BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – As the Kansas City Chiefs make their third Super Bowl appearance in four years, two team players – one a student and the other an alumnus of the Indiana University Kelley School of Business — also are poised to return to the big game.
Joe Thuney, an offensive lineman, and Jordan Franks, a tight end on the practice squad, each took advantage of a partnership with the NFL Players Association that offers MBA and Master of Science programs to current and former NFL players.
Since 2014, more than 200 veterans of the gridiron have pursued either a degree or a graduate certificate online through the partnership, delivered by Kelley Executive Degree Programs. Fifty-five players have graduated with an MBA or MS degree and another 19 have completed certificates. Another 128 are currently enrolled in the program.
This fall, the Kelley School announced a similar partnership with the Major League Soccer Players Association and will begin admitting students this spring.
“We cheer for all our students. Not all will achieve their goal of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, but our leadership and innovation in delivering degree programs provides them with the flexibility to design a winning experience for these accomplished athletes,” said Richard Magjuka, associate professor of business administration, faculty chair of Executive Degree Programs and the Fred G. Steingraber Chair in Distributed Education. “Many of them will one day transition to new careers away from the game, where they will enjoy other victories.”
Thuney, a 2020 MBA alumnus, and Franks, a current student, continue a tradition of Kelley student success off and on the field. Recent Super Bowls have featured students who celebrated with the Lombardi Trophy, which goes to the winning team.
Last year, they included Los Angeles Rams cornerback Grant Haley. Others who recently celebrated a Super Bowl win have included Tampa Bay Buccaneers Ryan Griffin and Cameron Brate in 2021, Kansas City Chief Tanoh Kpassagnon in 2020, New England Patriots Stephen Gostkowski (2015, 2017 and 2019) and Ted Karras (2017 and 2019) and Philadelphia Eagle Corey Graham in 2018.
Thuney has been there before. He is the only player in NFL history to start in the Super Bowl in each of his first three seasons, celebrating Super Bowl wins with his New England Patriots teammates in 2017 and 2019. This will be his first trip to the Super Bowl with the Chiefs.
“It was a lot of hard work, but I thought very well worth it,” Thuney said of his Kelley MBA in 2020, adding that one of the most beneficial parts of the program was working with others – as with football.
“There was a lot of group-work, collaborating, how to communicate well with your teammates what your strengths are, what you can help the team with,” he said. “That was one aspect, and then just working through problems. There were some hard assignments and football teaches you to keep working, keep your head down and keep grinding away. That helped too. Be persistent about it, just one thing after another.”
Two former NFL players — Lester Archambeau and Andy Studebaker — were interviewed in 2019 by Kelley’s ROI Podcast. The former players shared unique perspectives gained through their football careers to business.