For most of his life, Lomas Brown could be defined by two words: football player.
Growing up in Miami, Brown was a standout offensive lineman throughout his childhood. He accepted a scholarship and had a decorated collegiate career at the University of Florida. Brown was the first round draft pick for the Detroit Lions (sixth overall) in the 1985 NFL draft.
But after 18 seasons, playing for three different teams, Brown retired. And like many other athletes making the transition out of full-time professional sports, he struggled.
“It’s hard ya know, sort of an identity crisis,” Brown said. “It’s a different story for players that retire because they made the choice to be done. But the ones who get cut and not picked back up — not easy.
“There comes a time in every professional athlete’s life when they are no longer going to be ‘so and so, the football player,’ or ‘so and so, the basketball player.'”
Herman Moore, a 12-year NFL veteran and four-time pro bowler, said the key to making the transition easier is networking while you are still in the league.
“Every golf outing, every event with the team, fundraisers, public speaking events — I did it all and always got business cards and made followup calls,” Moore said. “Got my name out there with people in the organization and made sure they knew I was interested in work after my playing days.”
Moore and Brown both dabbled with broadcasting at the end of their playing careers and decided that would be a good way to stay around the sport. But they have seen many of their former teammates have a hard time finding themselves after they are done playing.
Ryan Hackworth, former community relations manager for the Detroit Lions, dealt with a lot of former players in his line of work. He said the alumni association tries to help players with that transition, but he thinks it will always be a problem for some.
“I saw a lot of guys very lost after their playing days are over. Depression, anger — just a lot of emotions that can be hard to deal with,” Hackworth said. “They don’t know what to do with themselves and feel like they’ve almost disappointed people.”
Hackworth said most of the players that he worked with were the ones who were OK with their playing days being over and that the guys who were struggling the most didn’t want to be involved as alumni.
“They weren’t ready to take on that title because it meant it was really over for them,” he said.