Q&A: Talking NFLPA Externship With Indianapolis Colts LT Anthony Castonzo
Working when you are off work—that does not sound like much fun, right?
For NFL players, the offseason is usually a time to kick back and relax, spend time with their families or head off on a vacation to decompress from the wear and tear of the practices and games they have been taking part in all season long.
Well—most players do that. For Anthony Castonzo of the Indianapolis Colts, this offseason is a little different.
Instead of putting his feet up and playing video games this offseason, Castonzo packed his bags and headed out to California. No, not to relax and lounge on the beach, but instead to sit inside and stare at a computer screen all day long learning another language.
What is the language of interest for Castonzo this offseason? Coding.
The 6’7” and 300-pound starting NFL left tackle traded in his shoulder pads and cleats to take part in the NFLPA’s 4th Annual Externship program this offseason. He is currently working with Whalerock Industries in West Hollywood in their Media & Technology Development, Computer Science division.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Castonzo about his externship with Whalerock, and you could tell his new-found love and interest in coding could end up developing into a passion and potential career after sports.
Q: Why did you feel that right now is a good time for you to start preparing for a career after football?
A: “The opportunity arose to do this externship in something that really peaked my interest. It’s a constant thought running through your mind, even if you are fortune enough to have a really long career in the NFL you still have a lot of life to live afterwards. I’m not a person who just wants to sit on my butt and do nothing. I’ve been in constant search of something that I would enjoy doing that I can be making things, have goals and build things…to basically turn a hobby into a career after football. I’ve been searching for the right thing. When I saw this externship come up with a topic that really peaked my interest, it was really perfect timing and I wanted to see the opportunity while it was still available.”
Q: Where did your passion for this field come from? Was it something you considered in college?
A: “It is extremely recent actually. From college, I was actually a Biochemistry major but I was a Math minor. I was doing the biochemistry to go into a field in medicine, but in the back of my mind something I have always really loved doing and had a passion doing was math, and I’ve gone six years now in the NFL without being able to do any math problems or do any problem solving. I got hungry for it again and started thinking, where can I implement my love for math into something where I can also be creative, because I like to do all types of creative things (writing or drawing), the world of computers is where you can take numbers and turn them into actual things and create with them. And I was like, ‘this seems like something that I would enjoy.’ So, I actually have no experience with it from college, though I do have experience with numbers. But the coding is all very new to me and I’m learning it all at a rapid pace.”
Q: Did any players or family members influence your decision to start planning for a career after sports?
A: “No, it has just been me. In the month after the season ends when it is the offseason, I’ll be sitting there and be like ‘man, oh it is great the season is over I get to play some video games and relax.’ After about a week of that I end up getting really, really antsy and I need a goal to be trying to accomplish. I realized that sitting idle is not something that is going to be for me after I am done playing. Just knowing myself is what really drove me to start planning ahead.”
Q: Do you think more athletes like yourself need to start to plan early for a career after sports?
A: “It is different in terms of planning for a career. Cultivating the interest and figuring out what you like is important. Obviously during your time in the NFL you are doing your best to be the best at that job, and in early years when your body can handle it, as soon as the season ends you get back to training and everything is geared toward football. As I got older I realized, spending every hour of my life on football really wasn’t healthy. I needed to start figuring out what other things I liked because I recognized that football is a job, but I didn’t want it to define who I was. I knew that there were other things that I am good at. I feel like guys need to find out what other things they like, and as things go on you can start looking into more opportunities. Whenever an opportunity arises, to not seize that opportunity seems to not be wise, and that’s why I took this Externship position because, am I thinking completely about what is going to happen when my career is over? No, because hopefully I’ve got a bunch years left. But if I were to be after my career and thinking ‘man, I wish I would’ve taken that opportunity,’ I’d be regretting it. I think it is all about seizing opportunities when they arise.”
Q: How did you hear about the NFLPA Externship Program and how do you feel about the number of players taking part?
A: “It shows that guys are starting to think about post-career opportunities and it is great that guys are thinking about that, and the interest has definitely gone up. My experience has been great and I’m hoping that other guys are having a similar experience because it is cool that guys can have the ability to do that.”
Q: What is the most exciting thing that has happened in your Externship so far?
A: “It’s a blast actually. I have been building a command-line RPG game. The game is completely played in a command-line of computer (the little flashing cursor) and it asks for input but you have to choose and you go through and there is a battle. I’ve created an AI (artificial intelligence) so the villain actually attacks you randomly and it acts like your party so you get a couple of characters in your party. It is a base-level RPG game, but it is really cool being able to put in the code, play the game and be able to enjoy doing it. That’s probably the coolest thing I have done. I have also started to build a website, which isn’t that exciting yet since I am just starting the language on that, but next week I am learning iOS so I actually might be able to build an app next week. It is a lot of information I am getting, which is pretty cool.”
Q: Fun question, who is going to have a better career after sports … you or your former teammate Pat McAfee who is working with Barstool Sports?
A: (Laughing) “He’s got a bit of a jump on me, so right now it will be him. We will see what happens down the road though.”
The NFLPA’s dedication to providing Externship opportunities for its players is a major step in the right direction for helping them make a transition to a career after football. With a record 86 players applying for the program this offseason and only 41 accepted, it shows more players are taking an active approach to ensuring their future.
The team here at the VIKTRE Career Network appreciates Anthony for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do this interview, and we look forward to viewing his first website when he is done learning the language!