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Project LAND: In Step with Former Student-Athletes as They Discover What’s Next

Football had transformed my life, but I had to move on.

Tom Carter Redskins

Former Notre Dame football player, Tom Carter, has an interesting project I’d like to tell you about. Tom, President and CEO of The Shield Foundation, has partnered with fellow University of Notre Dame alumnus, Jack Shields Sr, on Project LAND. What is Project LAND you ask? The below article, posted by Tom on LinkedIn, should answer your question.

Project LAND: In Step with Former Student-Athletes as They Discover What’s Next

In his article describing Project LAND (Life After Notre Dame), Jack Shields, Sr., my dear friend, partner in the project, and fellow University of Notre Dame alumnus, described how some former student-athletes who have gone on to play professional sports wonder “what now?” after the cheering stops. Well, that was me.

In 2002, I was 30 years old and six months into my retirement from the National Football League (NFL). I had been a first-round draft pick by Washington and later played in Chicago and Cincinnati. Now, I was sitting on my couch, asking myself, “Where do I fit in?” I was daunted by the fact that at my age I would be competing with peers who were already in their second or third jobs.

My wife, Renee’s, clarifying comment – “Dude, you have to do something” – jumpstarted me toward discovering what my contribution would be. Football had transformed my life, but I had to move on. Still, sports would remain central to my purpose of using my experiences to help other athletes advance to the next level.

My own journey was step by step, one foot in front of the other, toward Project LAND. I obtained advanced degrees, including a doctorate in business administration, and even returned to football, this time as a leader in the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). I was getting closer when I founded Carter Alo Consulting to help athletes navigate the business of sports by finding reputable representation and becoming more financially literate.

Then I met Jack through my former Washington teammate and Notre Dame alumnus, Patrick Eilers. Pat saw that a connection needed to be made, as all three of us bore witness to young men and women challenged as they transitioned from sports. We knew that their talent, charisma, and leadership skills would translate well in the “real world” if they were just given a hand and the assurance that they were no different than their peers experiencing the same obstacles.

I feel I am a person of both faith and fate and joining Jack and Pat in Project LAND reinforced that belief. I had arrived in the place I was supposed to be, and we were ready to get to work.

One of the steps we took to optimize Project LAND’s services for former student-athletes was to perform the 5 Whys methodology with our team. We wanted to be crystal clear on the root cause of why student-athletes struggle in their lives after sports. We asked the following questions, and the answers were revealing, yet not surprising to us:

1) Why do student-athletes struggle to transition into their post-athletic career? Because they lack time to prepare and believe their next step is to turn pro.

2) Why do student-athletes lack time to prepare and believe their next step is to turn pro? Because of their schedule and the fact that their mindset is to defy the odds that just .02% of graduating student-athletes will turn pro.

3) Why are schedules a barrier and why does the student-athlete believe they will defy the odds? Because of the intensive time commitment of their athletic training, play, and typical class schedule. They also believe becoming pro is the answer to their problems.

4) Why isn’t the time commitment modified to allow for transition prep and why is turning pro the answer to their problems? Because it’s about the all-consuming identity of being a high-performing athlete in college sport – nothing else compares – and because the fame and money that comes from becoming a pro changes the course of their life and that of their family.

5) Why isn’t there a post-athletic, transition approach that is specifically dedicated to addressing the unique struggles – schedule, mindset, identity, self, and family – of the student-athlete? Because colleges lack the time, resources, and expertise to create and execute a 4 (years) for 40 (years) value proposition.

With this, we were even more confident in our countermeasure: Project LAND’s five pillars, encompassing a network of world-class providers, industry experts, and ND Alumni to support former student-athletes’ personal and professional development:

Post-Athletic Career Transitions Coaching Prepare for the next career through 1:1 career coaching, résumé building, mock interviews, goal assessments, and professional profile curation.

Innovation & Entrepreneurship Training – Build the skills necessary to bring an idea to market, start a new business, or energize an existing one.

Mental Wellness Safety Net Navigation Services – Receive immediate access to high-quality services including telepsychiatry, in-person rehabilitation clinics, and an online education platform.

Physical Health Care & Rehabilitation Navigation Services – Connect to one of the nation’s top virtual physical therapy networks, a leading inpatient rehabilitation hospital, and a high-quality national network of vetted musculoskeletal care providers.

Emergency Assistance – Receive emergency assistance through a needs-based, relief mechanism available to qualifying individuals having difficulty paying daily living expenses.

We say to former student-athletes and student-managers who may be uncertain that Project LAND can help them: our services are designed to meet individual needs and goals. Some may need to top off the tank and continue flying. Others may need a more comprehensive program, and not just when they first transition from sports, but if needed, throughout their lives. That’s our 4-for-40 commitment.

If you are a former student-athlete or student manager preparing for or experiencing a post-athletic transition, or if you know of someone Project LAND can help, please contact me at 703-431-1801, email:, or complete the Contact Us form on our website ( Our dedicated community is ready to help you take that step toward where you are meant to be. Trust me, I know it can be done.

I love seeing former Notre Dame football players out in the world, making a difference, and Tom is doing just that. Know someone who could use Tom’s help, or want to lend a hand with Project LAND? Please reach out to Tom at the contact information above.

Cheers & GO IRISH!