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Raiders Host Learning Lab

The Oakland Raiders partnered with US Bank to host a Learning Lab in the East Side Club of Coliseum Tuesday. Hundreds of students from several area high schools had the opportunity to hear from OL Kevin Boothe, CB Chimdi Chekwa, and Raiders executives about the different opportunities available in the NFL and what it takes to make it in the sport industry.

Boothe and Chekwa shared their college experiences, expressed the importance of education, and explained how they were able to overcome various obstacles to continue to be successful in the NFL.

Boothe attended Cornell University where he earned his degree in hotel administration. He took his education a step further when he earned his MBA seven years into his NFL career, studying during the last two off-seasons. The nine-year NFL veteran has always been aware that he won't be able to play in the league forever and has set himself up to have a successful career post-football.

"I looked at [this event] as a great opportunity because I know once I'm done playing, who knows, I might want to venture into the business side of sports as well," said Boothe. "So I looked at it as a great opportunity to see what they're thinking and also bounce ideas off of one another and gain valuable insight."

Chekwa played college football at Ohio State University and graduated with an accounting degree. Since being selected by the Oakland Raiders in the 4th round of the 2011 NFL Draft, he has been through injuries, a stint on the practice squad, and several coaches. While the adversity could have defined him and stymied his career, Chekwa has learned about resiliency.

One of the biggest lessons Chekwa shared with the students was to work on making yourself better on a daily basis. "I don't compete with the guy next to me," said Chekwa. "I compete with the guy I was yesterday."

He continued, "A lot of times we focus on what everybody else is doing and trying to be better than them, but if you're not focused on what you're doing right, what you're doing wrong, what your strengths and weaknesses are, it's hard for you to improve," said the cornerback. "I think that's a good lesson for them because as they continue to move forward in life, if they can be self-aware and understand what they need to do to get to where they want to be, it'll be helpful."

Chekwa, like Boothe, has made sure to work on his passions outside of football during his career. He recently started a foundation called Camp One. "It's given me an opportunity to do something I'm passionate about," said Chekwa. "I obviously love playing football, but football isn't who I am; football is one thing that I do. Another thing I want to do is help other people, help the youth, help them navigate them through life, expose them to different things like I was exposed to different things when I was younger."

The Learning Lab was a chance for the students to hear from the two veteran players, as well as the executives, about the opportunities in the NFL. "It's a way to stay involved in sports and not necessarily have to be a player or a coach," said Boothe. "There are a lot of different opportunities whether it is on the business side or a marketing side. There are different avenues in order to help the team grow as a brand and help the team win as well."

The students also gained insight into the dedication necessary to reach a career in the NFL.  "I think one of the most important things is working hard, understanding that they're going to face some difficulties," said Chekwa. "I challenged them to think about what they want to do, set some goals and then figure out how to reach those goals."

The Learning Lab demonstrated that the NFL is comprised of more than just players and coaches and scouts. There is an entire world of other opportunities available.

What's the secret to making it in sport industry? There is no secret.

It's about hard work, networking, and having the passion and dedication necessary to be valued by one of the 32 teams in the league.

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