“I want to be a lawyer,” said Senior Vice President of Player Engagement for the National Football League (NFL), recalling his answer to an age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” for an elementary school English class assignment.
Expanding on his same aspiration some 12 years later at Howard University’s School of Law, Arthur McAfee III, Esq. wrote, “I want to be impactful in athletics and hopefully be either a Commissioner or lead the U.S. Olympic movement.”
Taking a closer look at how he engages NFL players during one on one time with him, while he navigates Super Bowl LIII events, “impactful in athletics” at this point in his career is an understatement.
Who would ever predict a little boy winning casual arguments on the Pre-K playground at Spelman College would grow up to purposely counsel and advocate for multimillion-dollar superstar athletes of the world’s largest sports organization?
It was during his childhood that he first stepped into the world of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). Young McAfee’s footprints could be tracked from Collier Heights of Atlanta to Spelman College some 15 years before he would become a Morehouse College “man” leaving his mark out on HBCU basketball courts.
“I started my pre-K and Kindergarten education at Spelman then transitioned to Oglethorpe elementary located between Morris Brown and Clark then went to Douglass, Morehouse and then Howard,” McAfee shared about his educational background through college and law school.
These ties to the Atlanta University Center (AUC) and other schools would become the building blocks for his law school journey at Howard University, another renowned HBCU.
Winning on the basketball court in Archer Hall with laced up high top sneakers to winning in the courtrooms representing university athletic departments before the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in suede Stacy Adams, records show McAfee’s steps have been ordered and precise.
“As I was running around the AUC, in the back of my mind, this is what I wanted to do. Some levels I haven’t gotten to but those are the ones I still strive to achieve,” he shared.
Today, there are some who would compare McAfee’s NFL role to coaching, as if his efforts were similar to athletic academic advisors on college campuses.
McAfee and his team assist the NFL players in transition programs as they move from professional football into other business ventures. Some players desire to complete their college degrees or set up community-based initiatives and advocacy programs.
“If the players are interested in criminal justice reform, education development and community relations, we are in the position to assist them with a platform to do that,” said McAfee explaining that support is available to players wanting to use their platform for social activism. “My job as I see it in this space is to find places for players to have a voice.”
Surrounded by sports even on his off days, McAfee beamed when sharing how he decompresses at swim meets with his daughter, watching movies and “lots of PBS with my wife.”
As the 2018 football season comes to a close, fans, super fans and the NFL family await Super Bowl LIII at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. Yet, behind the scenes, McAfee and his team are actively engaged to ensure these athletes are appreciated as people and not a product.
He shared, “It’s often said that their helmets cover their faces. Our job is to expose players for all of the human aspects they are.”
McAfee – the lawyer, the contract advisor and the senior executive “success coach” – brings to his fairly new position an esteemed collection of knowledge, expertise, resources and solid relationships to assist over 1,600 players in reaching their highest potential on and off the field throughout their NFL experience.
He credits exposure to professional athletics at an early age to his father, the late Arthur “Sonny” McAfee Jr., the legendary Athletic Director and Head Basketball Coach at Morehouse College, who served in this role for 53 years.
He added how having the opportunity to witness the Atlanta Hawks, other National Basketball Association (NBA) teams come into town to practice in the gym and the player coach interaction aided in his grooming for his current position.
Persistent in his initial aspiration, McAfee’s belief that successful players make a successful league which results in a more enjoyable experience for the entire fan base. He is bound to make a lasting impact in athletics.