Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater isn't ready to hang up his cleats, but he knows one day he will have to.
"When you first get into the NFL, they tell you, 'Listen, NFL stands for 'not for long,' " said Bridgewater, who has been sidelined the last two seasons by a knee injury. "I'm not going to be able to play football forever."
With that in mind, his financial adviser encouraged him to attend a half-day workshop on Friday at Target Corp. aimed at helping current and former NFL players think about transitioning to other careers when their days on the field are over.
This is the third year the NFL Players Association has conducted business-related workshops and tours in the Super Bowl host city during the week leading to the big game. The idea is to give players an opportunity to network with business executives and expose them to potential post-playing career paths. In addition to the Target workshop, players could go on private tours of Paisley Park and the Mayo Clinic's Sports Medicine Center.
Standing in front of a sunny conference room on the 32nd floor of Target's Nicollet Mall headquarters, CEO Brian Cornell told the 15 or so players in attendance that he once wanted to be in their shoes playing for the NFL.
"Unfortunately, I peaked when I was about 13 years old," he said to laughs. "I was 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds. … The problem is, I'm still 5-9 and 170 pounds."
Cornell did play football during high school and his first year in college at UCLA. He then coached high school football for the next three years of college once he realized a future as a professional player wasn't in his cards. He considered a career in coaching football, but decided instead to go into business, starting off his career at PepsiCo where he spent 23 years.
While at Pepsi, he befriended Danny Pittman, a wide receiver for the New York Giants who was trying to figure out what to do when he retired from football. Cornell convinced him to come to work at Pepsi and to go back to school to get another degree. The two remain close friends.
"I started to understand how challenging it can be for many of you to make that transition into a new environment," he said. "I hope at Target we can help many of you, as you think about that next step."
During the workshop, Target executives advised players on how to climb the corporate ladder and various career paths within the company from marketing to real estate and store operations.
They also heard from another former NFL player who already works at Target — Ian Allen, who played for six years as an offensive tackle for the Giants, Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles. He was wearing his giant silver Eagles ring on Friday, providing a big hint about the team he will be rooting for on Sunday.
Allen retired from football a decade ago at 29. He spent the next four years as a sports commentator and entrepreneur. But he didn't see a long-term future there so he decided to get an MBA.
"I want to push the guys who aren't thinking about it yet," he said in an interview before the workshop. "About three years out, if you haven't figured out something, it almost becomes a little bit too late. So that's the whole point of this."
Allen joined Target last year as a senior manager of finance and strategy after stints with General Motors and Xerox.
"I'm from the East Coast — why come to the middle of negative-4 degree weather?" he asked the other players.
He said there are similarities between retail and football. When he was still playing, he would get weekly scouting reports on his competitors.
"Translate that to what we do here, it's the same concept," he said. "Taking the facts and figures with respect to our competition and being able to be proactive and make sure that we're successful from a competitive standpoint."
Not everyone was at the seminar to think about a job in retail or at Target. At least one player was hoping to use the opportunity to get an in with Target as a potential business partner.
Fresh from an appearance on Shark Tank Sunday — in which he and his partners failed to secure a deal — Justin Forsett, a former running back for the Baltimore Ravens, was hoping to set up a meeting with Target executives to discuss his product, the ShowerPill.
ShowerPill is a thick premium body wipe that is like a disposable washcloth. The idea was inspired from his playing days when he was constantly working out and sweating all day but didn't want to shower several times a day.
"My goal is to get [it picked up by] three big-box retailers this year," he said.
For Forsett, who spent nine years playing in the NFL, thinking about what he would do next was always top of mind.
"I was fired six times in my career so I had to think about the end a lot," said the 32-year-old who retired last year.
Kavita Kumar • 612-673-4113