NFL player brings energy to National Grid
Pittsburgh Steeler Will Allen stood in the kitchen at the Sustainability Hub in Worcester on Thursday, chatting with National Grid employees about some grim NFL statistics.
Three years after players retire, he said, 80 percent are “divorced, depressed or broke.” Many aren’t thinking about what they’ll do when their football career ends and the money stops flowing. And, shockingly, most players die between the ages of 48 and 62.
“But we can talk about football later,” the affable safety said. “I want to learn about what you’re doing in Worcester.”
Will, a 12-year-NFL-veteran, is spending three weeks in a customized job shadowing program at National Grid, where he’s learning about the energy industry he hopes to join in a couple of years after retiring. He started exploring career options in the industry after being inspired by Tesla, the innovative electric car manufacturer. As the NFL player’s association didn’t have any existing relationships with energy-related employers through its “externship” program, Will connected with Connor Ford, a coordinator for the NFL player’s association and the son of John Ford, leadership & capabilities development manager with National Grid’s Our Academy. Connor introduced Will and John several months ago, and John Tyler, Global Director of Our Academy, gave John the green light to pursue a program. With the approval of senior leaders including Massachusetts President Marcy Reed, Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer Jim Madej and John Flynn, Senior Vice President of US Business Development, an “externship” was hatched.“A lot of people made this work,” said John, who has helped coordinate Will’s three-week schedule, which started Feb. 16 in Reservoir Woods for a week of learning about Performance Excellence, operations, and Smart Energy Solutions.
The partnership is the first the NFL’s externship program has had with an energy company, Will said. Most retired players pursue career paths in the sports arena, or with companies affiliated with the NFL.
“Will has just been so effusive in his praise of what we’re doing as a company,” John said.
Will’s job shadowing will continue for two more weeks in Washington, D.C., where he will learn more about Smart Grid technologies and meet with our governmental affairs team. His specific interests include alternative, renewable energy, and energy storage and distribution.
“I want to know it all,” he said.
Will said one of the highlights of his first week with National Grid was his tour of the Sustainability Hub, which showcases features offered through the Smart Energy Solutions pilot program in Worcester.
“To see a company establishing new practices and changing minds with innovation is really impressive, and profound,” Will said. “There is a huge need for what National Grid is doing here.”
So, might we see the football star trading in his helmet for a hard hat in a couple of years?
“I would love to be a part of this,” he said.
To learn more about Will, including his foundation for at-risk youth in Pennsylvania and his native Ohio, visit www.willallenfoundation.com.