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COLUMN

Fort Wayne's Pollard preps for post-NFL career

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For more on local pro athletes, follow Reggie Hayes via Twitter at www.twitter.com/reggiehayes1

Still going strong with Titans, he has bigger picture plans

Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 3:08 am

Bernard Pollard has spent the last few weeks talking about bathroom sinks.

That seems like an odd topic for the NFL player known as “Bonecrusher,” doesn't it?

Here's the story: While Pollard has no plans on retiring from the Tennessee Titans anytime soon, he's already working on what he'll do when he's done playing. He has a company, Style Pro 31, and one of its first products is the “Smart Tray,” a fold-out tray that allows users to increase counter space for personal products in bathroom sinks at hotels, dorms or homes.

“Every football player, when you first step in, feels like they can play forever,” Pollard said. “That's just not possible. Our bodies can't last and they're always looking for younger players to come in and replace the veteran guys. We have to take the money we've received, the blessing we've been blessed with, and invest that with different ideas and do different things with it.”

Pollard, 29, a Fort Wayne native, said he invented the Smart Tray after jockeying for space with his wife and young children in hotels.

“I've always been someone who thinks outside the box,” Pollard said. “People hear that a football player created a vanity tray for the bathroom and they think, 'No way.' I'm trying to show that we're not just jocks, but we have minds, intelligent minds. I want to do something that provides jobs for people and I think I can make that happen.”

Too many young players, Pollard said, make a huge amount of money in a short period and waste it. He said he learned early the pitfalls of short-term thinking.

“You get a lot of money in four months and you want to spend it,” Pollard said. “They end up thinking in the now and not thinking about the future. You're living another 60 years after football, so you have to think not only about yourself but your family.”

Pollard's interest in entrepreneurship, as well as inventions, comes from his naturally inquisitive mind. He says he's a fan of the show “Shark Tank,” which allows inventors to pitch possible monetary collaborations with wealthy investors.

But while the show has looked into having football players come on with their ideas, Pollard said he would not be interested in appearing on the show.

“I'm not a loud person,” he said. “I wouldn't want to go on as the football part of the scene for ratings and things like that. This is something I truly believe in with my heard and soul and I want it to be so Bernard Pollard Jr. off the field is able to talk real live numbers and this and that. I don't want anything to be 'Hollywooded' up, where they cut a player down just to see if they get a reaction.”

Pollard chuckled at the reaction that people might be surprised by his self description of not being a loud person. He is, of course, a heavy hitter offering occasional commentary to opponents during games.

“I'm not loud off the field,” he said.

Pollard said people are often surprised by his personality away from the NFL. Off the field, he is an engaging, personable guy. Too often, people make assumptions about NFL players because of their actions and performance on the field, he said.

Pollard mentioned a flight he took that included some New England Patriots fans. It was Pollard's legal hit on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, of course, that once put the quarterback out for the season. He said those Patriots fans changed their minds about him after talking with him during the flight.

“People think, 'He's a wild person, he's loud, and this and that,' ” Pollard said. "The type of player I am, I put my emotion and my heart into what I do. When I go on the field, I hit that switch. …Off the field, I want to be able to touch lives and be able to laugh with people. Don't define me by what I do in that 60-minute game. That's my job.”

Pollard and his family have settled into Nashville, with a newly built home almost finished.

He said he is excited about the direction of the Titans under new coach Ken Whisenhunt. The staff has forged a new direction, with more demands and accountability, and Pollard likes that way of operating. Pollard, who played at South Side High School and Purdue University, is with his fourth NFL team after time with the Chiefs, Texans and Ravens. He helped the Ravens to a Super Bowl title.

“I want another ring,” Pollard said. “I know what that feels like. I've never worn that ring, but I love to look at it. I know I'm going down in the history books with 52 other guys, the coaches and staff that won it. That was an exciting moment in my football career. We did something so many players wish they could.

“I want to have that feeling with the coaches and team I'm with now. The (Titans) fans have been yearning for a team to be dominant and win it all.”

Training camp for the Titans starts in another week or so. It'll be time for Pollard to start being loud again. Until then, he'll be happy to relax and talk about the Smart Tray.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.