Many National Football League players spend their offseason taking vacations around the globe and relaxing during time off, as deserved. But last week, members of the Miami Dolphins had an opportunity to use their free time a bit more constructively.

The Dolphins just concluded a week-long event referred to as a player business combine, which allowed for those on the roster to receive hands-on experience in the fields of real estate, technology, business operations, business development and investing. From February 27 through March 3, a total of 16 current Dolphins players, including quarterback Ryan Tannehill, defensive end Cameron Wake and cornerback Byron Maxwell, paid their own way up to New York City to participate in the business combine, a first-of-its-kind for a professional sports franchise to promote and host.

Players met and engaged with the owner of their franchise, Stephen Ross, who has a net worth of $7.4 billion and is one of the most recognizable names in real estate. They also interacted with Equinox CEO Harvey Spevak, LeBron James' marketing agent Maverick Carter, Warby Parker co-founder Dave Gilboa, Philadelphia 76ers co-owner and Fanatics founder Michael Rubin, and other business leaders.

"We know that one week won't necessarily change their lives, but it bridges the gap of building relationships with people that they can stay in touch with long-term," explains Dolphins Director of Player Engagement Kaleb Thornhill. "This isn't about life after football, but about leveraging the opportunity you have right now. I know they will develop the skill set up there that will also translate to the field in a leadership capacity."

There is often a lot of talk about motivating athletes to prepare for their future careers off the field while they are still playing the games they love for money. Thornhill's theory is that a player business combine may not only prepare players for retirement from the NFL, but also assist them in becoming better leaders in their current roles and also let them build business relationships now, not later.

"As an owner, I have the responsibility to develop them as great football players, to prolong their careers, but also it's a responsibility to make sure they are developed when their careers are over," says Dolphins owner Ross. "I know from my business career, the better you treat people -- the better the organization you have and you attract the best. That's all part of it and everyone wins in a situation like that."

The true commitment on and off the field that the Dolphins organization shows to its players separates the franchise from competitors. This year's business combine was not even the first of its kind for the organization and will certainly not be the last.

In 2016, the Dolphins sent 4 players to New York City to receive a 3 day overview of Ross' companies, which also includes RSE Ventures.

"We ran it quickly and said we wanted to take more time this year and fly more guys to New York," says Thornhill. "We held a big meeting during the season, which lasted for about 35 minutes. 30-35 guys attended the meeting. 16 guys said they wanted to do it."

After the 3 day experience in 2016, 1 of the 4 attendees said it was one of the best things he's done in his life. This year's event should receive even higher scores and set Dolphins players for further success on and off the field.

Published on: Mar 6, 2017