Dean College was pleased to welcome our latest Leadership in Action Series speaker, Kelly Mehrtens, Executive Director of The Trust (Powered by the NFLPA). The Trust launched with a simple objective: to provide resources and earned benefits to former NFL players to ensure a successful transition post-career.

As Executive Director of The Trust, Mehrtens is responsible for managing and marketing a wealth of services organized as pillars, working with a dedicated staff and world class providers to connect players to these top-notch services. Mehrtens and her team continue to create hugely successful engagement events to further build upon an unrivaled holistic approach with members of The Trust. Prior to her ascent, she served as Managing Director, a position she assumed in 2016. Before joining The Trust, Mehrtens was the Deputy Director of Athletics/COO at the University of Maryland where she was a member of the executive leadership team. Her experience in sports administration, budget development, marketing, branding and fundraising has also touched the athletic programs at Northeastern University, The University of Miami, The University of Illinois, The University of Kansas and The University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she was Director of Athletics. Further, her leadership has led to positions on several NCAA and Power 5 Conference Committees. Mehrtens holds a B.S. in Accounting from The University of Alabama, where she was an All-American discus thrower and member of the track team, and a graduate degree in Higher Education from the University of Illinois.

Mehrtens joined us online to speak about her journey, her current role with The Trust and the opportunities and support they provide for former NFL players, and her advice for students as they prepare for their future careers. When Mehrtens graduated from The University of Alabama, she thought she wanted to be an accountant, because that’s what she prepared for. She spoke about the importance of visibility and representation in any career field, so that young people can see others doing the thing they want to do. “I didn’t even believe I could dream it,” she said of her career path into sports administration. She then asked students, “What are you dreaming of?”

Mehrtens also shared valuable lessons she has learned over the course of her career. Early on, she thought a lot about fairness, but learned over time that it’s not always about what’s fair, because fairness might look different to different people. “You want to make it equitable,” she said. She shared how the skills she learned as an athlete, including teamwork, dedication, goal setting and accountability, helped her in her career. Mehrtens also stressed the importance of perseverance, getting back up when you fail and giving yourself grace. “It’s okay to not be at 90 or 100 at all times,” she said. “It doesn’t make you any less of a person or a leader.” She also advised students to work hard, grow and stay grounded. “Don’t aspire to seek perfection,” Mehrtens said. “Aspire to be really good and try to be great. What is it that you bring or are willing to seek on your own, through mentors or through professors to be even better than where you are now?”

For students thinking about the future, she recommended thinking about where your interests and abilities might align and then seeing what careers might be associated with those things. She also advised students to look for the learning opportunities in everything, from classes to jobs to activities. “No matter what position that you land in post-graduation, all of these life experiences that you’re having right now, they will serve you well,” Mehrtens said.

Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom with our students, Kelly Mehrtens! For more information on past and future speakers, visit Dean Leadership Institute.