Justin Ricklefs


The NFL Has Great Guys Too

This piece originally ran at GoodMenProject.com.


If you’re a football fan, it’s been impossible to ignore the recent headlines in the NFL.  Rich, powerful men have picked on, mistreated, and abused others since the beginning of time.  The NFL has a problem on its hands for sure, but so does every big city and small town in America.

When the spotlight shines as bright as it does on the NFL, more people pay attention.  These negative news stories have been sad no question.  But lost in the bad news and hidden behind the drama are a bunch of good guys too.

It doesn’t flash as breaking news on CNN or trend on Twitter, but the good guys also do some pretty cool things.  For their communities, teams, families, each other.

I worked in the front office of an NFL team for five years.  The experiences, relationships made, and life lessons learned were life-changing.  The exposure to world class athletes, business, and facilities was invaluable.  The stage truly is magnificent in the NFL.

When you’re on the business side of a franchise, your interaction with the players is limited as you both have very specific missions.  But there are relationships that are definitely formed.

One relationship that will stick with our family forever is a guy who still plays in the NFL.  His jersey sales aren’t tops in the league, but to my five kids, he might as well be Joe Montana or Derrick Thomas.

#96.  Andy Studebaker.  Linebacker from DIII Wheaton College.  When Chiefs games come on, even now when Andy is with the Colts, our girls look for Andy.

They don’t look for him because he was the best on the field.  Or because he had the coolest endorsement deal.  Or the biggest signing bonus.

They looked for him because Andy gave a rip.  He cared enough to learn their names.  To pose for pictures with them.  To smile at them.  Simple stuff actually but ridiculously meaningful to young ones.


And beyond my little family, Andy was always one of the first I’d see at a VA hospital visiting suffering veterans, or at the playground helping urban youth learn to play a sport.  He wasn’t with the Chiefs forever, but while he was there, he was all in.

You want to talk about leaving a mark?  Look at guys like Andy Studebaker.  Sure, they love the money, popularity and rush that comes with playing on Sundays.  But they also love using that big platform for a ton of good.

The funny thing about it is Andy will read this and be mad at me that I wrote it.  That’s how guys like that are.  They’d rather do things for someone else than be the focal point of the camera.

But in a heightened time of bad news, we also need to tell the story of the Andy Studebaker’s of the NFL.  Because there are a bunch of them.

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