It’s always fun to find out you have things in common with your favorite pros besides love of the sport itself. Now that former Super Bowl-winning NFL pro Dan Koppen has joined our SquadLocker team as Enterprise Brand Advocate, we wanted to know more about him. We knew you’d want to know, too.
For example, Dan was drafted by the New England Patriots in 2003 and played with them under Coach Bill Belicek until 2011. Then he played for Denver for two years. You already knew that. But Dan revealed a lot more during a recent “Ask Me Anything” conversation with Tip Fairchild, our head of sales at SquadLocker, and Jeanne Hopkins, our chief resource officer.
We highly encourage you to take in the entire episode, but here’s a taste of what we learned about Dan.
A Few Fun Factoids
- Shoe size: 13
- Favorite color Gatorade: Red
- Buffalo wings? Yes. Blue cheese or ranch? “You can't have both?”
- Bench press in his prime: 475. However, that was back in college, “and that's where the one rep maxes stopped. We did not do one rep maxes in with the Patriots.”
Not so fun? Toughest football losses:
- 2007 season, 18 and 0 going in the Super Bowl, playing the Giants.
- 2011 season, where we lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl again. (Dan sat out that game, thanks to an early-season broken ankle.)
- 2005 season and playoffs 2006. “January of 2006, Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game up 21 to 3 at the half, I believe, on our way to play Chicago and Miami. Colts came back and beat us.
On a More Serious Note
So many lessons learned in sports, at any level, serve us well throughout our lives.
The importance of recognition
“Fortunately I was lucky enough to earn a few game balls in my day,” Dan reminisced. “Bill or Coach Fox when I was in Denver, would come in on Monday meeting, and if you had a good game and things went right and you won, he'd give out some game balls. It's a pretty cool thing.”
Jeanne picked right up on that, noting that SquadLocker could do the same thing for our sales team – handing out game balls when somebody has a really good month.
A good coach expects more out of you than you expect from yourself
Tip asked Dan about his biggest non-football, non-family member influence. “Growing up, I had a teacher, Mr. [Glenn] Novak. He was also a basketball coach, so that's non-football. He was a really, really good dude, good teacher, good basketball coach, was a great player for Whitehall High School, a guy who put you on a right path and expected a lot out of you. Maybe when you didn't expect the most out of yourself.”
The biggest thing you want in a coach is honesty
“Bill is always going to be honest with you. Where you stand with him, how he stands with you and always putting the team first. And if you're not living up to your end of the bargain, you're gone.”
Listening in online, Jimmy in Fall River asked for some tips for getting mentally prepared to face high pressure moments. “It's not really about being in that situation or what you do in that moment. What was taught to us under Belicek with the Patriots is what do you put into it? What's your preparation like?” Belicek had a say: "Practice, preparation makes game a reality."
"So he would put us through the paces in meetings. He would put us through the paces physically in practice. He would put us in those situations so when it came to game moments we were ready. You can apply that to life, you can apply that to business -- as long as you come in prepared and, I'm going to say it, do your job, when those moments hit you're going to react a lot better."
Some losses are harder than others, and not only in the pros
When Dan was a high school senior, his football team played in the state tournament, won their district title and went to the states, where they “got beat pretty good.” That was especially tough because win or lose, “you're taking off your pads, your high school uniform, your high school helmet, and that era is definitely ending.”
It’s normal to feel nervous
Dan’s father-in-law, Mark Van Eeghen, played for the Raiders for eight years and then played with the New England Patriots for his final two years. “He got caught up in the moment every game,” Dan recalls, “where he would throw up before every game. Coach Madden was his first coach there, wouldn't let the team go out on the field until Van threw up.”
Dan’s own moment came in his first-ever game – his first start, week two of his rookie year. “When you're playing in a sport, it doesn't matter what age group, what level, there's some nervousness in you. I was really nervous. But then Tip can also tell you this, once that first snap happens, it's a game. And you just settle down, you get right into the flow of the game, and you just go.”
Not so for the Super Bowl, though. “I’m not even joking, my hand was still shaking midway through the second quarter in that game, because it's a spectacle. A hundred something million people watching, the stadium's packed, Beyoncé singing the National Anthem, and there's 70,000 people taking a snapshot of that, and then you realize this isn't just another game.”
“We're gear guys now”
Tip Fairchild played pro baseball, Dan comes from the gridiron, now they’re both part of the SquadLocker team. Naturally, then, Tip wanted to know what brands Dan liked and wore during his playing career. “I was a Nike guy with shoes because you could wear different shoes or gloves. So you could do Under Armour, Nike, Reebok, Adidas . . . “
Using what you’ve learned
Dan graduated from Boston College with a degree in accounting. “I understand numbers, and actually I've always liked numbers. If you can understand numbers, you can understand what you can and can't afford.” That’s a big deal, Dan notes, because most NFL careers are very short, although his was longer. Now, in “real” life, he says “having that background and that football mindset and discipline and determination and accountability, I think is really a good thing wrapped into one.”
And what does Dan think are the best uniforms in the NFL right now? Seattle, Raiders, the new Titans look, plus Bears and Packers for all-time classic.
Dan even has a tip for parents
“When you have a kid going to basketball camp or football camp, don’t put regular ice cubes in their beverage cooler because that will water down the Gatorade. Instead, put the Gatorade in the ice cube tray the night before. Now you're putting Gatorade ice cubes in that cooler, so you don't water it down.”
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