An estimated worldwide audience of more than 110 million is expected to tune in this Sunday for Super Bowl LII, featuring the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. While most fans are pulling for one team over the other, we’re pulling for the four players on both teams who currently are students in the IU Kelley School of Business.
More than 85 current and former NFL players are pursuing an MBA, a Master of Science degree or a graduate certificate online through a partnership between Kelley and the National Football League Players Association. Since 2014, 11 players have earned a master’s degree in business online from Kelley.
Kelley School students playing in the big game are New England Patriots placekicker Stephen Gostkowski, guard Ted Karras, and guard Joseph Thuney. On the other side of the football will be Kelley School student and Philadelphia Eagle defensive back Corey Graham, whose interception of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Kennum in the NFC Championship helped seal the Eagles’ trip to the Super Bowl.
The NFL Players Association encourages its members to be knowledgeable about the business of football and to prepare to be successful off the field. In a 2017 interview, Gostkowski said Kelley’s specialized program does both and that it is preparing him for the time when his playing days are over.
“The program offers opportunities outside of football to make an easier transition. It can really help us bridge the gap after football,” he said. “You can never be too educated, and the Kelley program is a unique opportunity to be able to take my time doing it and do it during football. It was really a no-brainer on whether to do it or not.”
For nearly 20 years, Kelley has been a leader in online education. In 1999, Kelley Direct became the first online MBA offered by a top-ranked business school. In addition to the NFL Players Association, Kelley offers specialized graduate programs for employees at companies such as General Motors, General Electric, Cummins Inc. and Booz Allen Hamilton.
Richard Magjuka, faculty chair of executive degree programs and the Fred G. Steingraber Chair in Distributed Education, noted that the NFL players are learning along with students from these and other companies.
“The sharing of very different perspectives has been a great learning experience for the players and the rest of our student body,” Magjuka said. “Our students are building on the skills and values needed to attain the highest level in professional sports with a business education from the Kelley School of Business to ensure that they will continue to achieve when their sports career ends.
“Completing our MBA program prepares our NFL students for business careers in top corporations, in entrepreneurship, in leading non-profit foundations, and in wealth management,” he said.
While most players have sought either an MBA or an MS degree, the program with the NFL Players Association also offers these unique students professional development through certificate programs. The programs provide students with a better understanding of their goals and identify a structured path toward attaining them, which includes career services.
Another IU player on a roster for Sunday’s game, although not yet a Kelley student, is quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who holds the Hoosiers’ football records for passing touchdowns and passing yards. Barring an injury to Eagles’ starting QB Nick Foles, he’s unlikely to play, but we’ll wish him the best as well.