Marcellus Wiley, who’s attributed his partial kidney failure to use of painkillers during his career as a defensive end for the Bills, Chargers, Jaguars and Cowboys, is also a captain. Smith says he’d like former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis to join, but may have to pay him “a little bit more.”

Mark Verstegen, CEO of EXOS—who trains approximately 30 % of the NFL’s players, not to mention Special Forces troops and folks across the spectrum—was also added to the Fan Health Network family. Then Smith went back to his medical roots to land a really big fish—the Mayo Clinic, which will route info to people based on their specific health needs. 

Health apps like Fit Bit are pretty common these days. But Smith thinks he’s carved out a niche with Fan Health. “We want to create a cool experience along with sports,” says Smith. “It’s a two-way street. Athletes promote application, but it also inspires people and taps in to their competitive nature and gives them added incentive to work out.” Smith says he’s purposely targeting former athletes. “Younger guys feel great all the time,” laughs Smith. “They’ll tell you, yeah, I did 405 on the bench today or I ran six miles. But the former players, the ones who are struggling to maintain their health, will benefit from this. Because of that they add more value.

That’s where the competition part comes in. Fan Health Network is arranged into 12 six week programs, called challenges. Challenge is the key metric. After you join, you get your blood pressure taken and get fitted with a label. You post pictures of yourself working out and eating well, which informs your friends/competitors about that day’s accomplishments. Says Smith, “you can upload a photo and send it to your friends with a caption like “hey, I got mine in today!” Smith is especially excited by the interaction between celebrities and former athletes. “I look at it like American Idol meets the Biggest Loser,” he says.

Spoken like a guy who takes big steps.

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Illini Legends, Lists and Lore: Happy birthday, Ernie McMillan!
Sat, 02/20/2016 - 11:09pm | Mike Pearson

Only a handful of former Illini football players played longer in the NFL than he did, but Ernie McMillan remains today as one of the least recognized stars. Recruited out of Chicago’s DuSable High School by Ray Eliot in 1957, he lettered twice for “Mr. Illini” in ’58 and ’59, then played his senior season for Pete Elliott.
McMillan never earned all-star honors as a collegiate tight end, but NFL scouts liked his 6-foot-6, 236-pound frame and the promising prospects of redefining him as a professional. At the 1961 NFL draft, St. Louis Cardinals head coach Pop Ivy first picked McMillan’s Illini teammate Marshall Starks in the eighth round, then drafted McMillan five rounds later.
McMillan was turned into an offensive tackle and played six games as a rookie. At age 24 in Season 2, No. 72 began an amazing streak of 162 consecutive games as a starter. During his career, McMillan played in four Pro Bowls (1965, ’67, ’69 and ’70) and was selected All-Pro twice (1967 and ’69). Ernie’s four Pro Bowl appearances rank second to only Conrad Dobler among offensive tackles in Cardinals history.
The McMillan family has produced a number of professional athletes, including Ernie’s older brother, Shellie, who played basketball for the Detroit Pistons and St. Louis Hawks. Ernie’s son, Erik, was a defensive back at Missouri, then he played five seasons for the New York Jets and secured spots in the 1988 and ’89 Pro Bowls. McMillan’s nephew, Howard Richards, was a first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 1981 and played in the NFL through the ’87 season.
On Sunday, Ernie McMillan celebrates his 78th birthday in University City, Mo.
Other Illini birthdays
Sunday: Larry Schulz, football (61)
Wednesday: Simeon Rice, football (42)
Thursday: Dana Howard, football (44)
Saturday: Jon Kerr, football (44)

Editors note: Ernie was also an NFLPA Team Player Representative during his career. He passed that leadership fire down to his son Erik (pictured below) who also was a player rep. Erik served in numerous leadership positions in the Atlanta former players chapter as well as serving on the NFLPA former players board of directors. Erik is now a captain with the Trust helping to inform all former players about the transition services they provide.

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Nebraska Hires Former Player John Parrella as its Defensive Line Coach
Head Coach Mike Riley has hired John Parrella as Nebraska’s defensive line coach, completing the 2016 coaching staff. Parrella comes to Nebraska after two seasons as the defensive line coach at Northern Michigan University. A native of Grand Island, Neb., Parrella was an All-Big Eight defensive tackle at Nebraska and played 12 seasons in the NFL.

Parrella has made a fast rise in the coaching profession after his long playing career. Prior to his two seasons on the Northern Michigan staff, Parrella served as an assistant coach at Chabot Junior College in Hayward, Calif., in 2013. Chabot finished first in the Golden Gate Conference and won the Top of the State Bowl game for the Central Division Championship.
Parrella first made his mark as a coach at Valley Christian High School in San Jose, Calif. Parrella started the varsity program at the school and guided the Vikings to four straight North Coast Section Division IV playoff appearances. In his first season, he led Valley Christian to the semifinals of the NCS playoffs.
“I am fired up to be a part of the Nebraska program and to have the opportunity to work with this coaching staff,” Parrella said. “I have nothing but the greatest respect for Coach Riley and the University of Nebraska.”
The success in coaching followed Parrella’s championship playing career at both the collegiate and professional levels.  Parrella was a two-time All-Big Eight selection at Nebraska in 1991 and 1992, and was a team captain in his senior season. Parrella was a part of three Big Eight title teams during his Husker career, and was the 1992 Nebraska Lifter of the Year. Parrella was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
A second-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills in 1993, Parrella played 12 seasons in the NFL. He played in three Super Bowls, one each with the Bills, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders. During Parrella’s final three seasons with the Chargers from 1999 to 2001, Riley served as San Diego’s head coach and NU defensive coordinator Mark Banker was also on the Chargers’ staff. Parrella finished his career with 26.5 sacks and more than 400 total tackles.

Click here for the full story

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The NFLPA's own Andre Collins presents a golden football to his former high school.
George Rider, Staff Writer
February 2, 2016

Not many high schools can say they had a player who won an NCAA National Championship with Penn State, played ten seasons in the NFL and was part of a Super Bowl-winning team.

Yesterday, the man who grew up in Cinnaminson, NJ and starred for CHS, Andre Collins, returned to his alma mater to honor it with the NFL’s commemorative golden football.  The golden football is a gold-colored NFL football that players and and coaches who appeared in a Super Bowl can give to their school they graduated from to show their appreciation.

Andre was an exceptional athlete and student for Cinnaminson, graduating as a member of the National Honor Society. After his graduation in 1986, he went on to Penn State, where he was one of the nation’s top linebackers.  Collins was a Butkas Trophy finalist during the 1989 season, given to the nation’s best linebacker and graduated as a part of Penn State’s last national championship team from 1986 when the team defeated Miami in the Orange Bowl.  After Penn State, he was selected in the second round, 46th overall, in the 1990 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins. He played for four different teams during his ten-year career – Washington, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Detroit.

Collins came back to the CHS yesterday, a few days before the NFL’s 50th Super Bowl, to give the honorary football in person. The Cinnaminson Football team, Cinnaminson administration, past and present school staff, former coaches and some reporters came out in support of the event that was impressively emceed by Mr. Patrizi, current football coach of CHS. He expressed his feelings toward Cinnaminson when he said, “I’ve gone all over the world, but there’s just something great here at Cinnaminson.”

Collins shared what pushed him as an athlete to do big things. “I was motivated by my coach, Coach Wallace,” Andre said. “He said ‘you gotta hustle, and play with your heart’. Every hot summer day and all those workouts, those words pushed me.”

Collins expressed his appreciation towards everybody that came to show support too. “I am so blown away to see all the people here that have helped me through my life,” Collins said.

Collins isn’t just an athlete, he graduated from Penn State with a Bachelor of Science in Health Policy and Administration. He even lived out one of his dreams for a little bit by working as a hospital administrator after his playing days were over. “It was something I’ve always wanted to do so it was great to check that off my list.”
Andre was a polished public speaker and shared some great stuff for everybody. But one thing he said was for the students there to keep school first. “Remember, it’s more important to be a student first, and an athlete second.”

He was asked about how college tried to recruit him and what he thought about while looking. “I remember tons of letters, lots of mail and visits from coaches. Not a lot of Cinnaminson players go to the NFL so I didn’t really think about it,” he continued. “I visited Stanford, Iowa, Michigan, Penn State and Illinois (on my official visits).  I wanted to attend Illinois but my mom didn’t want that so I chose Penn State. In the end, I am glad that I ended up going to Penn State.”

Remarkably, Andre had the luck to play for two of the greatest coaches in the history of the game.  At Penn State, Andre played for the legendary coach Joe Paterno, who retired as the all-time leader in NCAA wins at Penn State. Coach Paterno actually came to Cinnaminson High School a few times back in 1985-86, sneaking in the back doors to avoid fanfare, to make sure to sign Andre.  After Penn State, Andre was drafted by the Redskins, where he was coached by Joe Gibbs, who is still among the top 20 in NFL history in coaching wins and who led the Redskins to the NFL title in Super Bowls XVII and XXVI.

Andre is still part of the NFL to this day. He has been part of the team of the National Football League Players Association, helping to guide retired player for the past 12 years. He is especially visible for the NFL during Super Bowl week at fundraisers, auctions, and other events for it too.

Back in 1992, Collins showed his hometown appreciation towards a certain person. His favorite teacher from Eleanor Rush School, Linda Adderley. He nominated her for ‘Teacher of the Month’ which if you win the NFL allows player to honor. Mrs. Adderley did win and was the first ever South Jersey teacher to win this award. The elementary school was so pleased with the nomination and award that they dedicated the walking track outside Rush school to Mrs. Adderley.

Cinnaminson Superintendent, Dr. Salvatore Illuzzi, went up to the podium and expressed his thoughts on Collins.

“You’re one of the most kind people I have ever met in my life and (most) people don’t expect that from an NFL player,” Dr. Illuzzi said.

This was the popular feeling of the day and shows how most feel about Collins, who was personally greeting each and every person who came into the library for the celebration.  CHS Principal Mrs. Llewellyn later went on to announce that CHS is going to have a trophy case for the Golden Football in order to recognize all of the achievements of Collins.

In his life, Andre Collins has pushed himself and showed Cinnaminson how hard work really does pay off.

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Football Players Health Study at Harvard University
Partnering with Former Players: A Collaboration

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Learn more about the Football Players Health Study
The Football Players Health Study at Harvard University is now the largest study of its kind. This study will benefit former players for generations to come, let's keep the momentum going! To learn more about the study, click on the video above to watch and go to the website:
I Am The Trust
Listen to former players who have used our services talk about their experiences with our partners and programs.
Duration: 3:58

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How to Build a Resume Website That Will Impress Every Hiring Manager Who Sees It
By Erin Greenawald

There are plenty of good reasons to have your own website—if you want to build your online brand, for example, or start a side project.
But for most of you reading this, the reason you want to create a website is because you want to get a job, and you know a sleek resume website highlighting your experience could help you stand out from other candidates—or even help a hiring manager find you to fill a position.
And while you could just copy and paste your resume onto a web page, the online possibilities really are endless, so why not go big or go home?
Don’t worry, though; this doesn’t have to take weeks of your life. If you want to turn your resume into a website that impresses, try one of the strategies below—all of which can be done with no coding knowledge and very little time using website building tools like Squarespace.

For the tips visit here

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A former NFL player’s health is the starting point for a successful transition to life after football. The Trust's Brain and Body program is designed to assess health needs and provide world-class medical care.
The key resource here is the Brain and Body Health Assessment, which is provided by several leading health institutions located all around the country. The Trust has assembled a team of highly regarded medical centers. Each has direct experience in treating NFL players and is committed to helping them develop and maintain a healthy brain and body. Each partner will also provide a recommendation containing a plan of action that each player can follow in his home community. 
The medical centers will provide former players with the following benefits:

Initial Screening
  •  -- Identification of potential needs
  •  -- Evaluation with Sports Medicine Psychiatrist
Musculoskeletal/Rehabilitation Evaluation
  •  -- Discuss injury history and current functional status
  •  -- Dietary Consultation
Cognitive and Neuropsychological Evaluation
  •  -- Brain MRI
Transition Counseling
  •  -- Sports Psychology Counseling
  •  -- Goal Setting Sessions
  •  -- Life Transition Programming
Subspecialty Referral Facilitation in Patients’ Local Area
  •  -- Medical Services
  •  -- Social Services

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Brain and Body Health Program
Tulane University and Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine
Cleveland Clinic
Massachusetts General Hospital Brain and Body Program

If you don't have healthcare, Working America can help:
To learn more about the transition offerings of The Trust, visit their website.

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We are "One Team", built around a fraternity of former NFL Players who are aligned, connected and engaged, working together in life beyond football.

800-372-2000 x132

Nolan Harrison III, MBA
Senior Director

Dee Becker
Assistant Director

Lorenzo Kaufman
Senior Manager

Amber Edwards
Membership Services Coordinator

Garrett Wooddell

NFLPA National Office

1133 20th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036

Office Hours
Monday - Friday
9:00am - 5:30pm EST

Free Lifetime Membership
Please update your contact information  to earn your free lifetime membership and to learn more about what the Former Player Services Department offers our players. Renew your membership online through your profile page on 

Thank you for your commitment to the union who has fought for, and will continue to fight for, our rare and special fraternity. You can also call Membership Services at 202-756-9165 if you have any membership or internet questions.

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Updated NFLPA FPSD Resource Book!
The new resource book with information on NFLPA Former Player Services, The Trust, the PAF and other important resources is now available to view on your smart phone and tablets. Click this link for easy access. 
Player Emergency Help
NFL Get Help Hotline
Upcoming Events
Health, Career, Education and Lifestyle Programs for Former Players
Bahati VanPelt | Executive Director

Benefits Department

Available to answer player benefits and insurance questions.

800-372-2000 x155
Miki Yaras-Davis | Sr. Director
Bethany Marshall | Director
Chris Smith | Asst. Director
Adora Williams | Sr. Manager
Brian Francis | Coordinator

Professional Athletes Foundation

Gene Upshaw Players Assistance Trust (PAT)
Helping players  in need.

800-372-2000 x166

Andre Collins | Executive Director

Tyrone Allen | Director

Caryl Banks | Manager

Leslie Isler | Coordinator
Former players can sign up to receive a questionnaire by clicking here.
Monetary grants for qualified vested former players experiencing hardships.

NFL Player Benefits Office

Baltimore, MD
NFL Benefits Office for T&P, Disability, Plan 88, pension, second career, annuity and other benefits filing.

Former Player Life Improvement Plan

Joint replacement, discount prescription card, assisted living and more.
Off the Field is the national football player wives association 
Click HERE for more information on Off The Field Players' Wives Association

Membership Rewards

ONE TEAM Shop is the official online store of the NFLPA, and features name and number product for EVERY current player.  Former players be sure to check the Member Benefits section of for your 30% discount code.
Former player members receive a 20% discount on purchases at NFLShop and 877-NFL-SHOP
Links Unlimited provides 20% to former player members.
Save 40-50% through Callaway Golf's VIP Program. Email your name and email address to We will set up your online account so you can begin shopping immediately.
Union Plus is brought to you by Union Privilege, established by the AFL-CIO to provide consumer benefits to members and retirees of participating labor unions. Learn More

Transition Resources

Featured Partners

Athlife provides assistance to former players with all aspects of their education goals and helps players develop degree completion plans that allow flexibility to not return to campus or transfer. 

All former players are eligible with an NFLPA Former Player Membership. (Former players with 2+ credited seasons are eligible through The Trust.)

To access the membership benefits of Athlfe, please call:
(202) 756-9132.
The YMCA believes in strengthening individuals and communities. With a presence in 10,000 neighborhoods across the country, the Y has the reach and ability to help you transition to life off the playing field.

All former players are eligible with an NFLPA Former Player Membership. (Former players with 2+ credited seasons are eligible through The Trust.)

To access the free YMCA membership, call today:  
(202) 212-6188

Health Partners

Mayo Clinic would like to reach out to invite former player members to receive a proactive comprehensive heart health evaluation at one of their locations.  Schedule an appointment by contacting Elva Ortiz (Program Coordinator) at or call 480-301-8216
If you and your family do not have health insurance, the NFLPA is proud to recommend Working America Health Care.  In collaboration with GoHealth, Working America Health Care offers you:
  • information about health care law
  • an easy way to shop for health insurance
  • the lowest rates available
Don't sit on the bench and miss out on this unique opportunity.

Call 800-907-8683 or visit the NFLPA specific website.

Business Mentoring

With over 13,000 volunteers in 347 chapters, SCORE has the expertise you need to succeed.

Use the Chapter Locator to find a SCORE office near you and request a free face to face mentoring meeting.


The NFLPA has partnered with Penn State World Campus to support the educational needs of NFLPA members. The World Campus offers more than 100 accredited graduate degrees, undergraduate degrees, certificates, and minors.

Penn State ranked as the No. 1 institution in the nation for producing the best-prepared, most well-rounded graduates who are most able to succeed once hired, according to a survey by The Wall Street Journal.

Penn State World Campus offers NFLPA members a tuition reduction benefit for all degree and certificate programs. Learn more about how you can receive a top-quality education, completed at your convenience, from one of the world’s most renowned universities. 
The NFLPA has partnered with the University of Phoenix to provide former player members with educational opportunities that can provide you with skills and knowledge to help you excel.  To learn more , visit our University of Phoenix member page.
American Public University (APU_ and the NFLPA have teamed up to offer former player members flexible and affordable online degree programs and career services.

Former player members also have access to a variety of career services, including career coaching, mentoring and networking opportunities, as well as university-sponsored job boards and career fairs.

Visit APU's former player website for more information.

Social Networks

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Don't forget to visit the NFL Players Association's website for updates and information about all players. One Team!
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Contact Us

1133 20th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20036

Nolan Harrison III, MBA
Senior Director, Former Player Services
NFL Player 1991 - 2000
Twitter: @nolanharrison74

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