5 Steps to Lead Your Team or Business in the Right Direction

Throughout my time playing football, I have been fortunate to have been around winning and efficient (for the most part) organizations.

My time at Stanford could be characterized as the foundation of what is now a nationally-recognized program. Watching a team go from 1 win, 11 loses to repeated BCS games, I tried to take note as to what helped the program change. Here is a list of many factors that not only made Stanford into the program it is today, but can also help your business.

1. Believe You Can Succeed

It may sound cheesy and cliche, but there is a level of self-confidence one needs in order to face a daunting task, and still find the idea of your success to be a feasible outcome. Many people smirked when Jim Harbaugh called out USC saying, “We bow to no program here at Stanford University,” but he was sending a message. That message was not just to USC, the media, and Stanford fans who had become accustomed to losses to the Trojans. I have a sneaking suspicion that the message was intended for his players. Don’t get me wrong, there was probably a bit of Harbaugh’s personal hubris shining through, but if he believed in us enough to say it in the giant’s face (the giant being USC), we were going to do everything in our power to back him up. Sometimes the phrase, “Fake it ’til you make it.” is the best way to go. Positive self-talk can do wonders helping you to believe. The best part is, nobody else has to hear it.

2. Play to Your Strengths

For Coach Harbaugh, coming to Stanford must have been a decision he had to weigh carefully. He was going to take the helm of a team that had just finished a 1-11 season, and had a reputation of being “soft” or whimpy essentially. Imagining  guys with thick-framed glasses (before they were cool again), pocket protectors (still not cool. pretty sure fashion hasn’t stooped that low quite yet), and the standard Steve Urkel look on the football field probably didn’t help entice the Coach. Instead of frown at the situation, Coach Harbaugh seized the opportunity by installing (with the help of David Shaw, Greg Roman, and Pep Hamilton along the way) one of the most complex offenses in all of football– including the NFL. We weren’t going to “out athlete” opponents. We were going to outsmart them, and then along the way we developed the physicality to back it up. Recruiting has improved dramatically year over year, so the athletes at Stanford are likely better overall than when I committed, but Coach Shaw shows no sign of letting up on using the intelligence of his players to their advantage.

3. Work on Your Weaknesses

It wasn’t going to be enough to put together a fancy playbook to confuse opposing defenses. We needed a “calling card”. Somewhere along the line, it was decided that smash-mouth football would become just that. The juxtaposition of Stanford’s formerly finesse offense and the new physical, running game threw some people for a loop, but the team took pride its new identity.

4. If Someone Leaves, Get Somebody Else Better

The impact of a project manager or a position coach, can’t be overstated. The changes that made the most impact during my Stanford career were the Head Coach making high quality hires (and recruiting one heck of a quarterback). I distinctly recall Coach Harbaugh saying that if any coaches or staff members left, we would replace them with someone better at that job. We did that throughout my years at Stanford, and it helped both the players and the program blossom.

If you bring in someone of lesser quality, you are doing both the team and the new hire a disservice. That said, don’t underestimate the willingness of a job candidate to learn quickly. I’ll take lack of knowledge with a desire to learn over experienced and uncompromising all day long.

5. Use the Talents Around You

In playing for different coaching staffs, I have seen a variety of ways to approach making up a game plan. In some scenarios, one coach, usually the coordinator for that “side of the ball” (offense, defense, or special teams) uses a top down approach, where all the knowledge is coming directly from him, regurgitated from the position coaches, and followed by the players. To a certain extent every system must do this, but I’ve found that a system where tasks are divided up amongst position coaches within the offensive scheme and with oversight from the coordinator works best. This setup not only allows for more creativity and brainpower to be focused on one task, but increases the value of the position coach in both his own and the players’ eyes. For example, each week our Tight Ends Coach may be in charge of the Goal line and Short Yardage package, or the Wide Receivers coach may be in charge of 3rd down pass plays. Carving out a niche for a coach in game planning has helped us win games.

There are many steps and helpful tips that can be used for a football program or a business to succeed. These five came to mind as important basic principles that any program or business should be built around. If you’ve found other ways to help turn a program or business around, I’d love to hear about them on Twitter or Facebook. I’m sorry, but I had to disable comments on the website because of spam and other crap. It’s unfortunate, but the actions of a few can impact the consequences of many.

Odds and ENDS

1. The Heat and the Pacers played last night. The Bachelorette was also on… where does your allegiance lie? Dez is just so genuine…

2. I’m sorry for delay in posting. Off-season commitments have kept me very busy.

3. Mike Adams of the Steelers was stabbed after 3 men tried to carjack him. I’m happy to hear that Mike is recovering well, as he’s a really nice guy, and one of the guys I enjoyed hanging out with most throughout various rookie activities.


1. Leave it to California to waste money they don’t have. Oh, and Elon Musk’s next project sounds pretty awesome.


2. Have a little time for a longer historical read that might change your opinion on the atomic bomb/WW2?


3. What can you buy with $5? I think you would be surprised.


Off-Season Learning at Stanford University Graduate School of Business

Many of you already know that I was training out at Stanford in the off-season. I guess when your job depends on someone else so heavily (the quarterback), it is a necessity to practice as much as possible together.

While I was out there, I attended the NFL Business Management & Entrepreneurship program at Stanford University. Each off-season there are opportunities for NFL players to attend “mini-camps” on topics that they are interested in after football. You’re now likely wondering, “There’s life after football?” Yes, and in case you haven’t heard the horrendous statistics on how awesome football players are at saving their money, there’s likely another job too.

One of cooler opportunities you have as an NFL player is to attend these boot camps in the off-season. They cost money up-front, but you can be reimbursed for everything except travel and lodging expenses later.

Anyway, I attended the Stanford BM&E Program this year. The participants were an eclectic group (to the extent that a group of NFL players can be), from long-retired pro’s to rookies.

The days started early at 7am with breakfast. The food was awesome. Everywhere I go, I wonder if the portions are going to be big enough… thankfully, this wasn’t an issue.

Each day would be filled with discussion of case studies (with the person the case was about). All of the speakers were awesome and extremely impressive.

  • We talked to Joel Peterson (I’ll save you some Googling, he is the Chairman of JetBlue Airlines) about some of his past investments both positive and negative.
  • Randy Hetrick from TRX came to speak with the program about building a business from the ground up, and the different avenues of sales.
  • Bill Reichert from Garage Technology Ventures spoke on giving a pitch.
  • Scott Brady of Slice spoke on the importance of getting the right team and making a great atmosphere.
  • Stanford GSB Professor Baba Shiv talked about the customer value proposition and the importance of emotion in decision making.
  • The co-founders of Waypoint Homes, Colin Wiel and Doug Brien, as well as Ali Nazar the CTO, and Charles Hayes (former Stanford football player and), Head of Chicago Operations spoke about changes in their market and the rise of competitors.
  • Dan Gordon, co-founder of Gordon Biersch, spoke about the restaurant industry.
  • In addition, Tracy Hughes, a Stanford alumnus, and Kevin Compton, formerly of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers (a Venture Capital Firm) joined the class to help groups of attendees on how to improve their presentations.

It was an awesome experience. Seeing all of the guys in that room, and learning that their ambitions went beyond football was exciting.

Odds and ENDS

1. I’m back in Indianapolis now, and thankfully there isn’t any snow on the ground. In fact, I think I brought the weather with me, as it was in the 70’s when I arrived.

2. If I have to see one more tweet about how Tiger Woods should be disqualified from the Master’s, I’m going to pretend to throw my phone out the window (I know one of you smartypants would have tweeted me intentionally had I said I would actually throw my phone out the window) and then yell really loud.

3. I don’t know if you saw, but I was training with Tiger Woods before the Master’s, so I should probably get some credit for what’s happening… Click the little birdie in the top right corner to see what I’m talking about.

After School Reading

1. www.nytimes.com/2013/04/08/health/study-points-to-new-culprit-in-heart-disease.html?hp&_r=0&pagewanted=all

  • Wow! A new way to think about heart disease. Think about the implications of overprescription of anti-biotics.

2. http://www.boardofinnovation.com/2013/04/05/how-to-prototype-an-app-in-1-hour-meet-pop/

  • Make an app prototype in one hour. I don’t know whether it’s possible to do that or not, but I appreciate the creativity of the app.

3. http://blog.priceonomics.com/post/45768546804/diamonds-are-bullshit

  • Diamonds are bullshit. That said, I will be buying one in the future.

4. http://www.delanceyplace.com/view_archives.php?2137

  • We used to sleep twice each night. 



The List of NFL Off-season Programs

NFL-NCAA Coaches Academy

-Learn the X’s and O’s, and how to teach others the X’s and O’s.

NFL Pro Hollywood Boot Camp

-Learn the basics of screenwriting, cinematography, directing, editing. Not sure if acting is involved, but that would be fun to watch.

NFL Business of Music Boot Camp

-An estimated 65% of NFL players think they are rappers or singers already. Why not give them proper training?

BM&E Wharton: Transitioning/Real Estate

BM&E Stanford: Evaluating Business Opportunities

BM&E Notre Dame: Investment for Impact

-Brady Quinn’s baby. At least that’s how it’s been explained by the media. Focus on “sustainable social ventures”.

NFL Franchising Boot Camp

-Learn about how to be a franchisee or franchiser.

NFL Hospitality & Culinary Management Workshop

NFL Sports Journalism & Communications Boot Camp

NFL Broadcast Boot Camp

-Studio analysis, play-by-play, field reporting, radio broadcasting introductions.

NFL Advanced Broadcast Boot Camp

-More of the above.


Getting a Scholarship, Playing the Games Before the Games

College recruiting is HUGE business! Schools pay big money for access to databases of athletes and their information/film.

Going into my senior year, I didn’t have a high school football highlight tape. It wasn’t for a lack of school video equipment or being unable to find someone crazy enough to film/freeze on top of press box during the cold and windy games (I grew up in the Midwest). I guess technically I was on the film, but I think the video guys were instructed to zoom in and not worry about including the guys on the bench in the shot.

Anyway, I needed a scholarship. Not like, “Son, you’re a great athlete, and you’re going to get a scholarship someday.” It was more like, “Coby, you need to get a scholarship. We don’t have the money to pay for school.” College loans and a junior college was the alternative. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with going to a junior college. The amount of debt carried by students finishing college is outrageous.

So how do you get a scholarship to college if nobody really wants you to play for their basketball program, and you haven’t played varsity football?

First, I learned from my cousin’s recruitment (he ended up going to Notre Dame, then transferring to Northwestern) that schools might be more inclined to show interest if their rivals or direct competition were showing interest. Well, that’s great… except when nobody is really showing interest. So what did I do? I fibbed… ok, I outright lied (temporarily) on any questionnaires I could get my hands on. Colleges often send blank questionnaires to high school programs for top players to fill out. I asked my coach for any he had and quickly filled them out. “Oh, Iowa wants to know who else is recruiting me… Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Iowa State.” Technically they did… to a certain degree… long after I filled out the questions. I would also add a few pounds to my weight, but I’m pretty sure every recruit does that. Some schools weigh you if you come for a visit… oh man was I nervous for those.

One day, a questionnaire mentioned a recruiting website used by the school to collect their questionnaire information online. I noticed that the URL read something like: www.recruitingwebsite.com/questionnaire/oklahoma-fball/… Hmm… This made me wonder what woud happen if someone were to try to visit www.recruitingwebsite.com/questionnaire/missouri-fball/… and voila! It worked! Suddenly I found myself looking up a list of the main Division 1a conferences and their member schools to try to plug into the URL. Today, some schools have theirs readily available through the school athletic site, and I filled my fair share of those out too, but that wasn’t always the case.

Somehow I started to receive recruiting letters from all over. Now, receiving the same letter that was also sent to 2,000 recruits from a school doesn’t exactly precede a scholarship offer, so I had to pique some interest outside of my primary tactics. Usually other high school kids were sending their football highlight tapes (complete with their favorite stupid rap song in the background), which consisted of some of their best plays spliced together on a DVD. Since I had yet to see the field, I sent out breakdancing basketball tape, hoping I could convince someone that I was tall, athletic, and could jump.

It turned out that I ended up having some decent football film to send out, so rather then send it to the schools I was interested in, I sent it to every school I could (to create competition). Then I quickly sent it out to the local branches of the various websites that showcased recruits (scout.com, rivals.com) in an attempt to bump my rankings on their site. (Side Note: Sometimes I think those sites change their rankings after kids get offers from specific schools, without seeing any new tape… cough*USC*cough).

I can’t rule out the possibility that my tactics didn’t have a small impact somewhere along the line in my recruitment, but least I ended up telling the truth on the questionnaires, sort of…

(Side Note: My Dad hired a guy who said he could help get me a scholarship. I’m pretty sure that is/was a scam. You would be better served sending tape yourself or contacting the school to learn where to send your information than pay someone to say they are doing it.)


After School Reading

1. Becoming a Pop Star with Zero Experience. Another loophole finder… good work.

Becoming A Pop Star With Zero Experience: How To Hack The Music Industry In Under 8 Weeks

2. Why Bitcoin Rise is Nothing to Celebrate. “Imagine a sucker who took out a loan in bitcoins a few weeks ago — she’d never be able to pay it back today.”


3. Patents. I think I have a great idea. “Ideas are worthless. Execution is priceless.”