Matt Furstenburg's professional football career was brief. The former Maryland tight end played for one season on the Ravens practice squad before he moved on.
Fortunately for him, he had been planning for that moment for more than a year. His post-football career is working out even better — Furstenburg is now the chief executive officer of Grip Boost Inc., a company that develops enhancements for athletic gloves.
As a rising fifth-year senior Terp in the summer of 2012, Furstenburg noticed an ongoing problem: The adhesive coating on the palms of his football gloves wore off easily, forcing him to buy new pairs. The cost piled up, so he sought a better solution: a gel that could be applied to the gloves to preserve their ability to stick to the football.
"From there, it was kind of on the back burner for me, where I was focused on football," Furstenburg said. "But then when I was done, I was like, 'All right, let's do this.' And it kind of just went from there."
Given Furstenburg's football schedule, it took two years for him to coordinate with chemical engineering Ph.D. students at Maryland, develop the product and begin selling it. They launched in August 2014, after Furstenburg's year with the Ravens in 2013.
Two years later, Grip Boost Inc. has five employees — three full-time — and is projecting $400,000 in revenue after making $100,000 in its first year.
The company's product base has expanded, too. It now includes a similar gel for baseball batting gloves and an adhesive spray for golf gloves, released June 28.
While Furstenburg's dream of playing in the NFL may have been short-lived, this job has its perks.
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"My body's not beat up as much — that's a good thing," Furstenburg said. "But I still get to stay in football. I do business with football and sports now, which is fun. It really isn't a terrible transition where I don't know what to do with myself, where I think other guys put their second career off and try to take care of it then. It's easier to get a job when you have a job."
Perhaps the biggest roadblock to Furstenburg's new venture was making sure all of the products are legal on the field. After all, the closest comparison to Grip Boost's football substance was Stickum, which the NFL outlawed in 1981 after players used it to gain an unfair advantage.
To avoid the same fate, Furstenburg had to run the gel by the National Operating Committee for Standards on Athletic Equipment. The product had to meet two criteria: It couldn't transfer any residue to the football after contact, so it had to solidify quickly. And it couldn't exceed the coefficient of friction of a new pair of gloves — in other words, it could have the same benefit as buying a new pair, but not a better one.
Once Grip Boost created the substance using the same standards, it became legal for competition.
Furstenburg doesn't have concrete plans for his new business yet, but he hopes some day to grow revenue and then sell it to a larger company. If that works out, it could be the start of a productive career after football.