Washington Redskins defensive end Stephen Bowen is entering his ninth season in the NFL, and while he's hoping to once again be a leader along the defensive line, he's also readying himself for life after football when the time does come.
Last week, Bowen, along with his wife, Tiffany, graduated from George Washington University with a Master's in Business Administration (MBA).
"I was just thinking about being on the second side of my career and I have a couple years left playing-wise," Bowen explained of his decision to pursue an advanced degree. "I want it to be a smooth transition from me playing football to living ordinary life in business ventures."
Bowen also sought the degree to help him decipher his finances.
"Just basic stuff like my financial advisor was talking to me about things and actually understanding what's going on with my finances," he explained.
The former college free agent out of Hofstra said he was able to balance a life of school, family responsibilities and his football career through the use of offseason classes.
"We had no classes during the season," Bowen said. "There was an online class, but the main classes were around OTAs and minicamp. We would have classes in February and the first two weeks in April, and we had class the last few weeks of June."
As for the hardest class in the program? Finance.
"It was pretty difficult, but I made it through," Bowen said. "Understanding all the mathematic equations that you use in everyday life, finding different numbers and receiving money over a certain time period was pretty difficult."
The Bowens hope to use what they learned in the program to help them get into the real estate industry.
"We've got certain ideas we are thinking about doing," the defensive lineman said. "I want to break down certain business ventures myself to see if it's worth doing.
"The last home I bought was a brownstone home. We were going to rent out the bottom, but that would be my first step into doing something with real estate."
With both Stephen and Tiffany going through the same class schedule and assignments, the team-elected 2012 captain said being classmates will help strengthen the family bond.
"It was great," he said. "We had some classes together in undergrad at Hofstra, but nothing compared to this. Just knowing that I and she are going through the same struggle and it's going to benefit us tremendously as a family -- it's amazing."
Graduating from college is always a tremendous achievement -- a feeling Bowen now knows twice -- but the fact he was one of only a few active players in the program graduating was a success in its own, he said.
"The program had a lot of retired players in there and there were not a lot of guys who were still playing," Bowen said. "That felt like an accomplishment in itself."
He also said his graduation ceremony was an "amazing experience" that he'll never forget.
"We put on our cap and gowns and walked over to the arena where they play basketball, and it was an amazing experience," Bowen said. "It was something I never dreamt of getting. I thought after undergrad I'm never going back to school, but you never know. You've got to take advantage of the opportunity the NFL gives you.
"I was trying to take advantage of everything to the fullest."