Catching Up with Former Reps: Renaldo Wynn
Former NFL defensive end Renaldo Wynn spent 13 seasons with the Jaguars, Redskins, Saints, and Giants. He began his collegiate career at Notre Dame where he received All-American honorable mention honors as a junior in 1995. He was named team’s Most Valuable Player and Lineman of the Year as a senior. We caught up with Renaldo where he gave us insight into his life during and after football.
What is your current career?
My main position is the Executive Director for a ministry which is a non-profit organization that was started by Joe Gibbs, which he is still very involved in. On the non-profit side, Game plan, there’s a few pillars that we’re known for
How would you describe your experience leaving the game?
I think for every player it’s a transition. I remember, and I’ll never forget the words of Troy Vincent basically just saying that every player makes a transition. That it doesn’t matter how successful you are in your post- football career or in terms of already having things in place. Of course, there are guys that don’t have a plan in place but no matter where you are it’s different for everybody. For some, it’s harder than others. For me, I love the game and I was a kid at heart that was blessed to play the game I’ve loved since I was a kid. What I’m doing now is what I love doing especially for the long haul of my life. I love speaking to kids and going to prison programs, don’t take that the wrong way. I love helping Coach Gibbs and seeing all the great things he’s doing. What a great mentor that I have that I get for free. To be able to hang around a hall of famer, a legend, and an overall great person. I get to be around him and see how he’s able to handle adversity. Gene Upshaw would always say, “Men, use it before you lose it”. For the younger guys that might not have made sense, but he would always say that at the last part of his meetings. Basically, just saying that you’ve got a platform as a player where certain doors are open that probably not even one percent of people can walk through. For me, I’m from Chicago so how did I get into NASCAR? I had an opportunity when Coach Gibbs came on board the second time around in 2003. We went to a race and I was instantly hooked. It kind of just happened by default. Next offseason, I’m going to races all over the country on my own. Coach Gibbs noticed I had kept coming back and said if this was something I wanted to do after I retire to give him a call. I did exactly that and asked if the offer was still there. He brought me in and I shadowed every department which drew me in even more. In 2012, he brought me on board full time in a dual role with the racing and Game Plan program. I just try to help other players and bring them to the race. I try to expose guys to the opportunities that NASCAR offers that most guys don’t see.
How has being a player rep impacted you personally & professionally?
A lot of guys didn’t want to stand between management and players. But my teammates voted me in. I love the fact that the voting goes through the team because they know who best represents them. I felt honored and for me I’ve learned that when you serve somebody other of yourself, that’s the best fulfillment. That’s what a player rep is. It’s not for yourself, notoriety, or a title. Of course, there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with it. But even more so, it’s about serving your fellow teammate. I think that’s one of the biggest things you can learn as a leader. More importantly, it’s about the impact that’s going to last forever. When you may forget about the wins and loses but those relationships that you build with another teammate is what you remember. Those relationships that you have along the way are what you really remember that impact you and vice versa.
What advice would you give to yourself looking back?
The way that you grow is really when you overcome adversity. Nobody’s perfect. Life is all about making mistakes but learning from those mistakes more importantly. I look back and think maybe I shouldn’t have done that or stayed for a little bit more money. But you know what, there were certain aspects that I gained from my mistakes. There were things that made me a better person. An example, may be the fact that as a player sometimes you can get contempt. It wasn’t until I got cut where I felt I truly became a better person. Nobody wants to get cut or fired but as I look back on it I needed that wake-up call. The same guy that fired me ended up hiring after my playing career. I got cut on my birthday by a guy I really wanted to cuss out, but had I done that I would’ve burned a bridge. In the midst of adversity, you really find out who you are. The most important part is how you respond when going through adversity. I always tell guys now with social media, don’t go caps on your Instagram and say something you can’t take back.
Have you taken advantage of any of the services of the PA since retirement?
I utilized a lot of the programs such as the business entrepreneurship program at Rice University as well as Harvard. I did the broadcast boot camp because I wanted to try and dabble in radio and tv. Which I do a little bit of now. I work for the ACC Network and I get to do a couple games a year for them. I did about 3 or 4 of those programs that the PA offers which really helped me get things going. I really try to stay involved with the events as well as staying connected with former players through networking. I try to stay involved as much as I can to utilize the programs.
I guess for me now, just bloom where you’re at. I have goals that I want to achieve, of course with the prison program I want to see our state change in terms of recidivism rates go down. I feel like I’ve been blessed to have a part with our schools and young children and being able to make an impact there. As well as continue to be the father and husband at home. For me, I just want to bloom where I’m planted. I don’t want to be distracted by what’s the next best thing. The next best thing for me is worrying about where I am today. We’ve got a lot of unfinished business in terms of the prison program and I want to see this through. Where I am now being where the Lord has me and I’m loving every minute of it.