Rocky and Alessia McIntosh, who created the A GRAN Foundation to help Washington-area schoolchildren in need. Photograph by Kevin Allen.
Will someone please make this movie? Picture a college classroom filled with larger-than-life current and former NFL players, some with their wives, hitting the books for six weeks during the offseason to earn a masters degree in business administration. It’s happening right here in Washington, with a new program at George Washington University. I heard firsthand accounts of the program at a charity dinner this weekend hosted by participant and Redskins player Rocky McIntosh.
The executive MBA program created by GW is called STAR, because it’s aimed at individuals with “special talent, access, and responsibilities.” In addition to professional athletes, it targets people in the entertainment industry. The slogan is: “Learn how to turn your celebrity into a powerful brand.”
Derrick Dockery, a former Redskin who currently plays for the Dallas Cowboys, is in the program with his wife, Emma. “The lockout was a wakeup call,” said Emma of their decision to join STAR. The pair met as undergrads at the University of Texas, where Dockery was a Longhorns star, and now live with their young children in Lansdowne, Virginia. “We need to be prepared for life after football,” she said. “That’s how our friends who are also in the program feel, too.”
Imagine in one classroom, in addition to McIntosh and Dockery, current Redskins Josh Wilson and Darrel Young; free agent Antwaan Randle El, who played last season for the Pittsburgh Steelers; Lance Johnstone, formerly of the Oakland Raiders; and Ukee Dozier, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings, to name only a few. This is the first year of the two-year program, which involves plenty of out-of-class work but just six weeks in the classroom: two at GW, two at Columbia University in New York, and two at a California institution still to be designated. Upon completion, the participants will be awarded an MBA.
At the Palm Sunday night, several of the players, plus John Auville, Eric Bickel, Jason Bishop, and J.P. Flaim of the radio show The Sports Junkies, served as celebrity waiters for a $200-a-plate fundraiser for the A GRAN Foundation, set up by McIntosh and his wife, Alessia, to fund and actively support young children in need from kindergarten on. More than 87 fans and friends attended, and enjoyed a wine bar and appetizers of crabcakes, spring rolls, and smoked salmon, before sitting down to a three-course surf and turf dinner. As deft in a crowded dining room as on the field, former Skins runningback Clinton Portis and wide receiver Randle El guided platters of food through the tight crowd. Not one platter was fumbled.
It would be impossible to attend a Redskins dinner and not discuss the topic that burns up local sports news: What about the quarterback position? Charles Mann, brandishing one of his two Super Bowl rings (from the good old Redskins days), was unequivocally against the idea of owner Dan Snyder signing soon-to-be former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who was out this season due to a neck injury and surgeries. “They need to go with the [Mike] Shanahan plan,” he said, citing the Redskins’ head coach. “[Take] three years to build the team, rather than doing what Snyder always does: go for the big name.” [Ed. note: The Washingtonian’s Brett Haber agrees; read his take here.]
NFL Hall of Famer and Giants and Redskins legend Sam Huff was also direct about Manning, but in a far more physical way. “If they hire Peyton Manning,” said the former linebacker, “the first thing someone like me is going to do is hit him hard, right here”—and poked me in the neck. Ouch. Portis, who reportedly is trying to get back with the Redskins, saw the issue differently: “A healthy Peyton Manning is good for anybody.”
Other current and former NFL players at the dinner included former Redskins Pat Fischer, Derrick Frost, and Ade Jimoh; Jerome McDougle Jr. of the Philadelphia Eagles; and Don Davis of the New England Patriots.
The evening was good fun, a football fan’s dream come true—not to mention a gourmand’s paradise. You haven’t seen a table full of food until you’ve seen several NFL players sit down to eat, which most of them did at the end of the evening. I joined Charles Mann and Brian Mitchell, the latter of whom opted for lamb chops and salmon over lobster and steak (“lower fat content,” he said). Where did our conversation go? To injuries and fitness. Mitchell said he was worried he’s gained a few pounds over his playing weight. Both recalled injuries on the field, various injections to get back in the game, surgeries, and more injuries. When I mentioned that my doctor thinks I might have a torn meniscus, Mann roared with laughter. “Just one?” he said. “I’ve had five or six, with all the surgeries. I have no meniscus left in either knee.”