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Life Lessons from the Battlefield and Football Field
Eddie Meyers struggled to balance military duty and pro football, while preparing himself for a successful career in financial services. Today he’s a regional president for PNC Bank.
ATLANTA – In an 18th floor PNC office overlooking this city’s midtown skyline, Eddie Meyers works less than four miles away from Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. On any given Sunday, Meyers donned football pads, not a business suit, for the Atlanta Falcons, playing five preseasons and one full season before a career-ending injury in 1987.
A standout running back who quickly set rushing records at the U.S. Naval Academy, Meyers tried to balance his tour of duty with the Marine Corps and a pro football career. With summers on leave, he participated in training camps with the Falcons and returned to military duty each fall.
After three unsuccessful appeals – one in which he offered to extend his tour of duty by one year for each season he played – he finished his military commitment and made the Falcons’ roster as a free agent in 1987. Nearly three decades later, football fans still approach him to talk about his playing days or seek his opinion about the current season and the team.
Competing in the Finance Field
These days, Meyers is running a different game plan, in a field unlike the gridiron or battlefield, but one where he applies some of the same philosophies.
Now regional president for PNC Bank’s Georgia region, he leads one of the largest financial institutions in the United States. Instead of setting rushing records, Meyers uses skills learned on the gridiron to boost the bank’s financial and charitable impact in metro Atlanta’s competitive market.
Unlike many pro athletes whose careers have ended in bankruptcies, arrests or constant career re-invention, Meyers pursued pro football with a clear endgame – to get into the high-pressure world of investment banking.
As a starter at both the U.S. Naval Academy and later with the Falcons, Meyers excelled as a multi-sport athlete. Yet it was his driven efforts to earn an MBA in finance before entering the league that set him apart off the field.
Eddie Meyers excelled in multiple sports at the Naval Academy and earned an MBA before he played pro football (Photos courtesy of U.S. Naval Academy)
“I pursued athletics because it was a way to a better education. I came into the league with a master’s in finance and a mechanical engineering degree from the Naval Academy,” said the National University graduate. “I joke that I’m a broken engineer who chose finance as a backup. But I’ve always known more than the sport of football.”
Even as his preseason success with the Falcons turned into a promising career, Meyers never lost sight of his career goal. During his pro football career, he continued to add a growing list of securities licenses to his credentials, setting himself up for an easier transition after football.
Any career transition can be difficult because you’re not always secure, but you have to stretch, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You have to remind yourself that you’ve been successful in the past, you can do it again.
Leadership Lessons for Life
Born in Germany to Panamanian parents, Meyers and his wife, Jan, have three daughters, Erica Warren, Elise Brown and Elana Meyers Taylor, a two-time Olympic bobsledder and a bronze and silver medalist.
On any given day, the former All-American football, wrestler and track runner wakes up at 5 a.m. to hit the treadmill and catch up on the latest financial news. He can quickly rattle off the earnings statistics, leverage and debt multiples and other statistics related to major mergers and acquisitions, including the many deals he negotiated during his nearly 30-year finance career. Both the attention to numbers and the endurance learned in sports have served him well.
"One leadership skill that I gained from the Academy and from my athletic career is that everybody matters and anyone can make a difference to the overall success and performance of the team. Regardless of your experience level, whether you’re a rookie or a seasoned professional, anyone can step up and make a difference, just by asking the next question."
Since joining PNC in 1999, Meyers has practiced this skillset by tackling the most challenging opportunities outside of his comfort zone. First as a young banker establishing PNC’s Business Banking operations in Atlanta in the 1990s, and later as a senior executive involved in the corporation’s acquisition of National City Bank. Meyers continues to ask questions that help refocus the improbable into the possible.
Whether you’re in a military combat situation, in the middle of a game play or leading a business in a hostile environment, you have to make decisions thoughtfully yet quickly and sometimes without perfect information. It’s a lesson I learned early in my career that is reinforced every day at PNC by Bill Demchak [chairman, president and chief executive officer].
Eddie Meyers served in the Gulf War
and played pro football
- Eddie Meyers was named Downtown Athletic Club College Football Player of the Year in 1981.
- He ran for 298 yards and scored four touchdowns against Syracuse and had 278 yards against Army.
- He finished his Naval Academy career with 2,935 yards.
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