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Former Penn State offensive lineman Charles Rush - "My personal experience at Penn State set me up for the rest of my life."
Charles Rush had wrapped up his Penn State football career in the 2006 Orange Bowl, when the Nittany Lions capped one of their greatest turnaround seasons with an overtime victory over Florida State. The offensive guard from Erie, Pa., went undrafted that spring and later attended a Cleveland Browns minicamp.
"I decided I was ready to move on," he said. "Football had provided me with a great experience, but I decided I was going to move into the next part of my life."
Rush hung up his helmet but hasn't slowed down since. And he wasn't entirely finished with the NFL, either.
Rush spent one year as an intern with the legal operations department of the NFL's management council. He emerged with a thorough understanding of how the league's salary cap works and got to spend some time with NFL executives, including commissioner Roger Goodell, which helped him determine the next phase of his career.
"Listening to some of their advice and observing them was a motivating factor for me to go on to business school," Rush said.
Rush's time with the management council helped him earn a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh's Katz Graduate School of Business. He graduated in 2010 and then headed to Chicago, where he began work as a district sales manager for the Erie Insurance Group.
"No day was the same," he said. "I was out in the field. It was beneficial in the fact that it gave me managerial experience. It was being able to relate to people that are older than me but being able to provide them with benefits in what they were doing. I wanted to try to be the person with all the answers, but I was learning from their experience as well."
Rush desired to learn more, though. He spoke to Derrick Crawford, a lawyer who had co-chaired a diversity council at the NFL, who gave him some resonating advice.
"He said a JD (Juris Doctor) can do what an MBA can do," Rush said, "but an MBA can't do what a JD can do."
Law school had long been an aspiration of Rush's, largely because of his godfather, Ulice Payne, Jr. A former basketball player on Al McGuire's 1977 national championship team at Marquette, Payne went on to become a partner in the international law firm Foley and Lardner and was later a president and CEO of the Milwaukee Brewers. He currently is the owner of Addison-Clifton, LLC, which offers global trade compliance solutions.
Rush, who majored in economics at Penn State, accompanied Payne to Beijing and Shanghai last summer, which piqued his interest in international law and was a primary factor in his decision to attend the Villanova University School of Law, where he began work on his degree last August. He hopes to land a job that will allow him to work in different parts of the globe when he graduates in 2015.
Rush recently became engaged to longtime girlfriend and fellow Erie native Denise Mosley. They'll marry this July. He is the better part of a decade removed from his playing days but has carried the lessons he learned at Penn State through each stop of his career.
"It's invaluable," he said. "It set the foundation for my professional life. Being held accountable at age 18 and 19, not just to be prepared, but to be prepared to do your job effectively. It's not just Joe but all the other assistants, the academics staff at Penn State.
"What you learn as a young man, you'll benefit from moving forward. Not just football athletes but student athletes in general have come away with that. They learn that dedication and that skill set at such a young age. My personal experience at Penn State set me up for the rest of my life."