For players like Raven Justin Forsett, business provides a safety net

Ravens RB Justin Forsett invented a line of body wipes, and now he has a plan for when he retires.

Given the way the first five years of his NFL career went, Ravens running back Justin Forsett is realistic enough to know he could easily be retired by now and onto the next phase of his life.

Considering what happened to Forsett last season in Baltimore, when he broke his arm and missed the last six games, he knows how fragile the future still might be.

That's why Forsett is preparing not only for the 2016 season, but also for his career after the NFL.

He has a plan for when his playing days are over: body wipes.

While serving as a backup with the Seattle Seahawks for the first three years of his career, Forsett and former California teammates Wale Forrester and Wendell Hunter developed "ShowerPill – The Athletic Body Wipe."

The idea came from Forrester, who is now a firefighter in Oakland, Calif.

"He often gets called out in the wee hours of the night," Forsett said. "One day they called him in while he was working out and he went to a sporting goods store and asked if they had anything if he could clean up with before he went in. They said, 'No, but we wish we did.'"

They invented ShowerPill, antibacterial wipes that substitute for a shower in a pinch. A 10-pack retails for $9.99 on the product's website, and customer reviews on Amazon.com are overwhelmingly positive. One customer says he uses them after biking to work, and they leave him with a smell that's "neutral 'clean' rather than perfumed."

Forsett, 30, said he has invested "several thousands" of dollars into the product's development and marketing since it launched in 2012 while he was playing for the Houston Texans. He and his business partners recently started trying to raise seed money from venture capitalists.

It comes while he is also trying to reclaim his starting position in a suddenly crowded Ravens' backfield that now includes Buck Allen, who got the bulk of the carries after Forsett was injured, as well as former Towson star Terrance West and fourth-round draft pick Kenneth Dixon.

Forsett has carved out time in the offseason to build his non-football resume. His schedule has included corporate speaking and earning a CrossFit training certification.

"What you do in your free time is your free time, as long as it doesn't interfere with football," Forsett said.

Entering his eighth NFL season and third year in Baltimore, Forsett seemingly has more security than he has ever had, going into the second year of a reported three-year, $9 million deal he signed after his breakout performance in 2014.

But having played for four teams in one four-year stretch before seemingly finding a home with the Ravens, he knows how quickly that can change.

Forsett hopes to someday open a CrossFit gym with his wife Angie, a former national team volleyball player who is also a certified trainer. Forsett and his wife have two young sons, ages 1 and 3.

Harry Swayne, the Ravens' director of player engagement, said that having to earn a contract on a nearly annual basis, as Forsett has had to do for most of his career, "will help you take your investments a little more seriously than a guy who's making megamillions every year."

Swayne, who played 15 years in the NFL and was part of three Super Bowl winning teams, including the 2000 Ravens, added that a player's competitive mentality that helps them succeed on the field can lead to business disasters.

"Most of them do not want to lose at anything," Swayne said. "That's kind of an attitude benefit, but also a weakness in the whole system."

Watching his father, Rodney, own and operate a restaurant in their "small country town" of Mulberry, Fla., Forsett learned about business.

"I saw first hand what it took to be a businessman, the hours he put in, the discipline it took," Forsett said. "I tried to translate that to the football field and what I'm doing in business."

Forsett said he began to consider his life after football during his senior year at Cal, where Steve Etter, an adjunct professor who teaches at the Haas Business School, became the player's first mentor.

Now, Swayne is something of a mentor for him.

Many football players, Forsett included, are fast learners, Swayne said. But being able to run a company parallel to their football careers can be difficult.

Swayne said players have to find the right business partners, usually those with more experience than they have. Swayne was involved in a number of businesses — "mostly failed ones," he said half-jokingly — during his playing career, including a couple of shoe stores, auto service stores and investing in a short-lived family venture.

"You really have no choice than to rely on the experts," said Swayne, who took part in the NFL's Executive Education program at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in 2009. "It's kind of like any time Justin steps off the field, he is no longer an expert, like an investment guy, that's his game."

That part can be troublesome — knowing whom to trust when approached for a business deal.

"Players kind of have a target on their backs," Swayne said. "They can look like a quick payday to a lot of people."

The NFL Players Association tries to help its members by holding what are essentially business boot camps. One of the first was held a few years ago at Under Armour. Players can also receive up to $20,000 a year to help pay for graduate school or to return to school to finish their undergraduate degrees.

Forsett isn't the only Raven with an eye on business.

Sixth-year linebacker Chris Carter, who joined the Ravens this season as a free agent, is halfway through his master's at the University of Miami's 18-month Executive MBA program. After spending most of the year taking classes online while he was playing with the Cincinnati Bengals last season, Carter returned to the classroom after Ravens' minicamp.

"I thought, 'I'm a rookie [in the business world], I'm going to do the same thing I did on the football field.' I'm just going to grind and learn and do anything I've got to do to acquire that knowledge," Carter said. "That's what I've been doing."

Anuj Mehrotra, the interim dean of Miami's business school, said that NFL players' preparation for games helps them in their MBA studies.

"I think given the amount of time they actually go through is helpful to them in being very disciplined about being in a classroom," Mehrotra said.

After graduating from Fresno State and joining the Pittsburgh Steelers as a fifth-round draft choice in 2011, Carter did an internship at Legendary Films, a production company that has made Batman and Superman movies. He followed up with another internship at a Los Angeles-based firm that specializes in corporate debt restructuring.

"I realized that there is so much I don't know and I said, 'Hey, I might as well go to business school.'"

Carter didn't look at his internships thinking his NFL career would be short-lived.

"I just wanted to be prepared when that day comes," Carter said. "Now I've got a few years under my belt and it's like I don't have to worry about when I stop playing. ... I've learned a lot, been able to make a lot of connections and ways to secure future employment.

Carter said that trying to combine an NFL career with a post-graduate degree "is intense" but well worth it. He also said his decision to sign with the Ravens was done in part to stay on the East Coast with easy proximity to his graduate studies.

Mehrotra said Carter is typical of the 30 or so students who have come through his 2-year-old program at Miami. Most of the students are current or former NFL players, some of whom go through the program with their spouses.

Carter's desire to get an MBA grew from watching veteran players involved in business, including former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap and journeyman linebacker Takeo Spikes, who at age 39 and four years removed from his 15-year career recently graduated from the same program at Miami.

"For me, being an active football player, I want to be in something where there's a lot of action," Carter said. "Obviously I can't hit people for the rest of my life."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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