More Q&A With Dave Brown: Ex-NFL Quarterback

dave brown new york giants nfl

Q: Do you have a relationship with the NFL or the Giants these days?

A: “I never go back to any reunions or anything like that.  I sort of took the thought that that was a certain stage of my life, and you kind of have to move on and not dwell on past glories or failures or anything else, it’s more about the new career I’m involved in right now.”

Q: When you look back at your career do you have fond memories, or do you think ‘I wish it didn’t end that early?’

A: “I played 10 years, so I think a 10-year career is certainly a great accomplishment.  I think there’s both, it’s mixed.  Certainly the fond memories of being in the locker room and living out my dream of playing pro football and playing for the Giants is something that was a big thrill.  Going to Arizona and playing out there was a great experience for me.  I got married and had my first child out there so I have fond memories of that area.  Certainly there’s regrets.  Looking back, I’m not sure I enjoyed it as much as maybe I should have.  I lived and died by every day and every possession in every game.  Maybe I should have taken a step back and taken a look around and actually enjoyed the experience a lot more than maybe I did.”

Q: Duke isn’t known so much for being a football school — more for basketball and academics — do you think that Duke helped prepare you for life after football?

A: “I would have liked to say yes [laughs].  It’s a scary proposition, because you go to college and your goal is to play pro football.  I played for Steve Spurrier so he really prepared me for pro football.  But I don’t think anyone…it’s much like a kid going to college to prepare for a job, until you’re in it, you don’t know what to expect.  So here I am, I’m 32-years-old, I’ve been in the league 10 years, and now it’s time to grow up and get a job.  It was a big transition and one that’s difficult for everyone to make.  The fact that I went to Duke certainly helped, but I started from square one like everyone else did.”

Q: How was your relationship with then-Duke coach Steve Spurrier?

A: “Spurrier was the guy that recruited me to go down there.  He is to this day the biggest influence on my career.  Coming out of high school, I was believe it or not an option quarterback.  We ran the option and I threw it probably seven to 10 times a game.  Spurrier was the first guy that really taught me the mechanics of throwing the football and understanding how to read defenses and things like that.  It was a tremendous experience.  I only had him for two years, then he went to Florida, but just those two years set a tremendous foundation for me on how to play the position.” 

Q: How’s your health?  Do you have lingering issues from your playing days?

A: “I’m fairly lucky, I only had one surgery when I was playing, and that was just a small knee injury.  I guess the only scary thing is I had seven concussions over the years, so who knows where that’s going to play out.  But I feel pretty lucky.  I had the torn pectoral muscle in New York which ended my career there, but for the most part I’m in pretty good shape.”

Q: So the concussions aren’t an issue, yet at least?

A: “Who knows?  I don’t think so, but more to come on that I guess.  As they do more research.”

Q: What are your feelings on the NFLPA?  I know there’s some tension with the alumni and the benefits and that kind of thing?

A: “I’ve tried to stay away from that.  I know the big issue is the ownership not releasing their books.  I certainly know that they’re not starving, they’re making a lot of money.  I also know that the players are doing pretty well too.  I think, maybe selfishly, the bigger issue is how they’re taking care of the guys who aren’t in the league anymore.  Guys with concussions, and guys who maybe aren’t as fortunate to have a life outside their football careers.  Those are the guys that really concern me; the guys I played with, and wondering what they’re doing now what their lives.  Could they receive some more help from the NFL than maybe they’re getting?”

Q: What do you do now with Greenhill?

A: “I basically deal with private equity.  People who invest in private companies with capital provided to them that I help raise.  If you look at public pension funds, family offices, corporate pension funds, ultra high net worth people; they need to allocate capital into different types of products, from straight stocks, to bonds, to hedge funds; but there’s also a piece that goes to these private equity funds.  Typically the investment horizon is 10 years — the money’s locked up — and what they expect to see over the 10 year period is hopefully the money is returned double to maybe thee times the original investments.  So we go out and identify five or six different funds that we like and we’ll sign them up and we’ll be the exclusive, essentially agent, on those funds that go out and raise capital for us.  They can range from energy funds, to funds that only invest in small companies, to natural resource funds, to commodities.   You name it, we sort of of run the gambit that’s basically what the investors out there are looking for.”

Q: What do you find most appealing about it?

A: “Yeah it’s great because I think now that we can take on so many different types of strategies, you’re constantly learning about new opportunities.  Right now we have two firms that invest in small companies and the idea is to grow them into maybe an IPO or sale to a larger company, and things like that, so you’re learning about those.  We have a drug royalty fund, so learning about the drug royalty market is something that’s obviously new to me.  We have a distressed fund.  So basically it’s firms that invest in distressed companies and help rebuild them.  We also have an Asian distress fund that does similar strategies.  The great thing about these jobs is you go out and you’re raising those funds, and once they’re done you’re on to the next one and it can be something completely different.  It could be something in commodities or something else.  This job just constantly refreshes.  It’s different asset classes and different verticals within each strategy rather than: here’s the one thing you need to know and you’re going to sell it for the next 30 years.  The one constant is your relationships that you market to.  And that’s where the credibility, and the constant being in front of these people sort of takes place.  It’s the chase of this business.”

Q: Did people recognise you as the former quarterback after your career?

A: “Starting out it was sort of a joke with New York Life, sometimes they would lead with that.  And I was always uncomfortable with that like, ‘please don’t.’  Finally the one guy that brought me out, he’d lead with it for the first couple months, and finally someone was like, ‘I don’t care who he is, if he can make me money that’s great,’ and I was like, ‘thank you, you’re the first person…!’  That kind of stopped that right away.  It serves no purpose for this job.  But I think if there’s 100 of me, and someone knows I played, it might be a differentiating point.   But it’s not something I hang my hat on or introduce myself as, because as that guy said, ‘unless it’s making me money, why do I care?'”

Q: What are your thoughts on the labour situation in the NFL today?

A: “I think it’s a game of chicken.  It’s unfortunate in all these discussions that both sides just can’t sit down and hammer it out.  I think of all the unions the NFLPA is probably the weakest.  Really the average playing time for these guys is three years.  It’s not like baseball where you can take a year off, these guys have to work.  I think both sides recognise that, and I don’t see a stoppage.  I think they’ll get this thing hammered out.  But it’s going to be posturing and everything else in between until they get it done.  There’s just too much money at stake for everybody to sit this season out.”

Q: Do you think the NFL does a good job preparing players for life after football?

A: “I honestly don’t know how they can.  I can recall, they’d bring a guy in from the outside trying to explain it to you.  But it was on a Thursday afternoon at 5:00; the last thing you want to do is hear someone talk about your future when you sort of feel like, ‘I’m going to be doing this for the rest of my life.’  Could they do a better job?  Probably.  I don’t know what they’re doing now but certainly back then they could have done a better job.  But I also think the players have to understand that there’s a heck of a long life after football that you have to be prepared for.  I think looking back on the players of the 70s, they sort of had to have a job in the offseason.  Franco Harris is very successful, Lynn Swann is successful.  These guys were successful because they kind of had to be. They were involved in business.  The players now make enough money where they think, ‘I can just retire on this,’ which many of them can, but they still have to be active.  When I was done playing I was off for seven or eight months and my quote to people was, ‘You need a reason to wake up in the morning.’  I mean if you don’t, you become very stale very quick.  That’s what’s great about this job now, it gives you that reason, and it stokes that flame and gets those competitive juices going again.”

Q: How does your mentality at work compare now to your mentality as a quarterback?

A: “It’s similar in a lot of ways, because playing a game in this business too you need to prepare very well.  So I need to understand all the strategies we’re representing just like you need to understand a game plan.  You have to have a game plan of how you’re going to go out and raise this money.  So understanding who the “players” are and what they’re looking at for investments is key.  I don’t want to go to a firm that has no interest in an energy fund if we’re representing one.  It’s a waste of both our time.”

Q: What do you feel is the biggest misconception about NFL players?

A: “I think people are surprised how much you need to know to play NFL football.  I mean there is a lot of information.  The big joke is ‘oh offensive lineman.’  But these guys might be the smartest guys on the field.  They have to do so much adjusting at the line of scrimmage in a one or one and a half second time frame.  I think the other thing is the preparation.  Peyton Manning gets a lot of accolades for all the preparation he does, and it’s always sort of bothered me that he’s the only guy who they say prepares.  There are guys who study film hours upon hours that don’t get the hype he does.  Granted, he is a great quarterback and he deserves a lot of that.  But I’m sure Mark Sanchez studies as much as Peyton Manning.  Their ability to do things are different than Peyton’s.  Peyton can freelance a lot more than Sanchez can.  It’s not saying Sanchez is studying less than Peyton, it’s just saying their offenses are different.  I think the misconception is that these guys are lazy and they’re lucky where they are when they use their athletic ability, and that’s just not the case.  There’s a lot of work being done Monday to Saturday to prepare for the Sunday game.”

Q: Do you have regrets about how your NFL career went?

A: “I still beat myself up.  I am the toughest critic on myself.  I wish it had gone a lot better to be honest with you.  I had so many expectations and all these goals that you want to achieve.  To play 10 years is great, but I certainly wanted to do more for my teammates and for the city.”

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