SBJ/20090309/This Week's News

Armstrong focuses on player outreach

Trace Armstrong, who was player president of the NFLPA for eight years, longer than any other NFL player, has been cast by opponents as someone who will maintain the status quo of the NFLPA, but his supporters say he does plan significant changes if he gets the job.

They include plans to create a better outreach to players about their everyday concerns, not just collective bargaining, and a plan to improve the media relations of the NFLPA, which has been battered by the press, especially in regard to its treatment of retired players.

Armstrong was close to Gene Upshaw and spoke at Upshaw’s memorial service last September. Armstrong’s opponents, including some outspoken retired players who were at odds with Upshaw, see him as following in Upshaw’s footsteps. But friends of Armstrong say, in fact, that Armstrong disagreed with Upshaw as much as he agreed with him while he was player president, from 1996 to 2004. “The notion that he used to do everything that Gene wanted him to do is humorous,” said an Armstrong supporter. “Gene and Trace used to butt heads all the time.”

During his time as president Armstrong, 43, led a number of initiatives, including starting the NFLPA Financial Advisors Program, calling for increased protection offered by helmets and getting an extra year of health insurance for retired players.

Armstrong holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology as well as an MBA from the University of Florida. He now heads the coaches practice at CAA Sports and works with Upshaw’s former agent, Tom Condon.

A little-known fact about him: Armstrong is an equity partner and co-founder of GoFit, a home fitness equipment company that was on target to do more than $20 million in sales last year and is sold in more than 3,500 retail stores, including Target, Sports Chalet and Big Five, said Richard Davis, the company’s president.

Armstrong was involved in founding the company, helping to update and create new products and in meetings with major retailers when the young company was looking to find outlets that would sell its products.

“I am very biased, but in my mind there is no one better for that position,” Davis said. “The thing about Trace is, he doesn’t have to work, but he can’t not work.”

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