Jeff Chandler became the all-time leading scorer and field goal kicker in the University of Florida's history. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications and entered the National Football League, where he played for six different teams over the span of four years. Like many former NFL players, Chandler wondered what he was going to do next.
It was 2006 and Chandler was cut from the Cleveland Browns. He knew that he wanted to somehow stay in sports and figured that the only way to work in sports was to get hired by a professional franchise. Chandler had no relevant business experience after going straight from college to the NFL and was not sure what his next move would be.
Chandler returned to his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida and tapped into his network. That led to an opportunity to start with a young company called Fanatics, where Chandler was able to get to work in building an affiliate program, which turned into working with some smaller schools and eventually transitioned into running an NCAA business as it exists today.
Today, Fanatics operates its own online apparel shop and runs the e-commerce business for each major U.S. sports leagues as well as hundreds of college team websites. It brings inover $1 billion in sales per year. In 2008, when Chandler was added to the team, the company owned two stores in shopping malls and people would ask him which store he worked in.
When Chandler says he works at Fantatics now, with a title of Director of Business for NCAA, people immediately recognize the name of his employer.
"A lot of my early responsibilities were getting the name out there," says Chandler. "Now the brand is out there and is the brand of the fan."
Chandler was a successful college athlete, spent an average amount of time in the NFL and is one of the fortunate former players to appreciate a working opportunity when the NFL teams no longer desired his services on the field.
"I was fortunate to find a good fit in Jacksonville with a growing company," says Chandler. "Finding the right fit is important. A company that will work with you and help you get that vital experience."
Now Chandler, who is tasked with uncovering new market opportunities, maximizing revenue with partners, improving client relations and increasing organizational performance for a company valued at over $3 billion, takes special joy in how his company seeks to help future former NFL players.
"We do an externship program now with the NFL Players Association," explains Chandler. "Current players can go through a 3-4 week process where they get to work with every department in the organization -- customer service, graphic designers, warehouse. When NFL guys come in, it's interesting to see people at various parts of their careers and what they're focused on."
In order to successfully transition to life after football, Chandler needed to be mindful of his next career move and have a plan in place for when he was eventually forced to hang it up. It is admirable that he is willing to help others to the same.
It is also admirable that Chandler, who grew up in Jacksonville, but as a die-hard Georgia Bulldogs fan, was able to make the switch to being a Florida Gator the second he was accepted by the university. It was a wise move, as Chandler will be introduced this Friday into the next group of Georgia-Florida Hall of Famers leading up to the football rivalry this weekend, which undoubtedly, Florida will win.