Will Allen is a former NFL safety, whose 12-year career includes playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now, he’s a player in the energy arena. His new company, NGH Energy a Nascent Group Holdings Company, is focused on business ventures related to energy services, energy technology and engineering consulting. Recently, Allen served as a judge at the Energy Department’s Cleantech University Prize Competition in Pittsburgh. After the competition, we asked the question everybody wants the answer to. Why energy after professional football?
My interest in energy started back in 2008 when I was looking at buying an electric car. The car I was looking at was really ahead of the curve, but people around me advised not to buy one because the technology wasn’t quite there. While they ended up being right about electric cars then, my interest in new energy technologies continued.
I started looking at other renewable and alternative energy technologies out there, and was surprised that so much of this information was new to me. In school, I had chemistry and physics, but didn’t understand power generation or how energy alternatives like solar, wind, and hydropower fit in. This got me thinking, how many more people don’t know this or just don’t care?
As I learned more about energy policy, the grid, and business through my own research and then through continuing education classes supported by the NFL, I realized that I could help those who don’t know or understand this very complicated sector become more knowledgeable. Ultimately, I can utilize my network, reach out to people within my own ecosystem and community, and bring some energy awareness to new audiences.
How did you make the transition?
A couple years after my continuing education classes in entrepreneurship at Harvard and Kellogg, I learned about the NFL Players Association internship program. This program helps players explore possible careers after football. A lot of guys want to work in hospitality management or sports marketing, but I wanted to be a part of something that the whole world needs. And the world needs energy.
So, the NFL Players Association helped me get an internship with National Grid in Boston. While there, I learned about the company’s internal workings, business development, and strategy. Later, I spent time with a few technology companies in the energy space and data analytics, and loved it. I also worked for Congressman Bobby Rush, the ranking Democratic member on the House Energy Subcommittee.
Ultimately, I just dove right in and absorbed it all. I learned a lot and keep learning a lot, which is helping me do business in the energy space.
Any skills from your football career that are relevant now?
Yes. In football I had a process that worked. I learned it and refined it, but was also always learning. Now I’ve transferred that focus on research and prioritizing over to business. I’m also surrounding myself with mentors, much like I did as a young NFL player.
I played with Hall of Famers, the best of the best. I wasn’t a Hall of Famer, but I had a long career because I was able to pick up pieces from people I played with and apply it to my own game. That’s exactly what I am doing in business and the energy sector. I’m learning from people with great reputations, who are credible, and who have worked in different parts of both energy and business. They’re giving me something to aspire to as well.
You do a lot of clean energy-related speaking engagements. What’s your biggest message?
I challenge everybody in the room to not work in silos, but work with each other and understand what people in other parts of the business are doing. If you are just doing what you are told, you miss a lot of opportunities for collaboration and chances to pass on your expertise to other communities. There are so many ways to reach out and really spread knowledge about energy efficiency, clean energy, and the energy workforce. You’ve got to be active.