Pierschbacher was one of 70 NFL players chosen from among 130 applicants for the program, which is in its seventh year and features opportunities with 33 different organizations, from Gatorade to NASA. A marketing major at Alabama and a fifth-round selection who was limited to special teams duty in five games as a rookie, the 24-year-old Pierschbacher landed an externship at the sports apparel giant Fanatics, which signed a 10-year licensing deal with the NFL in 2018.
“The appealing thing about the [Fanatics] program was that it didn’t just focus on one thing,” Pierschbacher said in a phone interview this week. “It wouldn’t just be marketing. I never really had an actual job outside of football. I got into marketing because it’s pretty broad, and I can do a lot with it in business. With Fanatics, they said we were going to experience every single scope of the company. I wanted to see the whole thing working in motion.”
Pierschbacher’s Fanatics externship class featured five other NFL players, including former Redskins tight end Manasseh Garner, and retired NHL player Ethan Moreau. (After partnering with the NFLPA for the last six years, Fanatics extended an invitation to the NHL Alumni Association for the second straight year.) The group began its three-week program at Fanatics’ headquarters in Jacksonville, where players learned about business development and received customer service experience by responding to customers’ emails. They later received presentations on league partnerships and public relations.
Pierschbacher’s class also visited the Fanatics Authentics warehouse in Miramar, Fla., where memorabilia signed by the likes of Michael Jordan and Conor McGregor is stored, and met with the in-house apparel team in Tampa, which is responsible for bringing Nike’s MLB products to market. The men spent their final week together in New York City, where they worked the registers at the Fanatics-operated NBA and NHL stores and had lunch with company founder and executive chairman Michael Rubin. Other activities included a Yankees spring training game in Tampa and a Rangers-Blues game at Madison Square Garden.
One of the highlights of Pierschbacher’s immersive experience was designing his own T-shirt — he put “The Hogs” on the front, in a nod to the Redskins’ offensive line — and being involved in the manufacturing process at Fanatics’ made-to-order factory in Jacksonville.
“For a simple T-shirt, it gave you a new appreciation of what goes into it,” said Pierschbacher, who did everything from making sure the shirts were lined up correctly on the screen printer and applying tags to folding and bagging the shirts for delivery.
During the program, Pierschbacher kept an eye on how some of his former Alabama teammates were faring at the scouting combine and chatted with fellow former Alabama offensive lineman Matt Womack, who is training in Florida in hopes of getting a look from an NFL team. With OTAs beginning next month, Pierschbacher said he has yet to speak with new Redskins Coach Ron Rivera, but has connected with new offensive line coach John Matsko over the phone.
“I look forward to working with Coach Rivera,” he said. “I’ve talked to former players with Carolina, and they have nothing but awesome things to say about Coach Rivera, so it should be exciting. He seems like an awesome guy and a great coach, and the players who played for him just love him, so that’s a good sign.”
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