Ravens players are now getting lessons from a graduate of the prestigious Wharton School.
Director of Player Development Harry Swayne has completed the Athlete Development Professional Certification Program at the school.
The focus of the intensive, year-and-a-half-long program was to better equip NFL directors with the leadership skills needed to handle the complex challenges of serving NFL players.
"This was no joke," Swayne said with a laugh. "It was a good experience, man, let me tell you. It was some tough competition."
Eight months of the program was spent on a group project, which was presented at the very end to a panel of judges compromised of NFL key stakeholders and Wharton faculty. There were five groups, and each worked on a separate challenge.
Swayne was the team leader and one of two presenters of the winning group project. His* *group was charged with creating an NFL Football Academy.
Instead of following the lead of the previous format, which had NFL players learn about the business of the NFL from what general managers, coaches and scouts do, Swayne took it in a different direction.
He, along with five other directors of player development from the Cowboys, Chiefs, Buccaneers, Eagles and Raiders, orchestrated a program for high school student-athletes, current and former NFL players. It focused on the prep, life and next phases of a players' life. Swayne interviewed linebacker and Ray Rice as part of a video talking to players at each level on challenges they face.
"We were hitting a full lifespan of a player," Swayne said. "We were giving them some life skills, a little football stuff, how to be successful in this working environment – which for many is their first real job – and how to move on to another career with our NFL sponsors."
Swayne's group won based on criteria of applying tools learned in class – decision making analyses, influencing, persuading and marketing – and demonstrating the overall impact (financial, public relations or other) of the project to the club and league.
Swayne also learned a lot about politicking for the importance of player development. He cited one professor, Mario Moussa, as being particularly influential on him.
"The cog [of a franchise] is the players," Swayne said. "The cog needs some fuel and direction."
Swayne, an offensive tackle for the Ravens in 1999 and 2000, has been meeting with the team's rookies daily during OTAs and rookie football school. He goes through many lessons preparing them for the NFL.
"We discuss anything and everything to be a better player on and off the field after we're done with football [for the day]," linebacker Courtney Upshaw said. "So, we just try to go in there and take that learning and use it."