As part of Brown-Forman’s Black History Month celebration, the NFL Hall of Famer, three-time Super Bowl champ and winner of “Dancing with the Stars” visited the Brown-Forman Corporation to speak about the question he faced in 2005 when he retired from football at the age of 35.
Though most people will never wonder what path to pursue following a professional athletic career, many do face a similar dilemma in finding an entirely new job or profession at least once in their lifetime. And, take it from the NFL’s all-time leading rusher – it is possible to find success in more than one field, which Smith has proven as a philanthropist, president and CEO of Emmitt Smith Enterprises, Inc., and brand ambassador for Brown-Forman’s Casa Herradura brand.
“When I retired, it’s like OK, I have all this free time. What am I going to do?” Smith said during his speech at Brown-Forman. “I had to find people and reach out to mentors to help me understand what running a business is all about…I spent 20 something years of my life in sports, not 20 something years running a business. The best way I can compete with that is to hire some folks that are a lot smarter than I am and learn from them along the way.”
Emmitt Smith Enterprises is the umbrella company of EJ Smith Construction, E Smith Legacy, a commercial real estate company, Pat & Emmitt Smith Charities and the marketing and management of the Emmitt Smith entertainment brand.
“Hard work, classical, consistent, a winner, appealing, both sides of the aisle,” Smith said, describing his personal brand. “I cross over and I’m also in the eyes and minds of young people…There are a lot of attributes that I think I have in common with (Brown-Forman).”
In partnering with Brown-Forman, Smith has traveled throughout the US and beyond to endorse Herradura tequila and was the first celebrity athlete to buy Casa Herradura’s exclusive Double Barrel Reposado.
“Taking a trip down to Guadalajara and going out to Casa Herradura was a unique experience,” Smith said of a recent expedition as brand ambassador. “I got a chance to see first hand and up close in person how well Brown-Forman brands itself. … My relationship with Brown-Forman and their Herradura brand is something that I believe in because I like tequila. I love tequila, so I love to drink it.”
Promoting the Herradura brand as well as developing his own personal brand is an effort Smith has been devoted to since leaving the NFL. It’s his passion for each and every endeavor he’s pursued that has brought him much accomplishment since his retirement, but Smith said there’s still more he’d like to attempt in the future.
“I’m going to probably get on a horse and race right here at Churchill Downs,” he joked. “There’s probably one other thing that I really want to see come to fruition and I’m going to keep that one quiet, because I’m working behind the scenes on that one…But, right now my major focus is on family, is on my commercial real estate business, as well as my construction company.”
Though, he is most noted for his legendary performance in the NFL, Smith has a new-found affection for helping develop businesses and teaching children how to create a better life for themselves through Pat & Emmitt Smith Charities. In fact, Smith is so dedicated to his post-retirement life that when questioned if he missed any part of the NFL, his answer was a simple and shocking, “no.”
“If there was one part, it’s the actual consistency of the paycheck,” Smith laughed. “Outside of the game, (I don’t miss it). I’ve been fulfilled by the game. I’ve done all that I can do and could do, and so I have no regrets at all.”