Kelly: My next guest worked with his brother, and was so fierce and mean in his first career that some journalists called him and his brother the “Bruise Brothers”. He wasn’t in the mafia. He was an NFL safety for the Miami Dolphins.
Greetings! This is Kelly Coughlin.
Voiceover: Kelly Coughlin is CEO of BankBosun, a management consulting firm helping bank C-Level Officers navigate risk and discover reward. He is the host of the syndicated audio podcast, BankBosun.com. Kelly brings over 25 years of experience with companies like PWC, Lloyds Bank, and Merrill Lynch. On the podcast, Kelly interviews key executives in the banking ecosystem to provide bank C-Suite officers, risk management, technology, and investment ideas and solutions to help them navigate risks and discover rewards. And now, your host, Kelly Coughlin.
Kelly: Hello! This is Kelly Coughlin. I am the CEO of BankBosun and program host. This is the first in a two-part interview series with a guest that I think is fascinating, interesting and frankly, he’s simply an enjoyable guy.
His name is Glenn Blackwood. And he is a Board Member and Principal of Equias Alliance, a bank-owned life insurance and nonqualified benefits consultant for regional and community banks.
What makes Glenn more fascinating and interesting than your average BOLI guy is Glenn is a former NFL athlete with the Miami Dolphins. And for all you bankers out there, who of you never reenacted the 5 seconds left, game on the line, opponent in the red zone, pass thrown your way, interception, game over, you win?
Well, this guy has been there, done that. And you all hear that not all games ended this way. You will win some and lose some, and learning to deal with that was part of being a professional athlete.
You know, in my mind, competition is the common denominator between sports and business. Certainly, professional sports are a business industry in and of themselves, but I am talking about the competition on the field of play in sports – the gridiron; and the competition on the field of play in business – the boardroom.
So what can be learned from professional sports about competing more effectively in business? And more specifically, what can our bank clients learn from professional sports and a professional athlete who knows business? That’s the purpose of this podcast.
Glenn has over 25 years of experience in the bank-owned life insurance and nonqualified benefit plans consulting and has worked with hundreds of banks in the design and construction of cost-effective solutions, to help banks compete and retain good talent. But before that, he was with the Miami Dolphins for about 10 years and I think he played middle linebacker for the Dolphins. Glenn, did I get that one right?
Glenn: You got everything right except position. If I had played middle linebacker, I’d have gotten killed.
Kelly: Oh that’s right, you played safety.
Glenn: Yes, I played safety.
Kelly: All right. Great. Glenn, welcome! How are you doing?
Glenn: Thank you. I am doing fine. Glad to be visiting with you.
Kelly: Great! Thanks for coming on board. Glenn, I don’t want to try to summarize your background, because you know yourself better than I know you. Just give us a summary of education, business background, family, where you living, how many kids?
Glenn: My wife and I have been married for 34 years and we have 4 children and 4 grandchildren. I grew up in Texas and I grew in a football family. My dad played running back at Baylor in the late ’40s. And then, I had two brothers and one sister.
My sister was a very good athlete as well. She played tennis and actually was one of the top tennis players in the city of San Antonio where we grew up.
I’m the youngest of the four and my oldest brother Lyle played at TCU and went on and played in the NFL with a variety of teams, and actually ended up playing with me down in Miami for his last 5 years, which was really a kick.
Then I have another brother Mike, who was probably the best athlete of all of us, but he was just smaller than Lyle and I were. He was a tremendous baseball player, basketball player, golfer, football player, and he played at TCU and then primarily due to size restraint, he wasn’t able to play in the NFL.
I did really well academically in high school so back then there wasn’t as much educational counseling it’s kind of like, well, if you did really good in grades you went into med, you became a doctor.
And then I ended up going to the University of Texas out of my high school. Darrell Royal was kind enough to offer me a scholarship and there is a long story there, which I won’t bore you with. I was not his early on pick, because I was kind of small as well. And they ended up taking a chance on me and I think it worked out for them and certainly worked out for me.
I ended up starting three years there at the University of Texas. I was captain the last year of my playing there.
So I was in pre-med at the University of Texas. Actually, had completed those or was right in the process of completing, when the Dolphins drafted me. And the dean at one of the, I think it was the University of Texas Dental School, said “Look, you can come back and go to school anytime, but how many people get a chance to play in the NFL?”
So I really appreciated him having the candor because a lot of academic guys don’t really value the sports side. He was really a balanced guy and he said, “Go try the NFL. And you can always come back and go to school.”
And I was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the 8th round and I ended up.
So after 10 years in NFL, I wasn’t going to go back and try to redo that, and ended up playing 10 years for the Dolphins. And started my career there and ended my career there. I actually had nine seasons. I played in my last year but I was on injured reserve with a knee injury, which ultimately ended my career. So it was a good run.
Kelly: Those were Don Shula years, I’m thinking, right?
Glenn: That would be correct. That was 1979. I was drafted and I retired in April of 1989. I had all my years with coach Shula and that was a great experience from a standpoint of playing for a coach who had a grasp of the game and all phases of the game, as well as how to manage a football team. The head coach has to do a lot of stuff and Shula was probably as good at it as anybody I’ve ever seen.
Kelly: And let’s see, Bob Griese would have been the quarterback in those years?
Glenn: Actually, Griese was there the first two years I came to the Dolphins and then after that, we had a little stub period and then we drafted this kid out of Pittsburgh named Dan Marino and that was the end of that.
Kelly: And that was the end of that. So you had, what, four years with Marino at the helm?
Glenn: Danny came in at ’83. So I actually had five years of playing with Danny.
Kelly: Five years, yeah.
Glenn: There is a great story there. He came up to my brother was in the locker room and my brother had been playing at that time for like 12 years, kind of the seasoned veteran. And here is the rookie Marino at his first start and Danny tells the story during his Hall of Fame speech.
My brother walked up to him and said, “Danny, look just relax. You are a great football player. You’ve got a great arm. You are going to be great in this league. Don’t be nervous. Don’t go out there with any anxiety. But just remember our whole season is riding on your shoulders.”
Marino said, “Thanks a lot!” And he properly went out threw for a 356 yard game and so began the career of Dan Marino and probably one of the most amazing releases I’ve ever seen by a quarterback. He was so quick release. People say, “Oh, what it’s like playing with Danny?” And I’d said, “Well, you know I watched him from the sidelines so I was glad I wasn’t playing against him. But I practiced against him every day. And he made me a better football player because his release was so quick that you had to get a jump. You couldn’t play around with him. You couldn’t give him any space because he could get that ball going with accuracy and velocity quicker than anybody I’ve ever seen.
Kelly: I always have this incredible amount of respect for defensive players – safeties and cornerbacks – when they are in a situation where they know the game is on the line and then it’s the safety and the cornerback facing a really good quarterback and a really good receiver and there you are getting ready for the play. What’s that like? How do you get your mind in the game, where you’re not thinking “Oh my God! If I blow this, I’m done.” Right? How do you get yourself prepared for that?
Glenn: Well, I think part of it is that you realize that you are playing against professionals that are really good at what they do. So you’re going to get beaten some. And if you don’t have a healthy understanding of that, then you’ll be a basket case in the NFL. There are those individual NFL players that are so talented?they relish that opportunity because they know they’re that good and they’re going to be able to rise to the occasion.
Most of the players in the NFL are really good athletes, but they are not of that ilk where they are just going to dominate every time. So it’s nerve racking and it is exhilarating when you rise to the occasion, and it’s a gut punch when you don’t. And I’ve been beat for touchdowns and I’ve intercepted passes as they were going in for touchdowns and I’ve stopped the play. And as they said in the Wide World of Sports, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. And it’s painful. But if you don’t realize that that’s very much the way life is. You’re going to have some moments of exhilaration in life and you are going to have some pain parts in life as well. If you don’t negotiate that well, then it can make for a tough time.
Most guys who have a difficult time with that don’t last as long in the game, because they can’t handle the pressure. I really felt like I prepared extremely well for a game. I had knowledge of my opponents. I knew what they liked to do. I knew what they like to do in certain downs and distances. And so I could it whittle it down.
I remember there was a play where we were playing with the Jets one time and they had a really good tight end, almost like a receiver guy a guy named Jerome Barkum, and I knew what pass route they were going to run. They ran it against me and Richard Todd threw the ball, completed it ind the end zone for touchdown. I knew exactly what they were going to run. I was just playing against a really talented receiver and a quarterback who put the ball in a place where only he could catch it.
Kelly: Do you get in situations or have you seen players in situations where the fear factor of getting burned it almost creates a paralysis and they get so consumed by failing that they are almost slow to react cause they are so consumed by that?
Glenn: There is no doubt you see that. You see it all the time. And that’s happened to me. Everybody has those moments where you know you say, “I don’t want to be the weak link in this defense or this offense.” So absolutely, that happens. And I think some guys can live through that and come out on the back side and learn from it, and they mature and they grow through things. And then others, they never get a handle on it. And I think it hinders their career.
Look, I watched a lot of guys that were much better athletes than me, come into training camp every year and for some reason you know I was able to keep my job for you know ten years. A large part of it was because I really prepared a lot for the games and I had a good knowledge of the game, and I could coordinate our defense really well. The other part of it was that you kind of grow into that knowing that you’ve got to realize that you are going to have times where you make the play and there’s going to be times where it doesn’t work out the way you wanted to.
And that’s the game of football. You are playing with really good players on the other side of the line and that their job is to make you look bad, to beat you. They are good athletes. So sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Fortunately, down in Miami, we won a little bit more than we lost and that was good.
Kelly: Ever been in that situation where there is just mismatch, you are making the wrong reads and then, they are picking on you?
Glenn: Very seldom I saw myself in that position because I was not reading things right. It usually was just physical talent. I wasn’t the biggest, fastest guy out there. You are going to get in those situations ? and sometimes the quarterbacks see it and sometimes they don’t.
Kelly: So after the NFL, you decided you wanted to get in to the bank-owned life insurance business. How did you end up picking this industry?
Glenn: You know the reason I got into the business is that ? it’s a long story but I will make it very short. I ran into a former adversary of mine in the NFL, a guy named Wally Hilgenberg. And Wally played linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings?and played sixteen years in the NFL. And he and a few other gentlemen had started this business and they called the company Bank Compensation Strategies. And that company placed the first BOLI product on a bank in Bloomington, Minnesota back in 1982. And it was kind of a quid pro quo. It was an insurance policy purchase to hedge a SERP or deferred compensation expense.
And that’s the way this whole business really got started. And Wally and I ran into each other at a fishing tournament..I’ve got a name for it but I won’t say it on this?but it’s basically the old guys fishing tournament..former retired guys from the NFL we were fishing down in Louisiana and I happened to sit next to Wally on a bus going to the fishing tournament. And he and I got to talking.
And I had prepared for after football by going to a university down in Miami and studying for a couple of years. I had worked in an investment banking firm because I knew they’d kick me out of football one day. And that’s probably the one thing if I could say for most athletes, especially professional athletes is you’ve got to prepare for the day they tell you you’re not good enough anymore. Because it will happen. And when it does, the severing of that cord, of that tie is swift, and it’s brutal, and it’s fast and it’s painful.
If you are not economically prepared and educationally or vocationally prepared, it’s a very tough transition. Fortunately, I had done that and Wally and I got to talking and he said we’ve got this program where he had this BOLI asset and the benefit needs. And he explained it to me and what I saw in it, was I saw there were three real focused needs of expertise.
You had to have some sense mathematically. You had to have accounting grasp. You had to have a legal grasp, because there were agreements involved. And then, you had to understand the regulatory piece of it. And I loved the multitasking and juggling all those balls. That was very similar to what I did on the football field, because I ran our defense for most of the years I was playing down there in Miami.
And so, I had to know what the line backers were doing. I didn’t play their position but I had to know what they were doing, what their challenges were, and our defensive line, our corners. And then I had to when the offense came up and showed us a different formation, I had to change our defense and put us in the right one. I love Bill Arnsparger, my defense coordinator, who was one of the greatest defense coordinators in the NFL and he sat me down on the bleachers one time and said before I was going into my first start, where I was running the defense, and he said, “Glenn. I can only guess right half of time. You have to put the right defense the other half.”
And first of all, Bill was understating his capabilities, because he didn’t guess, number 1. He was well prepared. And most of the time, he gave us the right defense. But he gave me that freedom, to move and change if I saw something I didn’t like.
And I loved that ability, the need to understand all the different pieces of how a defense works together. And it is the same way in this business. You got to understand the legal, the accounting, the regulatory. And I love being able to juggle those balls and being able to put everything together and explain to a bank and a bank board how this works, how we can put it in, how it works from an accounting perspective, and tax and balance sheet and income statement, and then what we do to take care of them to caretake for them on an ongoing basis. I looked at it and I thought this is a good fit for my skill set and Wally wanted somebody in Florida and I said I think I found the right guy for you, and that’s me.
Kelly: Did you ever have to play up in Metropolitan Stadium in the winter?
Glenn: I played in the Met Stadium but not in the winter. And by the time I played up there in the winter, we had a dome. But I did play in the Packers in the teens and I played in New England and Chicago and New York.
Kelly: How tough was it from Miami because half your games were down or more than half of your games were down in the southern climate, right? But how tough was that?
Glenn: It was hard because you had to adjust to the cold weather really, it hardens everything and it makes it harder to catch the ball. One of things coach Shula used to say is don’t overdress and he’d be yelling in the locker room, don’t overdress. His point out of that was you can be warm, you can put on enough stuff to get you warm, but you can’t function. You had to get that balance of layering that allowed you to maintain some form of body heat but also be able to move fluidly in your uniform, etc. I think, actually, while it was tough on us, I think it was much harder for the northern teams in November to come down to Miami and play in 80 degree weather and it’s humid. I’ve watched teams literally just melt right before us because they just couldn’t handle it in the second half.
Kelly: Really? What about the Mile High Stadium? Did you ever must have played there?
Glenn: We did play at Mile High Stadium. That just really wasn’t a lot of problem either for me. The lack of altitude was offset by the lack of humidity?and so you didn’t sweat a lot out there. It was invigorating?I loved playing in that. The worst place I ever played from a physical standpoint of trying to be able to breathe was when we played the Rams out in Anaheim one year and they had a stage four smog alert. It was a one o’clock game; they had to turn the lights on in the stadium. There was so much smog. My lungs burned for about 2 days after that game.
Kelly: Let’s finish with the dumbest thing you have ever done or said in your situation?
Glenn: I remember one time I was so, we had a fourth and one the Buffalo Bills were going into our endzone. They had kind of a strong set towards me and I was a strong safety and I really wasn’t that big a guy, so my adrenaline was flowing and I thought this guy was going to try and kill me. And they’re going to try to run right over me. It was kind of what you talked earlier, where there’s a little bit of fear there and I didn’t want to be the weak link in the defense. So I was geared up and as soon as the ball was snapped, I took off to run into that flanker, he just turned sideways and I whiffed on him and he was a tight end flanker, it was a real tight set. They ran a play action pass and you know when I whiffed on him, I basically stumbled and the guy I was supposed to be covering ran right into the end zone and they threw him a little pass for a touchdown.
Kelly: Well, that finishes Part 1 of my interview with Glenn Blackwood. I started the podcast saying Glenn was fascinating, interesting and simply a good guy, and I think that came out in this interview. I personally just love hearing his war stories of the NFL.
In Part 2, we will talk more about his second career in business and focusing on his expertise in the bank-owned life insurance business. And true to his form, he is competing and winning in this business just like he did with the Miami Dolphins. Thanks.
Voiceover: We want to thank you for listening to the syndicated audio program, BankBosun.com. The audio content is produced and syndicated by Seth Greene, Market Domination, with the help of Kevin Boyle.
Video content is produced by The Guildmaster Studio, Keenan Bobson Boyle. The voice introduction is me, Karim Kronfli. The program is hosted by Kelly Coughlin.
If you like this program, please tell us. If you don’t, please tell us how we can improve it. And now, some disclaimers. Kelly is licensed with the Minnesota State Board of Accountancy as a Certified Public Accountant. The views expressed here are solely those of Kelly Coughlin and his guests in their private capacity and do not in any other way represent the views of any other agent, principal, employer, employee, vendor or supplier.
Check out this episode!