Published on:

6th Mar 2023

Jeff Faine & Keri Laine: Interview

From NFL to Entrepreneur, the road to success. Keri Laine Interviews Jeff Faine a former NFL player, real estate developer, and philanthropist.


Keri Laine 0:00

Awesome. Well, Jeff, welcome to the INRoads podcast. Thank you so much for being here with

me, we have so much to cover. And I'm excited because it's not just about what you've done

and the amazing things you've accomplished, which we are going to hear about, but really want

to get to the heart of who you are and the character that you've had, and the stories that you

things that you've experienced, that have made you who you are today to be able to achieve the

things that you've achieved. So welcome. And thank you again for being here.

Jeff 0:29

Thanks for having me.

Keri Laine 0:30

So, I want to take you back to being five years old. If you were driving in a car right now, with

your five-year-old self, and you're headed down the road, you're having a conversation with your

five-year-old self, what do you think your five-year-old self would be most surprised by about

your career and where you are today?

Jeff 0:48

Wow. So five-year-old self would have been shocked that I became a professional athlete

because that wasn't in the cards. So growing up in our household, speaking about being a

professional athlete was like, no cussing.

Keri Laine:



It was so far from like, what any type of aspiration or goal that my parents would even allow me

to set because in my parent's mind, and I think it's it's reality, it's like, that's a long shot. And I

was a good athlete, but they wanted me to focus on academics, it was mom was a school

teacher, dad was a naval officer, super focused on academics getting good grades, and

becoming an aeronautical engineer like that. It was, like from the fat like, like, from a very early

age, that was the path and you know, so to be had a NFL career played 10 years that would

have been, certainly would have been shocked.

Keri Laine:

Especially with some of the heights that you had. So run through your Pinnacle points there, like

some of the best moments.


Best moments playing football at Notre Dame drafted in the first round. You know, at one point,

highest paid center in the NFL, you know, those are all things I kind of joked once to my

business partner, I was like, I was the best in the world twice.

Keri Laine:



I was being drafted first and, you know, highest paid. And that itself is certainly

accomplishments. But there's some of the things that I'm sure we'll get into that are, you know,

even higher on that list now than those but from just pure professional career, my initial career

as an athlete doesn't probably be the highest point.

Keri Laine:

So looking back, knowing that that was how the household and the culture and the upbringing

was, I'm sure that they were proud of you. And I'm sure that they were really excited to see

where everything turned. But was there a point where you had this self-identity shift, and you

realize that this may not have been your path, but it was the path that you were gifted with? And

that you worked really hard to strive and achieve? And was there any kind of conflict within you?

Because you might have felt that that would have been the last thing that you would have

expected, or they would have expected?


No, it wasn't ever a conflict and everything kind of just moves so fast, right? In a way it moved

fast, in a way move extremely slow. But how it move fast is that we were just never we were

never really prepared for the next phase. Yeah, right. It was we got started getting recruited

heavily in high school. That was a shock. It was like what, what is this like, what's happening

here, you know, and, and then you go to Notre Dame and still just don't even at Notre Dame is

still not in the cards, we're still not even thinking that we still think that being a professional

athlete is a long shot. Right? Right. And it just kept sneaking up on us to the point where even

on draft day, I didn't expect to go in the first round, because cuz of my position and ended up

going in the first round, completely shocked, they sent the plane to come get us I didn't have a

suit. Like it was like, it was like, so unprepared, right? You know, and it's just because we're,

we're naive. And at the same time, it was just happening so fast, where we just were just rolling

with it, you know, and my parents first and probably last time they'd ever been on a private

plane, it was like an experience in itself for them just going and being a part of that. And that's

just how it kind of kept going. So it wasn't ever a point where we're just like me, it's just didn't

work out with the way that we want it. Right, right. I mean, it was it was the way it worked out the

way that it did. Yeah. And not only that, it was you know, beyond our wildest expectations. You

know, I always worked hard. I'd always focused on love athletics, loved working hard in

athletics, but it was just, it just wasn't something that we were banking on.

Keri Laine:

So if you were to have one of your best friends in the car, this little mythical car that we're driving

down the road, if you were to have one of your best friends, how would they describe what you

do today for work?


A lot of a lot of my best friends I swear, like when I put out something on, you know, some type

of post or meet it, they're like, now I kind of understand what you do, you know? So I think a lot

of them would say that I help I help people with their finances in some way or fashion. Right.

And then on the professional side, and then on the philanthropic side, I help people. I help

young people. And really, it's really interesting, a lot of it, you know, talking about the DNA and

what's happening kind of past transitioning into the future. A lot of it has to do with, I believe has

to do with me being an offensive lineman, and what I mean by that, as an offensive lineman,

really, really working for others the whole time you're working to protect the quarterback, you're

making a hole for the running back, you're just you're protecting and creating opportunities for

others, right. And so that's, that, in itself, I think, is a little bit of my DNA that is just extended into

different levels in different areas of my professional life. And obviously, my philanthropic.

Keri Laine:

That’s very thematic the core of and that goes exactly to what is interesting, because when you

talk about who you are, and how you go about life, the things that we do, and the roles that we

play, the character and the virtues that you have if you are aligned with your authentic self, that's

the intuitive point. And so if you were to take a look at that, that's your theme. And then you

went from Pro athletics, and then you're now moved into helping people with finances, I would

have to think that there's some kind of moral internal GPS, some kind of Compass inside you

that's driving you from a virtuous perspective. So how would you describe the characteristics or

traits that got you along this journey to here?


So I think, first and foremost, extremely disciplined, that comes along with being, you know, an

athlete and having if you're wanting to be able to compete at the highest level, there's a lot of

those things that without the discipline, really everything else falters. And then I think, you know,

extremely focused and diligent, you know, also comes along the lines with, with being

disciplined. But, you know, most importantly, I think having an awareness to be able to sacrifice

and put yourself you know, almost second, you know, for the greater good, yeah, it goes back to

being an offensive lineman, right? And I don't want to make, like our whole talk today about

being about an offensive line. But, but really, that is, is such a big part of my life. Yeah. And

helped shaped, you know, really how I look at so much of the world. And I and my place in the

world, that piece of it is vital to my success.

Keri Laine:

Yeah, absolutely. And if you've gone through a period of realizing, seeing so much success in

that part of your career, taking those themes of who you are your character and the purpose that

you have, and now doing what you're doing in the business world, how was that shift from

sports to entrepreneur life and into the business?


Yeah, it's competing, right? It's so in sport, it was competing at a very, very high level. And

business is competing to I mean, it's a competition. The score is obviously you know, the money

you make the money you make for others, the way you improve others' lives, your lives, your

family's lives, everybody around, you know, and is that competition and really just doing it the

right way. Right, it's, you know, I think you can, there's a lot of people that, unfortunately, make a

lot of money that, in my opinion, probably don't do it the right way, don't, you know, don't lay

down there, you know, at night and put their head on the pillow and feel good about what they're

doing, ya know, deep down core. And so, you know, that's important. It's important, you know

because at the end of the day, I have in a lot of people have, I have two little boys that are

watching me every, you know, every step of the way, with my sons and, and it's important for me

to show them how to do it the right way.

Keri Laine:

So when you say the right way, how expand on that, what do you do when you lay your head

down at night? And you feel good about it? What does that look like?


Yeah, I think you know, so, I think that if you approach things with righteous intentions,

regardless if someone accepts it well or not, if you're doing it for the right reasons, if you're

doing it with righteous intentions and you're doing it alone you know, really kind of the path of

you know, not to make it super spiritual, but you know, almost the path that like Jesus or God

would take like that is something that you should be able to feel good about, you know, and if

you're thinking about raising others and doing things that can improve, you know, everybody

around you your whole circle Yeah, that's what you know, in my opinion, is really kind of doing it

the right way.

Keri Laine:

Now, do you think that this is part nature park nurture or where do you think because there's a

lot of people out there that will often wonder what the right decision is they get very conflicted

based on either external pressures or expectations or cultural implications and I think

sometimes it's hard for them to really zone in on what that compass what that direction that GPS

is telling them to do inside. So with that, where do you think that these came from? Did they

already exist? Or were they cultivated through your experiences?


Does it's mostly is cultivated in childhood through, through good parenting, you know, a good a

good childhood of being raised the right way. You know, there's, you know, probably, you know,

Thank God my mom has passed away she would probably go to jail for a lot of stuff she used to

do to me, but it was good stuff. I mean, it's like, you know, the saying you strain a tree when a

tree is young, right? Yeah. And then you can't straighten it once it's once it's old. And so that's I

was straightened a lot but you know what, though, it's, that's where it started, and it continued to

be massaged and continued to be molded into you know, really where it's become today,

throughout, you know, really a lot of stops in my life in high school with coaches, coaches in

sport has always been a central part of my, you know, kind of upbringing in life. And it's really,

you know, continued on through where, you know, to my staff, my employees, everybody that it

works with me like I tried to approach it in a very similar way. And so I don't, I think that there's

some natural characteristics that are born in everybody that, you know, you might want to seek

the good rather than seek evil, but, but at the end of the day, I think that really how you

approach life, a lot of it is really developed over time.

Keri Laine:

Yeah. And I think that the conditions and the environments that we put ourselves in, but also the

boundaries and things that we say no to, and I can imagine with what you've seen and

experienced, you've been in situations where you had to make a choice, I mean, they're going to

hang out with this crowd or hanging out with that crowd, or I'm going to stay more disciplined

and not stay out late. So I can wake up next morning ready to, you know, rock and roll and go

and how would you say that you've established your boundaries to be able to protect those



I think a lot of it also too, goes back to parenting, right? I was I was the kid in high school that

wasn't allowed to, like stay at other kids houses, I was the kid that wasn't allowed to stay out

past like 10 o'clock at the maximum even on the weekends, you know, and so that carried on, I

kept those same, that same approach, even though my parents weren't there in college, where I

just approached it differently. You know, and it was, it was just the way that, that I prepared

myself continued to develop and continue to evolve, was, was really shifted on, you know, kind

of that snowball that started at the top of the hill with my parents, you know, where it was a small

little ball and just kept growing, kept growing, kept learning new lessons, a big part of it is really

driven by that.

Keri Laine:

How do you differentiate because you have a quiet confidence about you like a humility, but

you're obviously really solid and resolute and who you are and what you have to offer? And I

think that also requires a certain amount of inner strength. How do you think that you've been

able to maintain aside from everything that's happened around you? Because that's all external,

right? On the internal side? How have you been able to maintain that connection to yourself that

confidence, but not have it turned into arrogance or ego?


So, you know, everybody's heard this in a different way. My dad used to always beat into my

head, two ears, one mouth, you know, you know, listen, listen, listen. And, and so when you're

sitting, and I sit with folks, and we're in meetings, I'm oftentimes, you know, and you're not

contributing, we're like, No, I'm thinking I'm, when I contribute, it will mean something. Yeah, you

know, and so it's gonna be super meaningful. But at the end of the day, we're all part of the

same world, we're all part of this whole thing. You know, some folks might shine in a different

way different times in our lives. And so you know, at the same time, you can, you can, you can,

you know, really kind of turn and have a bad day, you know, and you need to be able to show up

in those days as well, right? And so it's not great to boast and be bold and, and flashy on your

good days, you need to be able to keep it.

Keri Laine:

It all evens out.



Keri Laine:

So the idea that there had to have been times where it wasn't always ideal, or times where you

might have either failed, or you might have felt like you weren't your most secure, where were

parts on your journey, or even just one that you think was a roadblock or something that you

didn't expect to go through. That was really, really hard. And what happened with that?


Sure. Very first, the first time, I had to deal with something like that professionally, like whether,

you know, along my entire path, it was in football. This is when I was released by the

Buccaneers. And so I was released by Tampa Bay, Greg Schiano, it came it got brought in to be

the head coach, you know, and so our head coach got fired. Raheem Morris and Greg wanted

his guy, you know, I went to his guy from college. And so that was the first time that I ever, at

any level, been rejected, of sport, right? And so and I still remember I was I had business

interactions and dealings while I was playing. I was on a business trip in Bermuda when I got

the call from my agent. He said, Hey, I think you're gonna get released by the Bucs. I said, What

are you talking about? Like it? It was It caught me from, from left field? You know, I was a

four-year captain, I, you know, this was my team, right? You know, and so I called our general

manager, Mark, Dominique. And he said, Yeah, he said, I said, Hey, are you guys cutting me?

He said you got you should probably come in. I said I saw I knew right then like, Yeah, it sounds

like, all right. I'll be on a flight tomorrow, you know, and I'll be back in and but that was hard. It

was hard to deal with that. And, you know, I know that a lot of people probably dealt with it a lot

earlier in their lives, right with rejection at some level. But really, up until then, I, you know, this

was this was my ninth year in the NFL, you know, I've never not started I've never been a

backup I've never like that was just not part of it. And so to deal with that, that was challenging,

and really, at that time in my life, because I think almost you almost you probably don't deal with

rejection Well, regardless of when it happens, but for me to go that long, you know, and then to

deal with that. And so that was probably the most challenging part, you know, and then there's,

you can certainly take it into the business space right where we've had we've had misses where

we've had to close restaurants or different bars. to whatever it is, or, you know, close different

businesses, because it just didn't work each of those times and even getting cut by the

Buccaneers. It's a learning experience. Right? And it was, and I learned, and I was reminded,

always, you know, felt like I kept a good eye about this, but I was reminded that the NFL is a

business. And that's, that's what it is, you know, and, and, frankly, players are commodities. And

so you have to deal with that and understand that and accept that and to continue to deal with it.

The cool thing about that experience, though, is that the way that it was handled by leadership,

and because I knew that that was a tough decision for Mark, I was close with Mark Dominic, the

GM. And so I knew that was a very, very uncomfortable regardless at what level it sucks firing

people. Yeah, you know, and that's what was happening there. You know, and so it was

challenging for him, I saw how he handled it, I took from that ultimately, how I like to be able to

handle it with in the future, as well, it's, you know, every experience, if you, if you have the ability

to look at it a certain way is a learning experience, regardless if it's happening to you, or if you're

just experiencing being part of it.

Keri Laine:

And it sounds like in in the way that the conversation may have happened, there was a lot of

dignity and respect and empathy there. And so then you were able to emulate and do that back

even though you were on the receiving end of the information. And then you carried that forward

as he moved into business, with your leadership roles and how you treat people, I think that's

such an invaluable lesson, because you can't always control the outcome. And from his

perspective, as much as he may not have wanted that to happen, it's almost like he can't control

it, because he's got to protect the entity and you can't control it, because there's not much you

can do to change his mind at that point, so.


And, you know, and not to get not to get too deep into what was in his mind, because I certainly

mean, we didn't, we didn't go too far to about all and even know if he necessarily agreed, you

know, it's just the new head coach that they're brought in to take the team in a certain direction.

So you got to you know, there's, there's a saying, you know, the chef's got to buy their groceries

to cook the meal, right. And so you got to kind of a little accepted in a way. And so for me, I

mean, he even tried to do me a favor on the way out too. And this is, you know, part of it as well

where he was, hey, we're not going to cut you today, we're going to try and trade you that's a big

deal, because they're trying to what he's trying to do is get another team to honor my contract.

In the NFL, all the contracts are not guaranteed most of the contracts are not guaranteed. So So

you have to deal with that. But anyways, it was cool to see in a in a great learning experience to

see like really how leadership should handle transitions and difficult ones. And it could have

easily said you could easily answer that call when I called him and said, Yeah, we're releasing

you. Instead, he said, Hey, I know you should come in, because I want to do this face-to-face.

We're in a kind of a world now. We're in a world nowadays, where people are getting fired over

emails, getting released over emails and doing things like that. I mean, it's, you know, again,

fight over zoom call, like, I mean, you know, and so that's part of, you know, because you don't

ever know, you might come up come across that person again, in the future. Oh, yeah. You

know, and if you want to be able to make sure that you parted on good ways, so that, you know,

if something comes back around, it's still good.

Keri Laine:

Having gone through the line of work that I've gone through with the HR management and

running the organizations from that perspective, remember, when I hit a really hard termination,

mentor of mine told me, you know, you really don't know what's next for people, the best thing

that you can do is trust that all of your lives have a plan, and that you treat them with respect

and dignity in the moment you have them. And that's your responsibility. And it is about how

things come back and how people can look back in your life, but it's sort of released the guilt

and the pain that comes with being on either side of that, because you just in trust that things

happen for a reason. And every single time that I've seen, and I've had to go through that a lot,

it's always come out that way where you do run into somebody later on, or it does come back to

where there's an appreciation for how you handled them when delivering bad news. And it's it is

a challenging place to be in if you were to, I see a sense of you know, you have this experience,

and you have something that's unexpected, it was almost like you were able to disassociate

your ego from that situation, which I find fascinating, because of all the things that you've been

through and gone through that trait of being able to see it for what it is, and make it simply that a

moment in time and experience in time. What are you going to take from it? How are you going

to move on is really critical? And that's, that's very rare. And that's very, very hard, I think for a

lot of people to do. If you were to look at the idea of what you would want to define success to

be everybody defines those differently. And we're talking a lot about the characteristics and

virtues and traits. But how does that translate to success?


Oh, well, well, first, let me go back and say, just to clarify, it's still so I took a good lesson from it.

So I'm not gonna say it embodies. But, but, you know, for success, you know, and define

success and take these lessons and to be able to convert them into success. I mean, I think

ultimately, if you can always approach life in general is that you're just going to continue to learn

Yeah, and be open to learning, you know, be open to even not just even learning new data, but

learning new perspectives, right, you know, as, as you're educated and informed and you know,

be able to keep an open mind about, hey, you might not be looking at this the right way, right?

And if as long as you can question yourself in a healthy way, but question, question yourself in a

healthy way to say, hey, like, be open to hearing other perspectives, because, you know, just

because you feel like this is the right way you were raised the right way you were raised this are

like to be able to keep an open mind and learn that I think is where you can take a lot of the

pitfalls and challenges and things like that, where you can take those and help those Usher

away and find a way to success. Yeah, to be able to help shape that. And as long as you're

open to learn, that's the biggest piece.

Keri Laine:

I think it's interesting because you say in a healthy way. And that reminds me of there's a lot of

times when people are growing into new roles or new levels, that they have this sense of self

doubt and self doubt and questioning yourself or that imposter syndrome of not really feeling like

you deserve to be where you are is very different than questioning yourself from a healthy

paradigm and perspective. Where do you think people get the idea or the definition of success



There's a lot of superficial, you know, at the top surface success, what people feel like it's

success. You know, I mentioned something a little bit earlier about being the highest-paid

senator and NFL, you know, that can be taken in certain ways, right? But the way that the way

that, you know, essentially you are at that level, the way that that you are judged on who's the

best is who's paid the best, right? And so the reality is that, I think, again, it goes back to, you

know, kind of your self-check at the end of the night if when you're laying your head on your

pillow, do you feel good about what you're doing? It doesn't necessarily have to be making, like

the most amazing amount of money or, you know, to be, you know, having all the trinkets and

toys and all that stuff. It's Do you feel good about what you're doing? And because if you feel

good about what you're doing, you found success. Yeah, you know, and you're in it, as long as

you continue to feel good about it. And as long as the utility to continue to grow and go into that

way and not, you know, continue to progress and still feel good about it. That's success.

Keri Laine:

That's sticking to the core of what your purpose is, and who you are not selling that out for

anything external, or what society might say, or think that you need to be or do. What would you

say from the standpoint? Where are your roads taking you? What's next for you?


Yeah, so we've we're going to continue to expand and what we're doing on the we have a life

insurance firm that specializes in premium financing and continue to grow that and build that

out. And we enjoy that you got two offices between here in New York, and it works extremely

well. Yeah. And then on the philanthropic side of things, it is, you know, for our, our charity, it's

called the faint house, and we're just continuing to assist and help kids, you know, uplift them,

and encourage them and support them. And it just really helped them, you know, max out their

opportunities and do what they can do. And that's what you know, our focus is, and it's what it's

going to be and what we're really enjoying where we are right now with that.

Keri Laine:

So if you were to be at the end of your journey, looking back in the rearview to be able to say, I

know that I did life, well, what would that look like at the very end?


What would that look like at the very end that will look, look like hopefully a long time from now?

But it would be you know, seeing my kids grow and develop into the young man that I hope

they'll be, you know, really leaving that is, I think that that's the most important gift that you can

give is, you know, for the next generation for them to be able to pay it forward to and for them to,

you know, live very similarly and early. So where I felt like is a very righteous life and doing

things the right way, I think, you know, for us to be on the professional side is to help a lot of

people really secure a lot of futures and help just give a lot of security to families and in what

they have in the future. And then with the kids at the faint house, I mean, if that is something

that I think will be if we can, you know, I tell people all the time, it's the most rewarding thing that

we do, if we can do what I believe we can do over time, that will be a give back, because all of

those kids will be tremendous contributors to the local communities and broader communities.

And that is something that at the end of the day, you know, for the amount of people that have

rallied around that as well in our community, you know, it's a really big, big thing that I believe

will help, you know, really make me feel good about, you know, hopefully, done, done

something, something the right way.

Keri Laine:

And up. And it's hard to be able to say, when you're looking at something like that the inspiration

that it gives you and the community that exists today, but then what it does do for the future, that

in itself is that legacy work that is going to far supersede all the titles and all the money and all

that stuff that we just talked about. So that's pretty incredible work. Thank you for being with us

and talking about your journey, the whole core content that we talked about. And what we're

trying to do is really take some of these lessons that people like you have learned and inspire

others so if you were to have one word or one sentence or any kind of parting advice for

somebody listening that was digging deep in a situation that they may have Have you been able

to relate to some of the stories that you've shared? What would that be?


I mean, I don't know if it's one word, but I think you know if everybody would just think going

back to just feeling the meaning of success and feeling good about what you're doing, if you

know not being afraid to reinvent yourself, not being afraid to take a chance and to start over

into a new direction to so that you can wake up or in lay down and then wake up and feel good

about what you're doing. That's the most important part in life is, you know, it doesn't matter how

much money you're making if you don't feel good about it. It's not going to be fulfilling. So that

would be it.

Keri Laine:

So true, so true. Great advice. Thank you. Well, thank you for being with us, Jeff.


Thanks for having me.

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About the Podcast

Hosted by: Keri Laine
A series of conversations with the elite of the elite…. diving into the heart of their journey, with the hopes that others seeking to pave their way will be inspired by their stories.

KERI LAINE EXECUTIVE SOLUTIONS: Helping private equity and venture capital firms maximize profits by developing strong leaders, building efficient teams, and creating frameworks for success.

About your host

Profile picture for Keri Laine

Keri Laine

Keri has held C-level roles in various size organizations, public and private. In the past fifteen years, she has specialized in helping technology, manufacturing, and engineering companies disrupt their sector with entrepreneurial, innovative success across the globe. Keri has led organizations through employee growth of 100 to 4,000, both public and private with revenue stages from $40m to $5.6b.

She has facilitated 27 mergers and acquisitions globally, spearheading the talent and human capital perspective as well as business integration, strategic planning, internal communication, and change management.

She is a former global Chief level Executive that has taken three organizations public.

She is also certified in Change Management and is a Certified Executive Leadership Development Coach who has coached more than 200 top executives and entrepreneurs.