At NexGoal, we believe former athletes and those who approach work like athletes succeed in business thanks to their in-demand, transferable skills. Most of us aren’t professional athletes, but we can discern valuable lessons for our own lives by emulating the habits of elite athletes.
One of the NFL’s biggest success stories this season has been Green Bay Packers’ first-year starting quarterback Jordan Love. Love has taken a young, underdog Packers squad to the postseason and upset the #2-seeded Dallas Cowboys, becoming the first #7 seed to win a playoff game since the playoffs expanded.
Compared to most of his peers, Love had a unique route to becoming a starting quarterback. We’ll take a look at that journey before looking at the lessons we can learn from Love’s experience.
The Love Story
If you aren’t familiar with Jordan Love’s story, here’s the condensed version. The Packers drafted Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft to be their next quarterback while their current quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, was still playing at a high level.
Most first-round quarterbacks expect to start early in their career, but Rodgers was putting up MVP seasons, so Love had to settle for learning from the bench. Many fans and the media alike questioned the pick, arguing Green Bay should have taken a player that could help them win now. Rodgers also sat for years behind a future Hall of Fame quarterback, so he understood Love’s situation and tried his best to mentor Love while still keeping hold of his starting role.
In 2023, Rodgers expressed a desire to be traded, and Love finally got his chance to be a starting quarterback. A season of ups and downs ended with Love proving himself to be a franchise quarterback and taking his team to the playoffs, earning an upset win over the favored Cowboys in the first round.
Make the most of your situation
If you’re a first-round quarterback, you expect to be starting sooner rather than later. Not only was Love a first-round selection, but the Packers traded up for him. Yet Love had to stay on the bench since Rodgers was playing so well. While this situation may have bothered many players, Love instead made the most of his situation.
Love, who was viewed as a highly talented but raw and inaccurate passer out of college, took the chance to learn from Rodgers, one of the best to ever play the game. He learned valuable traits from Rodgers, including how to approach practice, his decision-making process, how to throw from his back foot, and how to throw across his body and make unlikely throws. He benefited from a good offensive coaching staff and was able to correct some of his traits. He made valuable connections in the locker room and built relationships for when he became the starter.
By the time Love got his chance, it was clear his time on the bench turned him into a better player. You won’t always get the job opportunities you feel you deserve and may occasionally need to take a different role. You can still make the most of your opportunities by utilizing any resources at your organization and making valuable contacts for the future. See how you can upskill, take a chance and volunteer on a new project, and absorb all the knowledge you can.
Tune out the noise
Sports fans are, at their best, passionate and can make the experience of a sporting event all the better. But at their worst, fandoms can be toxic, especially in the days of social media. The Jordan Love selection came with a lot of negativity, and much of that continued for three years until it became clear Love was “the guy.”
Some of the best athletes have chips on their shoulders, and Love weathered the storm well. Instead of focusing on the negativity from the fans and various media sources, Love focused on improving his game, earning his chance to start, and building relationships. Love hasn’t forgotten his doubters, but he’s never let them control his approach or mindset.
We generally won’t experience being constantly doubted on public platforms, but we still need to know how to handle outside noise. There will always be outside annoyances in your career, whether it’s an annoying coworker or boss, industry changes, or lulls in the market. Rather than focus on the aspects you can’t change, you can tune out what doesn’t matter and focus on your own work and bettering yourself.
Keep your ego in check
Even the “worst” NFL players are in a rare minority of players gifted enough to play on the highest stage. If you’re a first-round draft pick, you have a ton of promise and are viewed as having a chance to be one of the best. It’s easy to get entitled and have a big ego in that case.
Love could have expressed disdain over not getting a chance to start. He could have demanded a trade to a team that would let him start. It’s been done before! But Love remained humble and focused on his goals in Green Bay. He worked hard behind the scenes, and all sources say he remained humble. That humbleness and work ethic resonated with his teammates, who saw the work Love put in. By the time he became the starter, he had the full support of his teammates.
It can be easy to get caught up in your career and gain a bit of an ego when you get a promotion, make a crucial sale, or finish an important project. Sometimes, we may think we’re above a certain task. But staying humble, being willing to do some extra help, and making sure to spotlight your team members will better resonate with your coworkers. A good leader knows how to elevate their team members to create a collaborative work environment.
“The poise that he shows is really remarkable. The leadership that he shows is unbelievable. I go down there before we take a drive, and he’s talking to all the guys, encouraging everybody. Everybody in that locker room is going to fight for Jordan Love.” -head coach Matt LaFleur
Jordan Love may have gotten his chance in the spotlight a bit later than he expected, but he made the most of his unique situation, absorbed all the knowledge he could, tuned out outside noise, and kept his ego in check. In his first year as a starter, he’s proven to be a skilled leader of the historic franchise. The future for Love is bright, and his journey has provided plenty for us to emulate.