Former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Chuck Noll was famous for many things, but perhaps the most important thing that he came to be known for, other than his success as a professional football coach, was his belief in players understanding the need, and the time, to go on from football and find their “life’s work”.
It’s a lesson that seems all too obvious, yet is one that many professional athletes fail to learn, especially those less fortunate to have a comparatively brief career, finding themselves having been flushed from the NFL talent pool by their mid-20s, a variable that they had never accounted for before.
One player who has certainly become invested in his life’s work over the course of the past several offseasons, however, is former Steelers safety Will Allen, who started 15 games including the playoffs for the team last season, missing three games due to injury.
While the Steelers have not—as of yet, at least—re-signed the 12-year veteran, Allen still has every intention of playing in the NFL this season, and is waiting and hoping for a phone call from any team that might have a need for his veteran presence.
But he isn’t just sitting by the phone in the meantime. In fact, he has been highly engaged over the course of the past few offseasons in building upon his post-football future, discovering a certain passion for energy efficiency, where he has worked with industry leaders and members of Congress alike in an effort to address concerns.
In fact, he will be speaking at the Energy Efficiency Forum today in the nation’s capital as a panelist in front of many other leaders of the field in the hope of influencing and inspiring innovation and industry in working with alternative fuels and creating more energy-efficient machines and infrastructure.
Perhaps it has a lot to do with the fact that we often don’t get a glimpse into the post-football life of many players—and Allen would certainly object to the notion that he is currently in his post-football life—but it seems to me at least that his passion and drive for this issue are rare among athletes.
It seems that the typical athlete that is successful after his football career tends to be one who opened a restaurant, or something of that sort, and indeed several former Steelers have opened restaurants around the city.
In Allen’s case, however, it feels as though he has found an entirely new life passion beyond football, which seems to be a struggle for many athletes, and he hopes to be an inspiration for other athletes on that frontier as well.
Interviewed for an article on the topic published by the NFLPA, Allen said that he believes he is “laying some groundwork” for other athletes, and said, “I hope more athletes will venture out get out of their comfort zones, and really see what they want to do and what they can do”.
Considering professional athletes tend to have access to more resources, perhaps it might be for the good of society if others in their post-career lives take up pet causes, as they have the potential to do some real good, whether it is through charity work or in something like what Allen has found for himself.