My Career Change: John Gerak’s Career Change After the NFL

When a professional athlete’s playing days are over, many do not realize that athlete’s career in another field is often just beginning. As part of VIKTRE’s dedication to drive interaction between athletes and their fans, 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, John Gerak. Most know Gerak from his collegiate days at Penn State and in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams. However, Gerak has made a name for himself in the law industry since his playing days ended.

What sport did you play?

Football

What teams did you play for?John Gerak's Career Change

Penn State 1988-1992
Minnesota Vikings – 1993-1997
St. Louis Rams – 1997-1998

What industry did you change careers to?

Law

How did you get into your new career?

Evaluated options toward the end of my fourth year in the NFL and elected to return to school to obtain an MBA. A year later, I had a career ending elbow injury and was forced into retirement. At that point, my options were limited, so I sought additional education. After a year of law school, I decided to become a labor & employment attorney.

What was the biggest challenge you faced making your career change?

The NFL gives athletes a sense of self-worth, excitement and accomplishment that is not easily replaced with a 9-5 job. In football, you won through physical abilities and technique, with a slight edge to those who were mentally prepared. In law, the smarter, more mentally prepared and experienced attorneys generally prevail. It was difficult to start over in a new profession and learn from people who were in many cases years younger and far smarter.

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

Progressing from associate, to non-equity shareholder, to equity shareholder, to managing shareholder of the Cleveland office of Ogletree Deakins.

What advice do you have for athletes making their career change?

Find something that can replace the challenge of professional competition. Be humble and accept guidance from mentors. Outwork people who don’t know what it takes to achieve at the highest levels. Mentor others.

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