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How NFL Pro Dereck L Faulkner and The Athletes for Vets Foundation Are Helping To Support Veterans

I believe the first thing I wished someone told me was founding a non-profit organization as independent is hard. A lot of long conversations and unanswered emails. Times where you feel like you are running on a hamster wheel. Try to build a valued team. I needed to understand the importance of having great people […]

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I believe the first thing I wished someone told me was founding a non-profit organization as independent is hard. A lot of long conversations and unanswered emails. Times where you feel like you are running on a hamster wheel. Try to build a valued team. I needed to understand the importance of having great people around you who are self-starters and great teammates who bring value. Last, be prepared to lose money before you make any money. The cost of doing business is a real thing and you must invest in yourself first before you can demand others to invest in you.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Dereck L Faulkner.

Dereck was born in a US military hospital in West Germany. Dereck is the son of two military officers; his father serves as a Captain and his Mother a 20-year Retired Major. Dereck Faulkner attended Hampton University and completed his Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management. As a student-athlete, he was a four-year starter and a three-time MEAC Conference all-academic team student-athlete. Dereck is a contributor of a 3-year Top 3 Nationally ranked Division 1-AA, a 3x MEAC conference champion, and a Black National championship football team. After completing undergraduate work, he studied at George Washington University School of Business, obtaining his M.B.A with a concentration in Strategic Marketing and Non-profit Management.

During the 2007 NFL Draft, Faulkner signed as a priority rookie free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles. Following his rookie season with the Eagles, he spent joined several NFL organizations for a tenure of three seasons. Additionally, Faulkner played for the Canadian Football League (two seasons). Currently, Faulkner acts as an executive member for NFLPA — New York/New Jersey.

Faulkner has always been an entrepreneur before football. Dereck is the founder of The Athletes for Vets Foundation. He established Athletes for Vets to recognize the sacrifices of our military personnel. The establishment of Athletes for Vets solidified his deepest gratitude towards the military and his respect and admiration for the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. His deep-rooted connection to the military and life-long commitment to philanthropy and humanity played a major role in the creation of Athletes for Vets.

As the visionary behind AV, his goal is to unite, advocate, and support the heroes who defend our nation’s freedom. While leading Faulkner Enterprises LLC, Faulkner founded Element 8 Management (formerly Overtime), a sports and business management firm. Dereck is also the founder of Lewis Dean Bespoke, a custom bespoke suit company. As a partner of The NFL Alumni Association, Lewis Dean Bespoke specializes in processing custom wear for athletes, professionals, and fashion enthusiasts.

Dereck’s commitment to philanthropy, enterprise, and humanity lead to the success of his many business endeavors.


Thank you for joining us DereckCan you share with us the “backstory” that led you to your career path in professional sports?

Mystory is pretty simple, but my life has had a few twists and turns. I grew up playing basketball as a young athlete. As a serious basketball college prospect, I was convinced I would be playing college basketball for a local Philadelphia school or even my dream school at the time, which was Villanova University. The basketball team’s coach at the time was Jay Wright. Through forceful trickery by my Father, I was dropped off at my high school’s first football practice in August and that was the beginning of my football career which opened up doors that I could have never imagined.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What were the lessons or takeaways that you took out of that story?

The funniest story involves my Mother. My mother was a “Basketball Mama”, but at first, she didn’t have much knowledge of the game. Even though my Dad played football in college at the school they both attended, she says never paid attention to what he was doing. Fast forward twenty or so years later my Mom was satisfied with Big Ten, Big East, ACC offers she wanted to do her own recruiting.

She called the one school she liked, which was Hampton University. She spoke with the head coach and told him that her son was really good, and he catches the ball runs with it. Her football acumen was so bad she just knew her son was tall and catches the ball when they throw it to him. Of course, the coaches laughed at her but once they saw my film. My mother became the greatest asset during my recruiting process. I went back and told her about how she sounded talking football to college coaches. My mother is an avid reader and so she dove headfirst. I came back from my first college semester and she had “Football for Dummies” books, John Madden football books, and she was watching NFL network. By the time I was senior she knew more about football than everyone in the house. My mother showed her tenacity in a different way outside of sports. I took that lesson no differently than what my Dad taught me from a physical standpoint.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

I would tell them to work extremely hard. Never accept mediocracy. Preparation is one of the most important tools and keys to success.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

A former Coach named Frank Paris made an immediate impact on my life as a young athlete. He was my first high school football coach. His patience with me as a first-year player in my junior year helped me during times when other black opponents called me an “Uncle Tom” for playing for a white coach and predominantly white school.

He understood the pressure I was under from that and that I didn’t like it. I am far from being anyone’s “Uncle Tom” and he truly cared about me and wanted to see me succeed. When I broke my leg my Junior year at Hampton University, my season was over Frank Paris wrote me an inspiring handwritten letter telling me how proud he was of me and making the decisions to get to Hampton. Ironically at the time, I thought I made a mistake but having his support as a white coach was something I will always hold very near and dear to me.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about what it is like being a professional sports player?

That all pro athletes are rich. That is the biggest myth. People working 9–5 jobs believe pro athletes make a ton of money. Yes, maybe at faster frequency but many athletes don’t make boatloads of money and must try to maximize an earning opportunity in an unstable industry.

Ok super. Let’s now move to the main part of our discussion. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?

My philanthropic work has truly been the most fulfilling and purposeful in my life. Being able to lead my organization and use my network as a tool to create change within the military community has been great for me and my family’s legacy. I want to use the NFL and other business verticals and platforms as an agent for change in all underserved communities.

What methods are you using to most effectively share your cause with the world?

I am speaking with great media platforms like this one. Explaining my purpose and telling my story that can help others understand my passion and vision for philanthropy. I want to use the blessings I’ve been given; sports and education is a way for me to create more opportunities for the disenfranchised and displaced.

Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

I have over 70+ years of military experience associated with me directly. I am someone who is a product of the military and for that, I owe a great deal. I feel my life would be in a different place, I would be different without the foundation of the military. Therefore, I am steadfast in trying to be an advocate for our military and our vets as a way of giving back through advocacy.

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

My grandfather a Vietnam war veteran. Serving two tours in Vietnam as special forces green beret. He will forever be the pillar behind the Athletes for Vets. Without his service, my mother would have never joined ROTC in college where she met my Godmother and father. There all three of them become officers and they all served over 70 years as a group for that. My grandfather helped changed lives.

What are your 3 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

I believe the first thing I wished someone told me was founding a non-profit organization as independent is hard. A lot of long conversations and unanswered emails. Times where you feel like you are running on a hamster wheel. Try to build a valued team. I needed to understand the importance of having great people around you who are self-starters and great teammates who bring value. Last, be prepared to lose money before you make any money. The cost of doing business is a real thing and you must invest in yourself first before you can demand others to invest in you.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I want to certainly bring more awareness to the underserved black communities and youth. Outside of the AV foundation, I want to help my community. Expose our young black kids to opportunities that others are afforded. I want to empower our historical and Black universities. I want to expose our community to more education and training that will help them today. Black kids should have a seat at the table when it comes to tech, sciences, mathematics, robotics and all new-age opportunities.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

‘You must fight and absorb failures to reach success.”

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to meet the Black business leader, Bob Johnson. Over the past several months he has pushed the envelope in making Americans understand the current state of black America and how we can make a change as collective. From governmental aspects and also investments in the black community which will give us economic freedoms and opportunities for our next generation to have greater achievable outcomes.

How can our readers follow you online?

Visit us at Athletesforvets.org

Follow me on Instagram at @dereckfaulkner

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