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The first time Austin Spitler considered joining the NFL's Business Management Entrepreneurial program, he was hesitant. He needed some motivation to fill out the application and write the essays required to join.
The linebacker, who recently signed with the Redskins in January, had spent a few years with the Dolphins before Caleb Thornhill, Miami's player director, convinced him that he should attend, especially considering the business acumen he acquired at Ohio State.
It was a smart decision.
Two years later, Spitler has now completed three of the NFL's offseason business programs, the third one wrapping up this past week at the San Francisco campus of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
"It was just a really good overall experience," Spitler said. "[Thornhill] was always adamant. He felt I should definitely take advantage of this opportunity. It's great. It's more about the connection and networking, the people you meet, than anything."
Besides the instructors and lecturers, that also meant connecting with 31 other current and former NFL players, including Dwayne Allen, Josh Martin and Maurice Jones-Drew.
For Spitler, it was a chance to reconvene with former teammates Brian Hartline and Jeron Mastrud, two similarly business-minded players.
"We've actually been investors in a couple projects together," Spitler said. "It's just refreshing to see all those guys out there. There's just so much knowledge in that room, to see these guys who are passionate about their ideas and are taking the steps necessary to go forth and make it a reality."
The program lasted four days and was focused this year on technology and startups, highlighting the Silicon Valley and the venture capitalists that have turned the bay area into a lucrative hot spot.
Spitler was able to tour the campuses of Facebook, Instagram, Google and Luxe and had conversations with senior members from each company.
"It was really cool to see," said Spitler, whose dad initially got him interested in business. "It was a grand scale. It was huge. The crazy thing is how much [the companies] cater to the employees, and you can just tell they genuinely love to work. It's not that they're lax, they know what they have to do to get work done."
Spitler says he is still leaning towards a career in real estate – something he found highly rewarding in last year's Notre Dame program – once he finishes playing in the NFL.
And, after spending six years in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Spitler is getting ready to move to Ashburn with his family on Wednesday. It's a change of pace, back to a big city, but one he's ready to tackle.
"We're looking forward to it," he said. "We've talked to so many people, but we've heard nothing but good things about D.C and northern Virginia. I don't miss winters at all, but it's part of the deal."