Wasington, D.C. -- (ReleaseWire) -- 04/06/2015 --BENNETT: Jeff Kemp is a former NFL quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and the Philadelphia Eagles. In 1984, he led the Rams with 13 touchdown passes and a trip to the playoffs, and in 1986 he threw 11 touchdowns for the 49ers as backup to the injured Joe Montana.. Kemp is the author of a new book Facing the Blitz: Three Strategies for Turning Trials into Triumphs, in which he lays out ways in which thinking like a quarterback can help when dealing with personal and professional setbacks. Jeff, welcome.
JEFF KEMP: Thanks, Dawn. It's good to be with you.
BENNETT: Jeff, you graduated from Dartmouth, which is more of a hockey school than a football school. How did you wind up in the NFL?
KEMP: That's funny. I did an interview with one of the Wall Street banks when I was at Dartmouth my senior year and they were telling me about the commitment it takes to succeed on Wall Street, the hundred hour week and stuff. They asked, 'Mr. Kemp are you absolutely dedicated to this, is this the number one thing you'd like to do more than anything else?' I said, 'Oh, that'd be great, but actually I'd rather play pro football.' And they said, 'thank you very much, that'll end the interview.' So I wasn't quite the dedicated prospect they were hoping for. But no, not many guys go to the NFL from Dartmouth, but then again my dad had played pro football and I kind of had that in my mind my whole life even though I wasn't really that good a prospect. I was a decent college quarterback, but I wasn't a great one. So I look back at it and I say, 'Wow, God opened the doors.' I'm pretty humbled and blessed that I got there. I worked really hard but, there were people that got hurt during the year I was with the Rams that allowed me the chance to show them that I could play and then I made the team. I kind of started at the very bottom.
BENNETT: Your new book, Facing the Blitz: Three Strategies for Turning Trials into Triumphs is about using the skills and charisma you developed as an NFL quarterback to face personal and professional trouble. Do you believe that your "quarterback charisma" can disarm people, open up their willingness to get things done?
KEMP: No, not really. I don't think it's the quarterback and charisma that's the key to this book. This book has a couple key stories from my life and football. One metaphor of a Monday night football game where the blitz was hitting me and the offense real aggressively and in the next couple moments I knew that either something really bad, like a fumble or interception or sack, would happen; or something really good. Because in the blitz, there's a great opportunity: it's man-to-man coverage, the defense doesn't cover the whole field as well. Many of the biggest plays in football, the greatest scores, come out of the blitz. And we, in fact, scored our only touchdown in the game on a play where I ended up on my back and the receiver ended up with the ball in the end zone. And we won the game 13-6 so the message is that life is going to blitz you, tough things are going to happen. It's going to happen to all of us, but if we have the right ideas, perspective, attitude, and take the right strategies, then we can overcome them and actually turn those negatives into positives. But I don't think it's due to charisma, it's kind of due to these strategies that are available to all of us: take a long-term view, be willing to change and humble yourself, and mature, become more others centered, less selfish, more team oriented. less Lone Ranger, and then finally take your eyes off yourself and focus on bringing out the best in others. Serve someone else; when you're hurting, find someone else who's hurting even more and serve them and it will pull you out of your pit as a victim and you may find that it becomes the seed for a much better business in the future. The cancer you go through can become the preparation for having a ministry to help other people that have cancer.
BENNETT: There is certainly no shortage of hardship in today's economy. People are struggling simply to find a mildly satisfying occupation that enables them to provide for a family. How can some of your tactics help those with money issues?
KEMP: Well, the long-term view is key. If you have a long-term view on life, then you're going to be thinking about your kids and their college. You're not going to be thinking about the new flat screen TV you want, or trading in your car and getting a higher payment and putting yourself under even more financial strain. If you have a long-term view and something rough is happening at the office, you're not going to flip your boss off and make things even worse. You're going to say: "You know what, I can handle imperfect people. I'm going to be the most worthwhile, valuable employee at this company and I'm going to keep investing in making this place a better place." And in time, you'll get your reward. So that's one aspect. Secondly, the things that we go through that are hard, if we learn lessons from them and find a way to be focused on other people, we become more valuable to them in the marketplace. So I would say the tough things that happen in your life—use them to grow. Use them to develop better character, use them to learn more about other people that go through blitzes. Maybe you'll even build a business that helps people face their challenges. So, financially it's tough when you don't have a job, it's tough when you don't get paid enough, but if you take a short-term view you're going to do the worst things in that moment and you won't really recover from it and turn it for good.
BENNETT: Many professional athletes seem to flounder after retiring from their sport, and what little savings they typically have is quickly squandered away as they try to figure out where to carve a second career. Do you have any advice for them?
KEMP: Yeah, I went through that. The key for me was kind of interesting. I had been a backup quarterback a lot and I didn't like being a backup, I wanted to be a starter. My goals were to be a starter. But I used the off seasons to do things in the community, mostly street gaming and working at some nonprofits. I got an MBA and opened up more options for myself, so that was maybe three years' worth of part-time classes. So, I invested in myself to prepare for life after football and I also liked to use the off season. Because I knew football was a great platform and I wanted to influence kids, eventually I got into the field of strengthening families as the best way to help kids. It was somewhat of a help to me that I didn't view myself as such a superstar that my off season should only be autograph signing sessions and advertisements. You've got to use your off season and you've got to realize your identity is not as an athlete. I was the person that I knew God made me and I was a human being, I was a husband to Stacy, a father to my boys. And my identity was wrapped up in my character, my relationships, and that love as opposed to, "Am I a quarterback? Am I a starting quarterback?" Those things can move away. And a lot of athletes struggle greatly when their identity as an athlete goes away when they're kicked out of the league, so-to-speak. And then they struggle in relationships and their own personal confidence, etcetera. So a lot of it has to do with your identity in the first place. You know, we aren't how much money we make, we aren't the position, we aren't the company. We are human beings with key relationships and hopefully we'll realize that there's a creator that made us and loves us and that's where we gain our identity.
BENNETT: Do you think that today's NFL is different than the league you played in with respect to the off-field annex? I'm thinking of Johnny Manziel—the Heisman winner and Cleveland Browns draft pick—whose celebrity lifestyle has basically ruined his sports career. What kind of advice would you give him?
KEMP: I think probably one of the biggest crises in America is evident in the NFL, but I think it's even broader outside the NFL, and that's that there's a crisis of identity in men. Margaret Meade, the renowned anthropologist, said the number one rule of a society is to give it's men a script for how to live. Women more naturally will figure out their life is about relationships, if they have a child they'll know naturally to be maternal and care for that child. But men need to have a path laid out for them. That's why training them to be men and having your dad in your life is so important. And unfortunately, in so much of America—including in sports—a lot of guys don't have a dad in their life that's giving that role model. They don't have a group of guys training them in what that responsibility is and how to use their strength to protect and bless others. Wouldn't it be awesome if all men used their strength to protect and cherish women, to mentor orphans and children, and we protected the weak and the vulnerable? No one would think men are any less masculine for that, they'd actually see a true picture of masculinity versus the guy that says it's all about me, what can I get, how much can I impress people? So the challenge—I'm not down on any individual person like Johnny Manziel—but maybe the role models of this nation and the role models of families are not adequate and we need to rebuild the constant that real courage is know how to say you are sorry, to know how to forgive. Real responsibility is caring for yourself in a way that isn't damaging to others or to yourself. The NFL, I think, has an opportunity to start changing that manly character and I'd hope colleges would as well and the NFL can give a better picture. We certainly do it on the field. Guys are humble, they are servants, they are sacrificial, but then after field, we don't act in those ways and that's what gets us into trouble.
BENNETT: In one of your articles, back in February of 2014, you said, "It's not always about the big game, it's about the people who raised us to play in it." You were talking about Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman. Each one of those men had a very strong father that helped him become a great athlete and a great men.
KEMP: I wrote an article about the Super Bowl and how it was remarkable that Russell Wilson's father who passed away was still influencing him, because he had trained him with the vision for discipline and responsibility and greatness. And Russell really lives because of that influence of his dad. Peyton Manning's dad, Archie, raised quality kids that really are great men on and off the field, and of course remarkable champions on the field. So, the bottom line of this book is: to be successful in life is much more than money or position or fame. It's relationships. It's team work. It's other-centered, servants serving. The interesting thing is when you have good relationships and you know a lot of people and you meet their needs, when you act like a servant which some of the greatest leaders in history have, when we do these things, when we are team oriented, great results end up happening at least in the long term, and then you will also have the success but it will be a success you can enjoy because there are people you can share it with.
BENNETT: Your late father Jack Kemp was known as the father of supply-side economics and he was also the congressional sponsor of Reagan's big tax cut bill and an NFL quarterback like you. Do you think politics might be in your future?
KEMP: I don't know. I've put it off for a long time because I was busy raising my kids. A congressman in Seattle asked me one time if I'd run for a seat and I asked, "Why aren't you running?" This was Congressman John Miller. And he said, "We have a three-year-old son I really want to be there for him. I want to spend time raising him." And I said, "Well, you can take your reason and multiply it times three," because I had three sons at that time and we ended up with four sons. I still respect my dad and the way he did his congressional service and his time in the Housing and Urban Development. He was a statesman. He didn't put his party first, he put the nation first. He knew that he wasn't the product. The ideas were the product. And his opponents weren't enemies, they were just opponents who had ideas that weren't as successful as his and would go out and debate you until the end. So I commend anyone in government who sacrifices time and energy to serve our nation. But I have a job right now that is a servant job, I get to strengthen marriages, I get to help men who struggle with their identity, I get to help families find out how they can be more loving, more forgiving, more committed, so in that sense, I feel like I am making difference and I love doing it. I work at Family Life and we see many, many marriages each year and many, many people find ways to really build into their kids' lives.
BENNETT: Jeff Kemp's book Facing the Blitz: Three Strategies for Turning Trials into Triumphs is available on Amazon. You can also find him on the web at facingtheblitz.com or familylife.com.
All data sourced through Bloomberg
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About Dawn Bennett
Dawn Bennett is CEO and Founder of Bennett Group Financial Services. She hosts a national radio program called Financial Myth Busting http://www.financialmythbusting.com
She discusses educational topics and events in the financial news, along with her thoughts on the economy, financial markets, investments, and more with her live guests, who have included rock legend Ted Nugent, as well as Steve Forbes and Grover Norquist. Listeners can call 855-884-DAWN a as well as take podcasts on the road and forums for interaction.
She can be reached on Twitter @DawnBennettFMB or on Facebook Financial Myth Busting with Dawn Bennett or firstname.lastname@example.org