By Bill Bradley, contributing editor
Scott Conover had a six-year NFL career as an offensive lineman for the Detroit Lions. He has done much more since retiring from the league in 1996.
Conover has been a high school football coach, a chef and an author. Now he is taking on another role as an Ambassador for USA Football's Heads Up Football program.
As part of USA Football Month, the former fifth-round pick from Purdue talked with NFL Evolution on Tuesday about his pursuits after playing in the NFL, his work as an Ambassador and his well-chronicled decision with his wife to let his son play organized football.
You've been busy since you retired from the game in 1996. A writer, a chef and a high school football coach. It sounds as if you reinvented yourself.
I've been doing a lot things. I coached high school football in New Jersey for eight years before going to become a chef (at the Art Institute of New York City). Coaching was my first stop after I left the game. ... Now, I'm pretty much semi-retired from cheffing, watching after my two little ones.
What got you involved with USA Football?
When I was coaching at the high school level, they offered a great resource program, similar what they do now. I was always getting education from them and learning about awareness programs. I was always attending clinics for their organization.
How did USA Football officials approach you to become an Ambassador for the Heads Up Football program?
They were looking for people to help while they were expanding the Heads Up program. I had worked with them before and I got a little extra time now that I'm retired.
What have you been doing as a Heads Up Football Ambassador?
I'm learning more about what the program is about, and I'm trying to understand the issues and the things that go along with youth football. I'm just learning the terminology and the stuff that's out there to try to be on the same page as USA Football -- and getting everybody on the same page in this whole country.
Where area of the country have you been working as an Ambassador?
I'm out of Michigan right now. I understand we're able to move around (as Ambassadors), but I'm living in Michigan, so I'll probably be more hands-on with the Midwest and the Michigan programs.
You frequently talk to coaches and parents. What are they ask you during some of the Heads Up events?
They ask about my experiences and some of things have I have done as a youth football player and as a professional football player. They're constantly asking tips on how to get players focused and motivated. The coaches want to find ways to get more parents involved, too.
Is there an advantage to being a former NFL player in this role?
Yes. I think the kids take to it. The parents take to it. They're a little more focused on what you have to say. They're know that you've been there and you've done the things they want to do, especially these young football players who look up to you. They ask you what it takes to be successful and go on and play at different levels of football. So I think it's important to have guys like myself to be back and supporting the kids, knowing that people care about them.
Your wife Courtney is a successful blogger with the website she created,Brown Girl with Long Hair . She received some notoriety recently for her post about how she had decided it was OK to let your son play organized football. How did you play into that decision?
We talked about it. We're seeing programs like the Heads Up Football program and the things USA Football is doing. We feel good about our son playing and the direction of youth football today with programs like that trying to get more coaches, parents, commissioners, referees all on the same page and teaching safe football. We're seeing that program is starting to grow in the country, so we definitely feel confident our son is being taught the right way to play football. That was the important thing to us -- to make sure he had a safe environment in which to play.
What's next for Scott Conover as a Heads Up Football Ambassador?
I'm hoping to just start out here in the Midwest -- especially in Michigan -- and help get (all of the area leagues) in the program. I would like to every youth organization joining the USA Football program and honor Heads Up to keep this game growing. In the past, there's been concerns with the safety of the game. But we're trying to get past that. We're trying to keep the game popular and get more kids involved. It's important to do that because not only might kids go on to play the next levels of football -- high school or college or possibly professional -- but these kids will be the next generation of coaches, parents, teachers, referees and commissioners. So if we get the foundation right and teach them the right things, we know football can continue to grow.