During his Hall of Fame career as a linebacker, Willie Lanier dealt with complex offenses. Now as a First Union Securities rep, he deals with quite a mix of financial services.
Willie Lanier played professional football in the '60s and '70s, but don't call him a former football player.
In his day, professional athletes lived their lives "on parallel tracks," says the 11-year veteran of the Kansas City Chiefs.
"We were individuals who happened to play football," Lanier explains. "We took our education, training and knowledge, and did things at the same time we played football. Now, football players seem to put academics on hold and concentrate only on the game. We tried to sell all our skills to accomplish as much as we could."
Indeed, shortly after being selected by the Chiefs in the second round of the 1967 National Football League draft, Lanier took his business degree from Morgan State University in Baltimore and enrolled in graduate school at the University of Missouri in Kansas City.
"That's what other students with business degrees were doing," Lanier says. "I didn't see any reason why I should be any different."
The only difference was that he was putting together a Hall of Fame career Sunday afternoons patrolling the middle of the Chiefs' defense from 1967 to 1977. Thanks to the Lanier-led defense, the Chiefs won Super Bowl IV, stunning the supposedly invincible Minnesota Vikings, 23-7.
Lanier's spirit of accomplishment carried over to his post-football career. Today, he is a senior vice president capital markets liaison at First Union Securities in Richmond, Va. He started working at Wheat First in 1980.
"I deal with retail accounts, asset management, corporate finance, institutional sales, mutual funds and business development," he says. "It's quite a mix of financial services."
Being Willie Lanier has helped his career. "Brand recognition is important," he says. "I still have my name up in the stadium. It's a form of advertising that you don't have to fund. I travel a lot and people know about the Chiefs."
Lanier, who was selected to the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986, missed a total of five games in 11 seasons. Quite a feat since football is such a brutal sport.
"Hey, I'm a smart guy," he says, with a laugh. "I played intelligently. Always be in a position so you don't have to make a bad decision."
Most of his decisions were good ones. He developed a reputation as a fierce hitter with an instinct for the ball. His nickname was "Contact" because of his ferocious tackling style.
The name should stick. One doesn't become a senior vice president for a major brokerage firm without making significant "contacts" in the business world.
Not just an ex-jock, Lanier is a knowledgeable businessman who happened to play football. And he happened to play it extremely well.