Obafemi Ayanbadejo is an Executive MBA graduate.
After graduating from San Diego State University with a degree in psychology, he played in the NFL for 11 years. Teams included the Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and the Baltimore Ravens. He was a member of the Ravens team that won Super Bowl XXXV.
After retiring from professional football, Ayanbadejo became a sports analyst and launched a successful personal training business. He became particularly interested in institutional inequality and NFL player safety, especially with regard to head injuries. Femi is often asked to speak on these topics and, in fact, was interviewed by Michael Smerconish on CNN during the Baltimore unrest in April 2015. He enrolled in the Carey Business School in 2014 and graduated from the fourth EMBA class in March 2016.
You were a professional football player for many years. Since retiring from the NFL, how has your career evolved?
After I retired, I founded a gym with my personal trainer from my pro career and his wife. I wanted to be involved more than as an investor, so I earned training and nutrition certifications. Within that business, I launched a specialty training program that focused on assisting executives and athletes.
As we grew, I become more involved and began taking on all aspects of the organization, including real estate transactions, construction, purchasing equipment, and managing staff. We grew to ten employees and we had to develop every policy and procedure.
I owned the business for four years—it was thriving—but as I thought about what might be next for me, I realized that I wanted the opportunity to expand beyond owning a gym. Not only were we successful from a financial standpoint, our clients were also achieving great results physically, personally and professionally. As I became involved addressing the tough issues of institutional inequality and NFL player safety, I realized that it was time to sell my portion so I could focus on having an impact in these areas as well as explore other entrepreneurial ventures. I wanted business training that would help me develop.
What made you decide to pursue an MBA?
The NFL teamed up with Stanford to offer a business and entrepreneurial program for retired players. It was an intensive, weeklong course where we learned business fundamentals and networked with students and faculty. We discussed case studies used in the MBA program. I found it fascinating and invigorating. After that experience, I sold my business and moved to Baltimore to be closer to my children and consider the next chapter of my career.
What attracted you to the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School?
I knew I wanted to pursue an MBA but not immediately. I talked with a Carey admissions officer for nearly two years before applying. I looked at many schools, but Johns Hopkins had the name recognition, the credibility, the alumni, and the international focus that excited me. I knew it had to be Hopkins.
What have you found to be the most rewarding and challenging aspects of the Executive MBA so far?
I think the most rewarding course was Organizational Behavior with Professor James Calvin. I was able to apply what I learned immediately. Given my psychology degree, the content resonated with me right away. Professor Calvin is truly expert in his field and his energy and passion is inspiring.
Finance was probably the most difficult, but still rewarding. I think my cohort would agree with me. I use what I learned in that class all the time as well.
The residency approach of this program is like training camp. It’s intensive—you have to be ready both physically and mentally. NFL training camp is 30 days, so I adjusted to this format quickly--plus I’m not getting hit. (Laughs)
Do have any advice for others thinking about a pursuing business education?
I always believe in challenging yourself. That mindset has enabled me to succeed in the NFL and in business. If you think that you want to pursue an MBA degree, explore your options, especially the Carey Business School. Procrastination and fear are the most overused excuses for not achieving your goals.
I say go for it. Stretch yourself. There’s a lot of work to be done in this world—find out what inspires you and get started!
Posted on August 1, 2016 In Alumni Story