This is a special podcast taped at a party we held on Super Bowl Saturday in Minneapolis from our offices overlooking US Bank Stadium, the site of Super Bowl LII held the next day between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. My guests were two retired NFL players, Jack Brewer and Sergio Brown, and current NFL player Mackensie Alexander. The three players talked about what it’s like to play in the NFL, including their experiences with two of the greatest coaches of all time, Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin, and their lives outside football. It is an amazing conversation unlike any you may have ever heard from professional athletes that will give you insight into what it takes to get to that level and how they apply those same skills to a life beyond football. There are lessons in the conversation for anyone and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did in hosting it.
Jon Sabes: Hi, welcome to another podcast of Innovating Life with Jon Sabes. It’s been a while since we’ve recorded a podcast, just talking here with my chief producer, Dan Callahan. Glad to be here today. This is a podcast conversation that I had with three NFL players on Super Bowl weekend, Super Bowl 52 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I want to say the Vikings versus the Patriots, but that was not to be. It was the Philadelphia Eagles versus the New England Patriots. We hosted a Super Bowl party here at our office. We were grateful to have Jack Brewer attend our event along with Sergio Brown and Mackensie Alexander. Jack played with the New York Giants and Vikings, Sergio Brown with the New England Patriots, Mackensie Alexander with the Minnesota Vikings. We talked about life in and out of the NFL, about Sergio’s experience now working at Google, and what it took to get an MBA from the University of Miami, a program designed by Jack Brewer for NFL pro-athletes to create a life for themselves after football. So it’s a great conversation. We talk about all the great work that Jack Brewer’s doing in his charitable life, and finally, what it feels like to be coached by two of the greatest coaches in NFL history. So I hope you enjoy the podcast and stay tuned for more. (Music)
Jon Sabes: Behind us, right, is our amazing stadium that we’re going to host the Super Bowl this, well, tomorrow, and we are really excited about having the Super Bowl party, and inviting everyone down to Minneapolis, being a part of the community, getting to see our friends and family be together, be in our house, and have some fun. So great to see everyone here today. Thanks for coming down. Part of our extended family here is a good friend, Mr. Jack Brewer, the Brewer Foundation, and we’re especially pleased that he’s here with Sergio and some others. We’re bringing the NFL here to GWG, and our house, and that’s a real honor. Jack, former Minnesota Vikings. I might add Jack, Jack Brewer. It’s just great to be here at Super Bowl. We were talking again about that for a lot of years as well. We’ve got a special affinity for Jack. He runs a terrifically successful financial services business, and marketing, PR, media business. He has been busy, busy, busy. I was thinking this morning, as I was struggling to get myself out of bed and get here, man, how does Jack Brewer do it? Because this guy works, you want to talk about going the extra mile, Jack Brewer really works hard. So we are so honored to have him here, bring a little of the flavor of the NFL in our house. Jack does a tremendous amount of work through his foundation, rebuilding Haiti after the natural disaster there, and we’re a proud supporter of the efforts he does in his philanthropic ways. So, without further ado, and I won’t screw up any more NFL football, Jack, thank you, thank you for coming here, and maybe tell us a little about the Super Bowl, and gives us some NFL feel, what it’s like to be here, what’s going on.
Jack Brewer: It’s been a long time coming, right. We got the Super Bowl. And I actually have a current Minnesota Viking, Mackensie Alexander. The snow, I mean people are freaking out, especially the guys that aren’t from Minnesota. (Laughs) No, it’s been an amazing week, like Jon said. You know, for me, I went to school at the University of Minnesota. I played ball there, was a captain of that team, and then had the honor to put on the purple, and wear that helmet, and was also a captain on the Vikings. So I grew up a Vikings fan. My dad fell in love with the Minnesota Vikings. Most of you weren’t even alive then when Jim Marshall picked the ball up and ran the wrong way. (Laughs) My dad was a 10-year-old kid at the time, and he instantly became a Minnesota Vikings fan. (Laughs) And so I grew up in a house where I had Chuck Foreman posters in my room. Anthony Carter was one of my favorite players, you know, Carl Lee. I can name the whole roster, right. So it was unique because I grew up in Texas, and being minutes away from Texas Stadium, I had some battles going to school wearing purple, I’ll tell you that. (Laughs) Ironically, I was just blessed to be able to get a chance to come up here for school, and then I didn’t get drafted. I led the Big Ten in tackles. My senior year I averaged 16.1 tackles a game in the Big Ten. I had 25 tackles at Michigan at their house, had 22 tackles against Ohio State, and I didn’t get drafted. (Laughs) So I watched 26 guys go before me, and then ended up, it was the biggest blessing of my life because the Minnesota Vikings doubled what everybody else was going to pay me for free agency, to keep me here. I lived in my college apartment, saved my money, so it turned out to be truly great. I started my foundation here in Minnesota. Now I’m a partner in a Cowboy Jack’s restaurant. I just love coming back here, so for me it’s an honor, and I worked tirelessly, man, the last six months in putting together a host of Super Bowl events just to welcome my people. I think we got over a hundred people have come into town from all over the country to attend our events, and be involved in what we have going on. You can see some of my amazing team in the Brewer Media outfits. We’ve been covering, we’ve been doing media hits the entire week. We’ve been covering all the big parties. We sponsored most of the big ones. I think we’ve done 30 media hits nationwide in the last 72 hours, so I haven’t been sleeping very much. (Laughs)
JS: You look good. You look good.
JB: No, I mean, this is cool. I’m honored to be here, and I want to introduce you all to another one of my really good friends, and I’ll have him say a few words, but before we go there, I want to tell you something about Sergio Brown. You guys get some time, look him up. He’s from Chicago, from a rough area of Chicago, one of those kids that defied all the odds. We met actually, Sergio decided to take a program that I started where we help current and former athletes get their MBAs, so it’s an MBA program at the University of Miami. I took the program with Sergio, and so Sergio’s still playing ball, came and worked, and got his MBA, ended up playing one more season, then saying, screw it, I’m going to work for Google. So last year he started working at Google. I’m just humbled and proud of him. He’s like a little brother to me, so I wanted to bring him here. He didn’t play for the Vikings, but he got a Minnesota heart. (Laughs) Without further ado, Mr. Sergio Brown. (Applause)
Sergio Brown: Thank you for that kind introduction. I’m Sergio Brown. I’m from Chicago, so I’m a midwest guy at heart through and through. Went to Notre Dame University, Notre Dame. I graduated in 2010 with a business marketing degree. I didn’t play football growing up. I was more of a basketball fan. In high school I ended up dislocating my foot my junior year, making a highlight tape for football, and then saying, kind of saying the same thing with this Google stuff, like, I want to play football now. And next thing you know, I had 31 offers, and was like, ok, I’m going to go to Notre Dame. I had a business marketing major at Notre Dame, and I didn’t get drafted either. Bill Belichick gave me a nice free agency, I guess, whatever you can get nice in free agency. (Laughs) But he gave me opportunity, basically. He gave me opportunity to come try out and be on a team, same year as Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. I played there for two years, and then I went to the Indianapolis Colts, played with the Indianapolis Colts for three years. I got there the same year as Andrew Luck, and I stayed there for three years. So that was five straight chances to get into the playoffs, playing on two wonderful teams, different coaching styles. It enlightened me about life and football, and made me a better person. And then I ended up going to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Two claps, a Ric Flair, and went to Jacksonville. (Laughs) And started taking my MBA with Jack, as he said. So I was down in Miami. I’m one of those people that says life is what you make it. What are you really doing with your free time? I decided, you know, let me get a little bit of money, let me figure out what I’m going to do with this money, and go to school, and invest in myself. That’s when I met Jack, and that network of people and that school was a tremendous catalyst for the transition that I’m making right now to be totally honest with you. So, I went to Jacksonville for a year, then I ended up going to Buffalo Bills for a year, and when my contract was up, I was like, you know what, I was kind of actually doing a lot of networking, and just trying to figure out what’s next on the off-season. I got my degree, so I wanted to really start a business or something. Through the networking and me figuring things out around this time last year, I was talking to the director of healthcare from Google, and he offered me a job. He was like, why don’t you just come work for Google, and I was like, I am not ready to leave football. (Laughs) I cannot do this with Google, I don’t know what’s going on, but I was like, you know what, yeah, I’m going to do it. I took that leap of faith, and I’m here now. (Applause)
JS: That’s a great story. I mean, so much of life is about achieving no matter where you came from, what your expectations of the future are, you start getting to work, and getting at it. Two terrific stories of guys who’ve worked hard, had visions of what they wanted to do, and just keep moving forward to achieve their goals, and that’s what we do here every day at this company. So, on message, on point, and you know, what a great weekend to be here in Minneapolis, and thank you for coming down, and sharing a little bit with us. We got another former NFLer in the room. You want to say a few words Mr. Autry? Yeah? Hello.
Autry Beamon: My name is Autry Beamon. I played in the last Minnesota Vikings Football Super Bowl that they played in, which was about 40 years ago. And I’m very sorry that we were not able to bring it home this year. It’s nice to meet all of you, and I’d be happy to sign some autographs for the kids. (Applause)
JS: Thank you. We’re putting on our best face in hosting the Philadelphia Eagles. It was a little harder than it should have been, but we’re all good, and hopefully we’ll be back better and stronger next year. So, I think with that, Dan, if you’ve got any– Oh, yeah, sure, Jack.
JB: So just so you guys know, my phone’s ringing because Mackensie is on his way up here. He was finding parking, so we can give him a couple minutes to make it. I wanted to brag on Jon for a little bit.
JS: Uh oh.
JB: And GWG, and GWG foundation, seriously. Jon’s like a mentor to me. He mentioned the support that GWG gives to our organization, the Jack Brewer Foundation. I like to brag about him because the resources that have been given to us last year helped us build a women’s cancer clinic in Haiti. Has anyone been to Haiti in here in the room? Patrick, he’s on our board so that doesn’t count. (Laughs) So Haiti’s a place, it’s the poorest country in our hemisphere, and you can hear it, but unless you kind of see the conditions that these folks are living in. I mean, you’re talking about a place that doesn’t have any sanitation system, so there’s no running water systems. They don’t have waste management systems there. You can only imagine the conditions that these little kids are growing up in. The illiteracy rate is through the roof, over 70% illiteracy rate in the country. So you’ve just got a lot of people that don’t have access. One thing, one cause that always hit me in my heart was, you look at, I’m a father. I love my mama, so you see all these women and all these little girls who don’t even get a chance to go see a doctor. I mean, women that are 40, 50 years old never get a chance to go see a gynecologist. So that in itself for me really had an impact on me and hit me down deep. We found, partnered with an organization and built the first-ever women’s cancer clinic in Haiti. Through Jon’s support last year we screened 4,000 women for cancer, who would’ve never gone to the gynecologist. (Applause) We also treated 500 women who actually had cancer, cervical cancer, and we also treat breast cancer as well. So I wanted to tell you that story just because that’s just one thing that Jon has done. He’s also helped us with our orphanage this past year. We have three orphanages now that we support. And there’s the section of Haiti called Site Solèy. It means the city of sun in Creole. Creole is kind of a, it’s a more, I guess you want to say, a more simple form of French. And these people live in this little, it’s a slum. And there’s probably a million and a half people just living on top of each other, kids walking around with no shoes on, don’t go to school. It’s terrible, terrible conditions. And so we’ve been pulling some of those kids out and putting them into a nicer area of town, and giving them an orphanage. I mean they don’t even have parents, nothing. And so through Jon’s support, we started a working program where we’re taking these kids, and actually teaching them carpentry work, teaching them how to build, teaching them how to labor, really keeping it going back to the basics with this training program so that these children can then go on, and they’re selling the furniture in the streets, and they’re making money. So Jon believes in working hard, and I think that is kind of giving them a fish, excuse me, giving them a pole to go fish, instead of giving them a fish to eat. That’s really our motto. We’ve also created a sustainable feeding program where we have all the kids learning farming and agriculture, and it’s something that I’m passionate about. I travel all around the world. I do similar work in Malawi and other places, but you find that in these spots, folks can’t even feed themselves, right, and so they’ve got all this land, and they’re using primitive agriculture technologies, and so we’ve gone in and really strive to teach these orphans how to farm. And we’re talking about Haiti. This is a Haitian American, in my opinion, the pride of Haiti, Mackensie Alexander for the Vikings, and I’ll pass it to him in a second. But just talk about the country, Mackensie, just give them a lay of the land on some of the work we’re doing. I know I’ve talked to you about Jon before, but Jon, he’s our biggest sponsor, our biggest donor, and biggest supporter, so just bragging about him a little bit. But without further ado, everyone, Mackensie Alexander. (Applause)
Mackensie Alexander: Yeah, so, I’ve known Jack for a while now, and what he represents as a person, as a man, the things he does day in and day out. I really do appreciate him having me here today. I appreciate you guys coming here too for being here. About Haiti, yes, mom and dad is from Haiti. I went there after a game this year for my thanksgiving, I spent my thanksgiving in Haiti. I didn’t do it the traditional way. I went down there and went how my mom and dad did it, and went out there. It’s been a while. It’s been about 11 years since I’ve been to Haiti. So me going down there and having that experience was a blessing for me because it’s been a while, and soon as I touched down and I got there, and I saw how everybody was hustling, and they made anything out of scraps, and made it happen, and made it work, and didn’t make excuses, I realized, you know, this is why I’m in this situation. This is why I’m here, my purpose in life. And the way they hustle out there. Now I know why my mom does what she does every Saturday when she’s going out there looking for yard sales, you know what I mean. She’s out there looking around. Still, to this day, she’s still out there. (Laughs) Not enough, not enough at all. But talking about Haiti, and the things they’re doing out there, Jack and everybody doing out there, I am also a provider out there, and doing things out there. So this year, if anybody wants to join the trip that I have planned, me and Jack is planning and everything. I’m sponsored by Adidas, so we’re doing–
JB: He’s coming with us too.
Mackensie Alexander: Ok, yeah, everybody’s coming. (Laughs)
JS: I got an ok. (Laughs)
Mackensie Alexander: He got me. Every year I want to donate to something positively, and this year I’m doing a big $10,000 donation for the kids in Haiti and everything, so whoever wants to be a part of it, be freely to join, and it’s going to be a great movement, and I’m happy to be here.
JS: Thank you. (Applause)
JB: So does anyone have any questions for us? I don’t want to just get up and leave. (Laughs)
Audience member: I got one, Jack.
JB: Speak up please.
Audience member: Can you just talk a little bit about Tom Coughlin at the Giants, and Sergio, Bill Belichick, your experience with those two guys.
JB: Who do y’all want to hear first? Because I mean, I’m biased, right. I think Tom Coughlin is the most incredible coach in the NFL. I played for some amazing men. I’m self-trained a lot, but I watch people and having a chance to play for Coach Coughlin. I played for Andy Reid. I played for Denny Green, who was an amazing man. I played for John Harbaugh, Super Bowl winning coach from Philly, who was my special team’s coach. I played for Sean McDermott, coaching now Buffalo Bills. But I have to say that Tom Coughlin is hands down for me the greatest coach that I played for, because he brought everyone out of their comfort zone, and he was a disciplinarian. People look at him, and they say they see this stern, drill sergeant type of coach, but really what he was doing was taking boys to men. He was giving you those small little disciplinary things that you didn’t even realize you didn’t have, right, being five minutes early to meetings. We had the way you wear your socks, the way you wear your uniform, the way you talked to each other, talked to your coaches, putting a suit on to go travel to every game, had to have a suit on with a tie. And so a lot of people don’t see that, but I think today in our culture, as you see, things are changing in our youth. They have a lot, they see a lot, no matter how you try to screen them, and so I think for what Tom Coughlin has done for the league, and we saw it this year with the Jacksonville Jaguars, right. He came in, and he brought that old-school mentality. I call it old-school, but it should be the only school. He brought that respect level back to that locker room, where I think as you see the new league transforming. That’s why Tom Brady’s so successful, right, because he prepares better than everyone else, and he kept persisting, and right now he’s playing against kids, and they can’t think on his level. They line up, he knows what they’re doing before they do it. They don’t study as hard as he does. They got to practice, and they go home. They don’t spend the time, and so our whole culture has lost that in a way, right, that old-school, get there, all day study. That’s what Tom Coughlin brings, and that’s what he’s brought to me. He changed my life, and I watched the man, so that’s my perspective on Tom Coughlin.
Audience member: Bill Belichick?
Sergio Brown: Yeah, Belichick, man. (Laughs) Belichick, like Tom Coughlin, he’s a disciplinarian, he has that old-school mentality. Those coaches, it’s like, you’re not going to leave and say anything, oh, he’s a bad person, or he’s a good person. That person is just who he is. I think he created the best coach in football in New England. Regardless if you disagree with it, like it, or it’s not your cup of tea. Everyone thinks the same way. They believe in winning football games. So, Bill Belichick, he’ll hand you this book when you first get there, and he’ll tell you how big the hash marks are, how wide the numbers are, and he’d test you on it. (Laughs) He would test you on it. He has a philosophy on football, faith inside out, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. He really lives by that regiment, that preparation. He has signs on the wall that says, mental toughness, doing what’s right for the team even when it’s not right for you, so things like that on the wall. He really goes deep into the philosophy of football. He asks a lot, but the scouting department is really good. They only get people up there that really love football. People that don’t love football really don’t do well up there, and he surrounds himself with great people, smart people, and people that are willing to take that extra step to do what it takes to win, and are dedicated and things of that sort. He really has a wonderful way to play his personnel. He really knows how to use his personnel in a great way, and Belichick, that’s probably what makes him, he can win with his personnel, regardless if it’s on the field or off the field.
Audience member: What should fans look for tomorrow, and who do you think is going to win?
Sergio Brown: I think Tom Brady’s going to get a sixth ring. (Laughs) That’s what I think is going to happen, and I think it’s going to be a low scoring game. I think it’s going to be a low scoring game. I think Tom Brady’s going to get his ring, and like fourth quarter, you better have the TV on. (Laughs) That’s all I can say.
Audience member: How about you, Jack?
JB: You know, I have never been a Tom Brady fan. (Laughs) As a matter of fact, there’s two teams that no matter who they play, I was rooting against them, and that’s the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots. (Laughs) But, you know what, I love Brett Favre, I’m sorry. The man punched me on national TV, and I still love him. (Laughs) But anyway, we’ll talk about that later. After this past Super Bowl, when he did what he did, I became a Tom Brady’s fan. Just off of the respect level you got to have for this man, and what he’s done for so long, so well. Now he’s in his forties, and for me, once you get into your forties, and you’re playing in the National Football League, I’m cheering for you. (Laughs) Right, they talk about the underdog. That’s the underdog, 40 years old, still playing in the National Football League, incredible. So I’m with Sergio. I’m never better against Brady. I played for the Eagles, but I’m not betting against Brady.
Mackensie Alexander: I agree with Sergio. (Laughs) It’s going to be a low scoring game, but I agree. The Patriots are tough. (Laughs) They’re tough, I agree.
Audience member: Could you guys talk a bit, there’s a lot of kids in the room here. I was a youth football coach. You always can go for football, even as a senior. No one gets cut from football. So can you talk a little about the sport itself, how important it is to be part of that type of a team? Mackensie?
Mackensie Alexander: I think football in general just for the youth, you guys, it’s just a great platform, period, whether you want to play for fun or be serious about it, or make it a career, because when you’re around a bunch, a group of guys, you’re sweating, and you’re having fun, and you’re getting to know each other, that’s the best platform in my opinion because now it’s not about you. It’s about everybody else. When there’s a bigger goal in mind, you’ll reach your potential. Like the Patriots, that’s why they’re so good. Because it’s a group of men who’s getting together with the goal in mind to get a ring year in and year out. It’s not about who makes the play, who’s the hero. There’s going to be names and stuff like that, but the goal doesn’t matter. So, that’s the biggest platform for me, just being part of something that’s bigger than you. You don’t want to be selfish, it’s all about a team. At the same time, football can take you other places. It can grow leadership, make you a better person, a better man, you know what I mean. You communicate better with others. Whatever you decide to do in life, it will help you out, no matter what aspect of work and career that you get into. You just want to be in something. It doesn’t have to be football. It can be any kind of sports, get with guys, and have fun, you know, laugh, live. It’s just a great platform. That’s my opinion on it.
Sergio Brown: Yeah, I think so too. It’s a form of pure education, you know. You know how it is in school you’re educated in a different way, and in football you’re able to play to different strengths and learn a different way from different lessons. You learn how to get over those hard times. You know when you get that application, and they’re like, when have you ever accomplished a hard time. You see those incidences in football all the time, how to attack adversity, how to work with others, work in teams, and take orders from multiple directions, and distribute orders from multiple directions. It’s a lot of things that correlate and translate off the field, and lessons that we learn by playing football that help us in our everyday life.
JB: To go off of what you two guys, I’m going to look older, so, and I only say that because I’m a father of four. The game for me, I call it 360. It touches every part of your life. It teaches you lessons that can touch every part of your life. It’s made me a better man. It’s made me a better philanthropist, a better father, a better parent, I mean, everything. It touches it all because you go through so much adversity, and challenges, and ups and downs, because you’re playing on a team with 53, well, really, yeah, 53 other guys, and you’ve got cultures in the locker room that you got to deal with. You have attitudes in the locker that you have to deal with. You got the pressure. The only other job that has more pressure is probably the president, and that’s just because you might have people shooting at you, right. But when you’re playing in the National Football League, you can get cut at any minute, any minute. Every week they bring you in on Tuesdays, you can be walking in the locker room, every Tuesday they got 12, 15 guys working out, timing, trying to replace somebody on the team. And this is every week. Your contracts aren’t guaranteed. You’ve been working all your life, and it’s all you’ve been working on all your life, and at any moment they can just let you go, nothing else. So those pressures are at the max, and so when you get out, and you get done, we have a totally different perspective on life. Like you can’t put me in a boardroom or a meeting room and get me nervous. I can run down a football field and smash into a wedge with my head already hurting. (Laughs) And so it just pushes you physically and mentally, so as children, if you’re playing even flag football, I think it’s important. And I tell coaches this all the time because I actually coached the National Football League program, it’s really important. Football’s a unique sport. You can relate messages, and you can relate themes in your life to the game. So I just did a camp on Wednesday, and our themes at our camp, we had stations. And one station was about trust, right, we were doing drills where guys had to back themselves together, and one person had to have their eyes closed, and the other person had to trust that they weren’t going to get them messed up. I mean, so there’s different themes that you do. I mean, we talk about hard work, attitude, right. In football, you can’t have a bad attitude and win. If you have teammates that have a bad attitude, you are going to lose on Sunday. Period. Even if you had a bad day, right. I’ve had teammates that have lost parents, close people, right, maybe your wife or your girlfriend may be pregnant at home, about to have a baby. You can’t not show up on Sunday and wait for your baby to come because you’re on a 48-hour countdown, right. When was the first time you went and had a Thanksgiving dinner?
Sergio Brown: 12 years ago.
JB: Wow. When’s the last time you’ve been home for Thanksgiving or home for a holiday, Christmas?
Mackensie Alexander: Don’t remember, but it’s been a while.
JB: Ultimate sacrifice is what I’m saying, and so that’s what makes this game so different is because we really face those challenges, and it will go at you, and we have no choice.
JS: Ok, that was a conversation with Jack Brewer, formerly of the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings, captains at both of those teams, Mackensie Alexander with the Minnesota Vikings, and Sergio Brown with the New England Patriots. Three terrific guys. I know everyone in our crew who heard the conversation in person were impacted. They spoke of values, and the core ideas that we hold dear here at the company, and it really made for a great Super Bowl weekend here at our offices. So hope you enjoyed, take care until next time.