From Lawyer to Coach (NFL Coach, That Is)


The story of lawyer-turned-football-coach Daron Roberts offers some great lessons on career change. Roberts turned his back on a Harvard Law School education to start from scratch and become an NFL coach. While your transition may be less dramatic, you can learn from his inspiring story.

1. You can change your career. It’s that simple (though not easy). So don’t let your past choices or inertia dictate your future career. Even after investing time and money in law school, Roberts wasn’t bound by his education. He discovered his passion through volunteering at a summer football camp and knew he wanted to be an NFL coach. Then he made his move and didn’t look back.

2. All it takes is one “yes.” And you may need to collect a stack of rejections in order to get one. Roberts, who had no football experience since playing for his high school team, applied to fifty colleges and all the NFL teams. All but one rejected him, but the Kansas City Chiefs took a chance on him. That was all the opportunity he needed.

3. You may have to start from the bottom. Changing course may require going back to school, working as an unpaid intern, or taking a job in the mailroom. So check your ego at the door and work your way up. Roberts went from a highly-paid law firm job to an unpaid internship. His work wasn’t glamorous, but he used it to learn and to make connections.

4. Create your own allies. Whatever the environment, your success is a result not just of what you do but also the relationships you have. Roberts’ Harvard pedigree and network didn’t do him much good in the locker room. Undeterred, he identified a veteran coach whom he admired, worked his tail off, and proved himself. Eventually Roberts won the coach’s respect, and he moved up from unpaid intern to paid coaching staff.

5. Passion matters. Don’t be afraid to show your passion and enthusiasm — it is one of your greatest assets. Kansas City’s coach saw Roberts’ passion in his willingness to leave the law behind to pursue football coaching, so he gave the novice a chance. And Roberts’ passion sustained him through the grueling pace of the early days and months.