My Career Change: How Jim Pyne’s Business Career Took Off

When a professional athlete’s playing days are over, many do not realize that said athlete’s career in another field is often just beginning. As part of VIKTRE’s dedication to not only drive interaction between athletes and their fans, but also provide other athletes with inspiration on their own career transition, our Career team made it a priority to show how successful many athletes have been since their playing days ended in a feature called “My Career Change.”

In this installment of “My Career Change,” we interviewed former NFL offensive lineman Jim Pyne.

After a nine-year playing career in the NFL, he transitioned to the coaching ranks for a few years before deciding to get out of football. He did not stray far from his sports roots, as he ventured into sports business, establishing himself as a business development and sales superstar. As you will read in the interview, he had the guidance of a few career mentors early on in his business career that played an instrumental role on his development.

What sport did you play?

Football

What teams did you play for?

Virginia Tech Hokies

Drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Played for Tampa Bay, Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles

What industry did you change careers to?

After playing for nine years, I coached for three years (two with Tampa Bay, one with New Orleans). Then I decided to get out of football and transitioned into sports business as a director of business development for a company called The Elevation Group in Cleveland, OH.

How did you get into your new career?

After two years at Elevation, I started working for IMG College. While at IMG, I called on Marquis Jet and founder Kenny Dichter, with whom I hit it off and stayed in touch. From there, I went to the Bucs as their Chief Partnership Officer. Meanwhile, Kenny [Dichter] had sold Marquis and started Wheels Up. He told me I should check it out and I became both a founding partner and investor in the company. It’s been great.

What was the biggest challenge you faced making your transition?

Here’s the thing that I think everybody struggles with – it’s that you’re 30 years old and at the height of your career and profession in the NFL as a player, then you’re out in the work force and you have to start at the bottom as a thirty-something. You’ve been successful in your life and overcame a lot of the challenges and stuff to play football and professional sports, then all of the sudden you’re out there in the world and competing with 20-22-year olds out of college. If you quickly use your skillset that you have acquired, you can rise pretty quickly.

I think the biggest challenge is two-fold: finding exactly what you’re passionate about and what you want to do (something you’re good at) and monetizing what it is you enjoy doing.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far in your new career?

I’ve been lucky and I think I owe it all to my parents because I was raised a certain way and I think they did a great job. I grew up around business and sales and I have brothers that sell.

When I was at IMG, I sold the largest sponsorship in the history of college sports – was fortunate enough to do that. UPS bought it and then it was the largest deal in the history of IMG, actually, the most profitable deal they ever did, so that was great. With the Buccaneers, the highlight there was that we were the number one team in the NFL for new business my second year there when there wasn’t really a great product on the field and we weren’t in the biggest market, but we really sold and were able to drive new business. Wheels Up has been a great thing from a start up to where we are now. So I’d say each stop has had its own highlight.

What advice do you have for athletes making the transition?

I would say don’t get discouraged. Use your network and platform of who you are. Be kind to everybody and then reach out to everybody you know when making the transition to let them know what you’re doing/what you want to do/what your goals are. You’d be surprised how many people will be receptive, take your meeting and help you, but you have to ask them. You have to go see them, be humble and present yourself well. Ask them for career advice and advice in general. I was fortunate enough to have a couple guys in Cleveland that really helped me network and connect that were instrumental in my career. So, stay in touch with everybody, be nice and ask for advice.

How can other athletes learn more about your business or career change?

LinkedIn, www.wheelsup.com or @WheelsUp

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