NASA is teaming up with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) to help professional football players start businesses using technologies originally developed for spaceflight, according to a Federal agreement on space law signed in May but not previously reported.
Under the deal, the space agency will hold a series of “technology transfer” workshops with interested players during the off-season. Athletes will tour NASA facilities, chat with rocket specialists, and identify patents of special interest. NASA could then license the technologies. to new player-owned start-ups, or engage in what he calls “collaborative partnerships” with them.
NASA is required by law to transfer technology to the private sector for commercialization. Past spinoff successes include digital camera sensors, GPS technology, memory foam, invisible braces, and even fortified baby food. The agency has an extensive program called Technology transfer dedicated to researching new business models and partnerships.
Nasa reports and presentations claim more than 1,800 spinoffs, with an average annual income of $ 1 million and supporting more than 14,400 jobs. The agency estimates that its health and safety technologies, from heart pumps to full-plane parachutes, have saved more than 440,000 lives.
One of the roles of the NFLPA is to help players transition to new careers after they retire from football. According to the agreement, “The NFLPA has found that an increasing number of its members are interested in engaging in technology start-ups as a basis for their second careers.”
After the NFLPA hosted a tour of Silicon Valley tech companies in 2016, New York Jets offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum wrote: “Although I’m a 6-3, 300-pound offensive lineman, I have some ideas on what I want to do outside of football. So hearing someone who is part of a cutting edge innovation … asking us our opinion opened my eyes.
Last year, Seattle Seahawks star quarterback Russell Wilson founded TraceMe, a social media app designed to connect celebrities and their fans with videos and other content. The NFLPA is also part of One Team Collective, a venture capital-backed business accelerator for companies wishing to leverage the fame and expertise of NFL players.
Neither NASA nor the NFLPA responded to requests for comment, although the file states: “The proposed deal [is] an example of how NASA can work with a non-traditional organization to achieve benefits for both organizations, as well as the American public. “
Although NASA has not yet transferred any of its technologies to NFL start-ups, several football players have taken the opposite route.
Former NFL player Leland Melvin was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1986 before a hamstring injury forced him to retire. In 1988, Melvin joined NASA’s Langley Research Center as an engineer and was eventually selected as an astronaut, participating in two Space Shuttle missions to the International Space Station. Former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Darryl Gaines works at NASA in a managerial position at Johnson Space Center in Texas.
The first workshop under the deal was scheduled for last month, but NASA did not answer questions as to whether it took place. Another workshop was to follow in February around the time of Super Bowl LIII.
If workshops generate new start-ups, some players might find that an NFL career is paltry compared to a truly out-of-this-world second career.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article inaccurate certain details of the agreement between the agency and the players. The agreement continues for an indefinite period; it is not a two-year pact. And that requires workshops during the football offseason, not just during the summer.