New York Jets: Brandon Copeland proving he’s more than just a football player

New York Jets (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
New York Jets (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) /

New York Jets linebacker Brandon Copeland recently spoke with us about his partnership with Capital One and his experiences and ventures away from the gridiron.

New York Jets‘ linebacker Brandon Copeland continues to defy a decades-old preconception about athletes. And he’s doing so through his achievements off the field and his impact on the community around him.

As fans, we oftentimes fall into a trap of defining our favorite players by their profession. We mistakingly assume that every waking moment of their lives is spent dedicated to their craft and we don’t think about their lives off the gridiron.

But in reality, life is bigger than football. And that’s just what Brandon Copeland is proving.

New York Jets fans will know Copeland as the veteran outside linebacker who has spent the past two seasons filling a rotational role with the team. Whether asked to play his true edge rusher position or an off-ball linebacker role in a pinch, Copeland has played his role admirably.

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But today, we aren’t going to talk about Brandon Copeland the football player. No, that’s just a small aspect of his life. Today, we are going to talk about Brandon Copeland the individual and the many other ventures that define who he is.

Some may be aware that Copeland graduated from the University of Pennsylvania back in 2013, but very few probably know that the 28-year-old went back to teach part-time at his alma mater starting last year.

When not on the field, Copeland co-teaches a financial literacy course at Penn entitled “Life 101.” That’s a tall task for any person, let alone someone already dealing with the trials and tribulations of being a football player.

On top of that, Copeland and his wife, Taylor, operate two separate real estate agencies and a nonprofit organization called Beyond the Basics Inc. The organization was created to help young children realize their true potential through events around the country.

And then just to top everything off, Copeland was honored with the 2020 NFLPA Alan Page Community Award for his work with the underprivileged through his nonprofit.

Copeland is an Ivy League graduate and professor, a business owner, and the owner of a nonprofit organization that won him the highest honor bestowed by the NFLPA. It’s safe to say that he’s disproving the stereotype that athletes are just athletes and nothing more.

Copeland recently teamed up with Capital One to release the “Mind Over Money” study that examined the negative effects that stress could have on a person’s financial decision making.

But more importantly, it worked to find a solution.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Copeland about his off-field ventures and his work with Capital One and the “Mind Over Money” study. You can learn more about the study by clicking this link and going to their website.

Here are the results of our discussion.

Teaching at Penn

JF: “So you graduate from Penn in 2013, but then six years later you go back and teach at your alma mater. What was it that made you decide to do that?”

BC: “Coming out of a school like Penn, going into the NFL, and receiving a large sum of money early on in my life and career and just not having an idea of how to budget properly. When I bought my first house, my wife called and said ‘hey should I sign this, does everything look right?’ And I’m like, ‘I have no idea.’ So I thought that that was a little backward for all the years of education that I had so I wanted to go back to my alma mater and ultimately help a younger version of myself.”

JF: “And so you go back and you teach this course, ‘Life 101’ is what you call it. What was the inspiration behind the name of that course?”

BC: “It’s all the constants, I call them constants of life. You know that you’re going to have to choose between buying and leasing a car, you know you’re going to have to choose between buying a house or the cost of renting, your budgeting, your credit. These are all things you’re going to have to deal with. And I’ve had the first year and it was pivotal in learning about what my students needed and ultimately understanding that I wanted to make this stuff accessible to all. I was able to partner with Capital One and we worked together to create this ‘Mind Over Money’ study where we’ve actually been able to put some stats and numbers behind the thing that I’m looking to find answers for. The second year we’ve been building thus far and we understand that another one of those constants of life is stress. Through this ‘Mind Over Money’ study, we’ve been able to find that 58 percent of people are able to say that financial decisions control their lives. And I ultimately have been able to understand that my peers have been going through things and they’re just not where they want to be financially and I’m doing the class to help prevent that from happening.”

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Coping with Stress

JF: “You just mentioned the Capital One ‘Mind Over Money’ study that names stress as something that could have a significant negative effect on a person’s financial decision making. What are some methods you recommend for coping with that stress?”

BC: “Obviously as a football player who kind of draw on what you know and what you’ve been trained to do. And one of the best pieces of advice that I received my rookie year, and it’s actually carried with me all these years later, is that ‘you can’t stress what you can’t control.’ That sounds very, very simple, but understanding that there are certain decisions in my life that I have no control over, but the ones that I do, I have to wholeheartedly manage those and decide correctly. One of the things we’ve spoken about with Capital One is how we can all look to take that long-term perspective and that vision to make sure that we make better financial decisions in the immediate future. For example, I have a vision that I want to go into my eighth season in the NFL in shape and ready to go. I need to start dieting correctly and when you don’t have that vision, when you don’t have that North Star, so to speak, things could go south. Me personally, when I have a cheat meal it turns into a cheat day, it turns into a cheat week and then I’m up 10 pounds. If I don’t have that vision or that long-term perspective there’s nothing that really pulls me back on track. We think the same thing could be applied to your financial decisions. You’re going to make mistakes, things are going to happen, life is going to happen, but ultimately when you understand your long-term goals for yourself, your family, or whomever, that is what should pull you back on track.

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JF: “You have a lot going on off the field. You’re a part-time professor and you and your wife operate two real-estate companies AND a non-profit organization. You’re much more than just a football player. How do manage your own stress levels with so much on your plate? Is it a similar thing in that long-term vision?”

BC: “Exactly, I think that it’s one, having these lofty goals for myself personally and two, understanding perspective on everything. I’ve come a very long way in my life and I’ve asked for a lot of these things, I’ve asked for these responsibilities. A lot of people ask for money and then they don’t understand the decisions that come with money. For me personally, I frame that in the context of different things I’m doing off the field. Everything that I’m doing I’ve signed up to do. So I focus on the things that I can affect and control in the immediate and try to knock those things off the list. But ultimately, I’m making sure I don’t allow my immediate wants, needs, and stress — whether it’s going on in-season or out-of-season, things that are going on off the field —  affect that North Star, that vision point. Ultimately, I want to get to the end of my life and look back on every decision and smile. And I think that what we all want to do. I would say that no one wants to get to their death bed and just think ‘damn I wasted a lot of time.’

Advice and Perspective

JF: “I love the phrase ‘North Star,’ it’s like an ever-present guidance for you. I like that phrase, that’s a really good mindset to have. So lastly, do you have any advice for young athletes trying to make a career out of their craft?”

BC: “Great question. I would say again, not to give you a whole interview about perspective, but I was actually talking to a young guy yesterday. He’s starting his first semester at LSU and he was asking for advice and guidance and I would say this. Again, it’s all about understanding your vision, understanding your ‘why.’ If you plan on going to the next level, you can’t do what everyone else is doing at your level. There are so many people who talk to me about ‘oh I want to do this with my life, I want to do this.’ They’re doing the same thing that everyone else is doing and they’re expecting different results. If you’re a young athlete and everyone is doing five sprints but you want to be in the NFL, you need to be doing seven or eight. So again, understanding that if have I have a different vision and I see further than the people around me, I have to work differently. And it does come back to money, not to relate everything to money, but it really does come back to money. A lot of people, because of social media, because of this world we live in, they have a different vision and value system for themselves, yet they’re making decisions for themselves based on what they see their friends and peers doing on Twitter or Instagram or whatever. Ultimately, understanding your ‘why,’ your value system will help you stay strong in those times of stress.”

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JF: “I think that could be related back to everyone. It’s kind of human nature to look around, be comfortable in your surroundings, and just do the same thing as everyone else just to get by. But if you want to be at the next level, if you want to improve upon where you currently are, you have to outwork everyone else around you. You can’t just be at the same level. I think that applies to not just athletics, but everything in life no matter what your profession is.”

BC: “Oh 100 percent. And that’s one of the reasons I did the class because it’s not just about the undergraduate students at Penn, it’s about trying to affect everyone. It’s about trying to affect my mom who’s a single mother. How do we give her financial advice so that she doesn’t have to work as hard as she worked for two husky young boys, myself and my younger brother? So that’s another reason that I’m very excited about the partnership with Capital One and this ‘Mind Over Money’ study is that it’s not focused on a certain subset. They’re really trying to create advice and tips for everyone and that’s just who I am. I don’t want to be looked at as an athlete, I want to be looked at as an average person. I want to be looked at along with everyone else. And we all could make these financial decisions because I want us all to reach our North Stars.”

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JF: I still love that North Star analogy, that’s great stuff. I appreciate you taking the time to speak today Brandon!

BC: I appreciate you, thanks Justin.