Washington Redskins players spent their offseasons pursuing a multitude of endeavors. Some stayed local and others traveled. Some found a new home in Washington. Josh Norman hosted his annual Celebrity Basketball Game while Vernon Davis was honored with his own day in the District. Josh Doctson learned about African history and culture during his trip to Rwanda.
As for Matt Flanagan, a 24-year-old reserve tight end for the Redskins, he spent the middle of February and early March in a WeWork Labs office in New York, helping startup companies expand and increase their value.
"One of the big things I was doing was working on the programming team, which is taking a look at the data behind which services they offer and provide to the start-ups,” Flanagan told Redskins.com on Wednesday. “So one of the things I was spending most of my time doing was looking at the data behind that, trying to streamline the process where you can collect tangible data around these interactions, finding the value behind it. And also just giving my insight on how the process was going so far, and where they can improve.”
Flanagan was afforded this opportunity through the NFL Players Association Externship program, which was founded in 2014. It allows current NFL players to work with companies for three weeks to gain valuable experience for their post-playing days.
WeWork Labs is a subdivision of WeWork, which provides shared workspaces for different businesses. While many companies like WeWork provide workspaces to startups in exchange for equity, WeWork simply charges a monthly fee. WeWork Labs then supplies services for these startups, mentoring and educating them and helping them network and grow within their given community.
Flanagan has long been interested in entrepreneurship. He graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in biological sciences before getting his MBA from the University of Pittsburgh.
“I think I would like to eventually work in a venture capital investment space around biotechnology and medical technology,” Flanagan said. "That’s definitely somewhere I want to go."
When applying for the externship program, Flanagan also looked at positions with Catapult, a global venture capital platform in California, and with NASA at the Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Md. However, Catapult did not participate in the NFLPA externship program this year, and the NASA program was not being offered during Flanagan's desired timeslot due to the government shutdown.
Fortunately for Flanagan, NASA is offering a one-week entrepreneurial program in June -- something he hopes to take advantage of before the start of training camp.
“I’d like to be able to get another one in by the time training camp starts, maybe just a few weeks in the summer,” Flanagan said. “But yeah, definitely one next season, too. I’m looking forward to it.”