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How Russell Okung is Tackling Tech
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Russell Okung looks every bit a prototypical NFL offensive lineman. But when you peel back the layers and get to know the left tackle, you’ll learn there’s more than meets the eye.
While he’s dedicated to his craft on the field, Okung is equally passionate about another field off of it: the tech industry.
Specifically, tech entrepreneurship.
Okung first got involved in the industry when he was a member of the Seattle Seahawks.
“I knew I had a platform and a passion for technology itself,” Okung said. “I told myself, I wanted to build something to help future generations and people alike who want to get into technology whether it’s coding, entrepreneurship or learning the skills and connecting them with the right people.”
That “something” Okung built is the GREATER Foundation. He co-founded it with his former Oklahoma St. teammate Andrew McGee in 2016. GREATER’s mission is to mentor and expose at-risk youth to technology.
“We have a program where we teach former student-athletes how to code and prepare them for jobs in the tech sector. Then, we have our Junior Leaders of Innovation Program which we take kids through a startup. They’ll have a business plan and we’ll put some sort of platform technology. In one case, we used Amazon Alexa, and we’ll ask them to draw up business or product ideas and see how they can implement them. Then, we have another program for younger children we’re building out with Lego right now. All these things are teaching them to think through creativity and entrepreneurship at the same time in order to create futures for themselves.”
Along with helping influence the newest generation of entrepreneurs, Okung also enjoys sharing his passion with his peers. He wrote an op-ed earlier this year about being an investor in tech, visits conferences and also spoke at South by Southwest. Okung described speaking at the conference’s Tech & Venture Capital Huddle as an “awesome” experience and plans on returning for years to come.
This week, the left tackle is speaking at Hashtag Sports.
“It’s a day where a lot of leaders from the sports and tech industries come together. We’re just paying attention to the trends whether it’s media platforms, data analytics or the fan experience. It’s a place where guys are throwing around ideas and figuring out where everything is sort of headed.”
Okung is a part of OneTeam Collective, which per their website, is the “first athlete-driven accelerator, targeting innovative companies that want to tap into sports through the athletes who play them.” He is on their advisory board and is looking forward to sharing his knowledge and experience with his contemporaries.
“There will be representation from the NFLPA with the One Team Collective. It’s just for players who have the interest in tech and whether they’re investing or figuring out what their future is going to look like, it’s an event where they can come. They’re very serious about having a seat at the table.”
While he is currently into the “creating and building phases” of tech, Okung knows the opportunity for growth in sports-tech is endless and he’s excited to see where it goes from here.
“It’s interesting. There are a lot of big companies making acquisitions in the sports-tech industry. There (may be) a player who doesn’t necessarily see things from a sponsorship standpoint, and instead, be an advocate for something. The leverage these platforms give you for creation, it’s becoming all encompassing.” Read