The New York Jets receiver might be out for the season, but he’s already begun expanding his horizons, preparing for an MBA and getting ready for life after football.
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NFL receiver Quincy Enunwa and Jim Neesen, managing partner of accounting firm Connor Group, seem like a somewhat unlikely pair at first glance. However, the athlete and the businessman have a diverse range of interests that have helped make their young partnership a successful one, allowing Enunwa to improve his business skills and the Connor Group to “compress time,” as Neesen says, with a hardworking and intellectually curious star.Enunwa, who suffered a season-ending neck injury in the first game of the season against the Buffalo Bills, and Neesen explained how the partnership began and what they’ve learned from each other during an interview earlier this year. Check it out below.Entrepreneur: Tell me how the two of you met.Neesen: It was an IPO summit, a gathering of 150 of the hottest tech and biotech companies in the New York area — companies that are two or three years away from an IPO or liquidity event.And what drew you to that event, Quincy?Enunwa: Right now, my goal is to soak in as much information as I can. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do, and the best way to do that is to figure out what I don’t want to do. Our player rep found out about the event, and I thought, “Why not take advantage?” I live in New Jersey, and it’s nothing to get to New York, so let me go out and experience, meet with some of these companies, and see what they’ve gone through and where they are now. Then, just listen — that’s the biggest thing.Have you figured out some of the things you definitely don’t want to do?Enunwa: Actually, I haven’t! It’s easier to say the things I’m interested in because somebody’s experience won’t be my experience. I try not to cut anything out too much, unless it’s like, “You have to do eight hours of math” or stuff that I don’t really care to do right now. Jumping back, I did an internship with Stubhub, and I also got an opportunity to stay at the Ebay offices for a day and met with some people doing project management. And that’s what initially got me interested in getting an MBA. I’ve been a captain on the college and NFL level, so I’ve been somewhat of a leader — somebody that’s organized different things. So, that’s one idea I’ve had.The Connor Group has an interesting internship program, can you tell us about it?Neesen: They’re east coast and west coast. We have about 250 people across the firm, and we’re working with 10 NFL players. Our focus has been on three things: 1. Mentorship and really spending time with the players, giving them touchpoints and helping them think about the road ahead. 2. NFL internships. This is the first year we’ve been matching our clients with players to create authentic experiences. 3. IPO summits. Events where you can bring executives together with players. These year-round events allow players to get reps, just like they do on the practice field.Have you seen the players grow with those reps?Neesen: Yes, because it’s about identity. If an athlete feels that their identity is just as an athlete, when their career ends, they’re really challenged. They feel lost. So, if you can make their identity, “I’m an athlete now, but in the future, I’ll be a businessperson or philanthropist.” When your identity expands in the middle of your career, when your star is the brightest, that’s when you can open the most doors.Quincy, have you seen examples of this identity shift in your own locker room?Enunwa: It’s hard, because you do have some guys who are open to it, but you also have others who are more focused on right now. I wasn’t really focused on this until I got hurt. You hear it all the time — I’m invincible, I’m Superman, it’s not going to happen to me — but then I had a life-changing injury. [Enunwa suffered his first neck injury in 2017, missing the entirety of that season.]So, my days weren’t spent with football during that time, and I thought, “Well, what do I do now?” It opened my eyes. I try to share my story with other guys, but you can only do so much sometimes.What were you doing during that time when you were injured that helped you make this realization?Enunwa: Well, at first, I was binge-watching Game of Thrones. After that was done, the NFL Players Association has an injured reserve program, where you fly to the NFL offices in Washington, D.C., to learn what your benefits are, what they offer, all this other stuff. I went there every month, and that’s when I started wondering what else I could do. They told me about the internships and externships they offer, and I took one. I had time and wanted to take advantage. I also looked into the MBA program they offered. So, the injury led to me doing a lot more research.And you’re preparing for business school now?Enunwa: Yes! Taking GMAT classes. It’s good because if nothing else, it’s really shifting my mind and making me think in a different way. Plus all of the things I’ve forgotten — I haven’t used algebra in a while, and I’m studying again thinking, “Dang, at one point I was good at this. Now, I can’t even think.” But it’s good to get back to it and it’s helped me feel more confident in myself because I’m adding more skills. Once the GMAT comes, hopefully I do well. I’m studying pretty hard, so we’ll see how it goes.Do you have any tips or hacks for it?Enunwa: For the GMAT? [Laughs.] I don’t have any tips right now. I’ve been studying for four weeks. Maybe in another four weeks I’ll have one.Are there any people you’d like to emulate, Quincy?Enunwa: There have been a few guys who’ve come through the Jets who gave me ideas. Look at Brandon Marshall, who’s really big on his off-field stuff. That jumpstarted me. Look at D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who was working on Wall Street for a little while. These people who were really successful and signed really large contracts were still willing to come back into the real world and care to do something.Neesen: I got some great advice from Ndamukong Suh at a dinner. He told me two things: First, he always waits two or three weeks after he hears about an opportunity to make a decision. If he’s still excited about it two weeks later, it’s a sign that the idea has real potential. Second, he finds the smartest people he can and has them try to tear the idea apart. If they can do it, or if he’s afraid to let them try, that implies there may be some flaw.Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.