Running the Plays in Business and Life with former NFL player, Tremayne Stephens

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John: Hey everyone, welcome to Life is Digital. I am your host, John Bianchi. Get ready to learn about digital marketing as we share our knowledge and perspectives on current trends, best practices and actionable tips to help you grow your business in the digital age. Well, I am just so excited this morning, I have a very special guest with me, Tremayne Stephens. Tremayne is a former NFL player, and is currently the CEO and head trainer of Athletic Development Systems. Tremayne, it’s so great to have you onboard today.

Meet Tremayne Stephens, former NFL player and CEO and Head Trainer of Athletic Development Systems

Tremayne: John, it’s a pleasure to be here, man, I’m looking forward to this.

John: So Tremayne, I just want to share with our audience a little bit of your background. If they don’t know already, but you did graduate from NC State, where you amassed over 3000 yards, 3553 yards, to be exact, with 23 touchdowns, which still ranks third among all running backs in NC State history, which I think is pretty cool.

Tremayne’s experience playing with the Chargers 

John: And then from there, you went on to play with the San Diego Chargers and then Indianapolis Colts, so obviously you have that full experience of football all the way from college all the way through to the NFL. And I think this is a great opportunity. We were chatting about something that I think is a really, really unique perspective when it comes to the NFL, something that you were able to experience when you were playing with the Chargers, so maybe you can share that with the audience.

Tremayne: It’s not really an experience that I look too fondly on, but I think that very few people have really had a chance to get hit by Ray Lewis. I was playing for the Chargers, and of course we were playing the Ravens and we were supposed to do a little swing route out of the backfield where I kind of run up as a running back, which is what I was. My run-up, I kind of checked the linebacker to kind of see what he’s doing, and the linebacker that I’m checking is Ray Lewis. If he comes and I got to pick him up on the blitz, then I get to go out to my route.

He doesn’t come. He goes with our fullback across the field or so I thought… So I go out for my swing pass. My quarterback is Ryan Leaf. Ryan, kind of left me out to dry. He threw me a bad pass.

When I turn back around, John, Jason, I don’t remember much, but I remember that when I woke up, I thought that the doctor was out on the field, which I looked around and saw that the field look like our locker room, so I had gotten knocked out by Ray Lewis. He fooled me. He showed that he was going to our fullback. He came back around, he got me and when we watched it on film, it was horrendous, and don’t worry about trying to find any footage on YouTube. About 8-10 years ago, I found the footage, I called the guy and I bought that footage and I took it down off YouTube. I gotta pay big money to make sure nobody saw me getting knocked out.

Jason: We need to get Ray Lewis on here to tell his side of the story.

The life of a football player

John: Well, I think regardless, the lesson learned there about getting hit and coming back is probably the biggest thing that I can glean from what you have just shared.

What was it like playing in the NFL? Obviously, I think it’s a dream of a lot of young athletes, obviously, Division 1 college athletes. You as a certified trainer with over 15 years of experience, something I’m sure that you are able to impart to the people, to the young men and women that you work with… what’s it like being at that elite level and proving yourself there?

Tremayne: There’s a lot that went into it that I knew nothing about. I forgot about the fact that literally, these are grown men with families. This is how they support their fans. It was not like, this is just the game of football anymore, this is now your job… And so you have to treat it as such. So I learned very quickly that what was once a game to me, and it’s still a game, it’s just something that I love. It’s still something that was fun, but I had to approach it as if it was a job, and one of the things that I learned very, very quickly is that it’s not like we just show up on Sundays and play… No, Monday through Wednesday, we have 6:00 AM to 3:00 PM, and we are at either in meetings, in walkthroughs, in weight training, in practice. We’re doing something. Thursday is a little bit light. Friday are your walk-throughs. Saturdays, you’re flying somewhere. But I think that a lot of people think… “hey, they just show up on Sundays and just be athletic and play.” But, there’s a lot of preparation. There’s a lot of things that go into it. So I think the biggest takeaway is that you can’t just be a dumb jock. You have to be a smart person who knows how to pick up blessings and do all those things, and then use your physical tools to help you. So it was a great experience. I loved it but I want these kids to know, this isn’t just for you to not do well at school, and then go there and be successful. Peyton Manning, who I played with, is actually one of the smarter guys that I’ve had a chance to play with. He knew every single spot on the field. He was telling our coaches what to do because he knew better than they did.

So learning more about what you’re doing in school, applies to football as well. Especially, if you want to make it at that level.

John: Well, I think that that’s some incredible advice. I think, for our listeners who may be business owners, individuals, that obviously follow the podcast and guests that we have and are learning from these experience as much as I am, that it’s a full-time job. It’s something you have to wake up and do every day, and those periods of execution, which might be game time, that time on Sundays, which is really a very small amount of your time of your whole week. There’s a lot of preparation, and I love what you said about training and making sure that you’re focused and keeping with your schedule and knowing your place. I think, in business, that’s probably one of the things that we don’t always translate from sports. But in business, it’s about play making, it’s about running the plays. It’s about knowing your spots on the field, like you said, so I really love that, and I appreciate that.

Tremayne: Yeah, that’s really the key component of not only sports, but of businesses. You gotta practice. And so for a business owner, a practice might be, you’re doing things to make sure that you’re a leader in your industry. You’re doing things to make sure that you stay on top of your brand and you stay on top of the social media – all those things. You stay on top of your employees, but you’re right, as with anything, practice makes perfect, and if you want to be as close to perfect as possible with him, you got to do the things that it takes during the week.

On the field v. off the field: What challenges do you face? 

John: I love that. I want to talk a little bit. What’s maybe been your biggest challenge on the field and then off the field when it comes to business, because I think that gives a good perspective as you are able to translate. And, you have… You’ve been able to translate, I think, the lessons that you implemented and learned on the field and then took away to business.

Tremayne: Right. Really on the field, and this really applied with COVID and it was a really, really big thing. You can practice, and as Jason knows, you can practice a play over and over and over, and that play should go right there in the A gap, which is between the center and the goal. It should go right there every single time in practice. It’s going right there, right there, but when it comes to the game, that person that is across from you, that team that is across from you… they’re not plays that you can just make a play, so things are always change… I think the biggest thing is that you have to be able to make changes on the fly.

When COVID hit for my personal business, as a trainer who owns the gym, all gyms were closed, and so I really had no source of income really coming in, and I had to figure out something quickly, and I went to really say, You know what? We’re going to start some online classes and my own online classes grew from 25 ladies that I had in my classes to 157 that I had that were now in Texas, Canada. So one of the main things that you know, you want to try to make sure that even though you have a plan in place, you got to be able to maneuver on the fly, meaning you have to be able to make changes at a moment’s notice, because business is fluid so the more you can be able to take what really comes at you, and then to apply that to move on it, and then to make that your benefit, the better off you’re going to be.

John: I love that because that idea of shifting in the moment, I think for a lot of businesses, that’s the key. There are some practices out there like agile training where you make quick decisions if something’s not working, you analyze the data and you must make the best approach to continuously tweak. When you get in a rut or a groove, I think, are some of the most commonly misunderstood areas. Being in the groove is when you’re operating in an efficient high level. It flows. When you get in a rut, you’re continuing to do something that’s not quite working and you got to get yourself out of it. And, I appreciate what you’re saying, because I think there’s a lot of wisdom there for business owners, like you said, especially during COVID or just in day-to-day, you’re going to be faced with a thousand different decisions, and the smallest decisions can have the biggest impact long term on the vision of your company.

Tell me a little bit about when you’re working with younger guys or younger students at your center, what are some of the things that you help them learn? Like you said, “Oh, they’ve got to learn how to manage their brain game as well as they’re on the field game, what are some lessons that you try to impart to them for ads?

Tremayne: Well, being in an industry where I get a chance to really impart some wisdom and to young people, I get… fathers and mothers who all the time say, “Oh my God, you’ve said the same thing that I’ve been telling my child for years.” But when it comes from me, they listen, and the only reason is that I’ve been somewhere that they have not been… And then on top of that as well, your mom, your dad, and they’re not going to listen to mom and dad as much as a stranger, and I know because I have a 16-year-old who has seen me train all of these guys, and she still doesn’t listen to me. It is what it is. But I want to try to teach them the mental aspect of games, and then I want to try to teach them as much about how to manage their time, how to be as efficient as they possibly can. When they come in, they know already that there is a routine that has to happen. Normally when they come in, I’ve already got a training that is going on and they’re going to come in on the back side of that training. So, when they come in and we want to establish a routine. You come in, you warm up, you do your own warm ups. You get in there and do the rowing machine. You know what to do. We got to stretch and stuff like that. When you come to me, you’re ready, so I want to try to teach them to always make sure that you get somewhere early and you get there early. You go ahead and get prepared mentally, physically and emotionally, all those things take apart in not just sports, but that’s going to go into their marriage, that’s going to go into their life, that’s going to go into their business.

So once they leave from me, they have known how to establish a routine and help them to be more prepared. So really preparedness is for me, really everything. And so if I can teach them that and how to be strong from a mental standpoint, because as Jason can attest to, my workouts are not easy at all, so if you can get through my workout and drive and strive through that, you’d be good to go.

Building your brand in today’s environment 

John: That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. I wonder if we could talk a little bit about… because you mentioned this about building your image and building your brand. How do you do that and how do you encourage other business owners to take that step to build content and build the brand? How important is that? Especially in today’s environment?

Tremayne: So here’s what I found out, and I learned some of it through Jason, actually… Perception is everything.

So whatever you are perceived to be, whether that’s who you are or not, that’s what you’re going to be to people. So when you have a product and you have the best product in the world, and nobody can touch your product… But if you don’t brand it right and know how to get it out to not only the right people, but get it out in the right way that it showcases who you are, what you do, what you bring to the table… it’s almost like you’ve done absolutely nothing, and a lot of that is done through our social media content. A lot of that is done through going out and just speaking to people. But really when you want to reach that broad audience, you have to get out there and you do get to jump on your social media. I’ve made a ton of mistakes, but each and every time, just like when I’m training, just like when I played football. For every mistake, I’m not getting hit by Ray Lewis twice, okay?

He got me one time. He’s not going to get me again. You know what I am saying? I’m going to learn that he’s faking… He’s coming back to me, I’m going to watch out for it. Learning how to engage your audience, learning how to engage your content. I made a lot of mistakes, as I said, But every time that I made one, I learned from it, and then that next time I was able to really engage more. So your brand is exactly who you are. If your brand is not able to get out to people, and if you’re not able to convey it in the way that shows that not only you know what you’re doing, but how you’re doing it… It’s not going to come across well, so brand marketing and getting your brand out there in a positive and motivational and inspirational way is so important.

Key Takeaways For Building Your Brand

John: I really love what you’re saying there about defining what makes your business unique, having that control of the perception is… It’s huge. Like you said, perception is everything.

You might have a great product to service, but if people don’t know the value, the emotion behind what you do, a lot of times I think great brands are built on people buying into the passion of the founders. A great example that I’ve been seeing recently is Black Rifle Coffee Company. You’ve got these unbelievable commercials, and it’s just a bunch of guys having fun doing all kinds of things that don’t really have anything to do with coffee or coffee beans. But people are buying into the passion that they have of this experience around the product, so I absolutely love what you’re saying, I think that’s something that when we talk to our clients about branding and creative strategy, we want to talk through that. What sets you apart? What makes me unique? Why are you doing what you’re doing? Now that it is absolutely fascinating, I’m so glad that you shared that today, Tremayne. I’ve really loved having this conversation with you, I wonder if you have a few key takeaways you could leave the audience with so that they might be able to say, “hey, you know, those are some things that maybe I can implement today”… or some things that they can take away to make a change for the better in their current business.

Tremayne: Right. Well, my main thing is this, Don’t make the mistake that I made of looking at other people and trying to really emulate what they’re doing and then put that into your brand or your content.

I’m not saying it’s because I’m on here with you guys. But if you have someone who it’s their job and it’s what they do to help promote people, to broaden their brand, to help to get it out there. Take the time, take the money that it takes to go ahead and make that happen because the money that you spend making these mistakes, you could have paid somebody to go ahead and do it for you the right way, so I had to learn the hard way, and Jason told me to… Man, I got you. And I was like, No, I think I can do this. But the people who know what they’re doing, pay them to let them know what they’re doing. Make sure that your business is able to grow in the right way through people who you trust, to people who can help you to grow, and through people who can help you to again, achieve that perception of exactly who you are. If you do that, your business will grow, you have to pay more on a front end, but man, what you’ll get on the back end of that. I’m a lost leader type of guy, so I’m a guy who says, “Listen, I might have to pay more now. But if the benefits outweigh this pay, then I’m going to make that happen.”

So take the time to find out about people who are industry leaders in what you’re doing, and make sure that you get it to them so that they can kind of help you to grow your business.

John: It’s a great analogy, and I guess I’ll use this as we kind of come to the end of our time today, but you’ve got 11 guys on the field, one guy’s the quarterback, one guy is the running back, and you trust that each of the skills that they have, that’s what creates the winning team, and I’m sure, you would agree with that. Tremayne, it’s been a fantastic experience having you on board today, I just love hearing the energy and the passion that you have behind what you do, so thank you so much for taking the time to join us today.

Tremayne: John and Jason, man, thank you guys so much. I appreciate you letting me have a platform where I can tell you a little bit more about what I love, I appreciate that. Thank you guys so much.

John: Absolutely. Well, we appreciate you, the audience for joining us for this episode of Life is Digital. Once again, I am your host, John Bianchi. Please remember to rate, review and subscribe to the show. In the comment section, below… there will be some more information. Until next time, don’t stop marketing.

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