By: Will Burchfield
@burchie_kid

Brandon Copeland didn’t bank on football coming out of college and he isn’t banking on it down the road.

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Instead, he’s banking on his brain.

Copeland, the 25-year-old defensive end for the Lions who holds a degree from University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, has been working for Weiss Multi-Strategy Advisers during the NFL offseason. The job, according to ESPN, began in March and runs until June. It could be the foundation of Copeland’s life after football.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to get him to develop the financial skill set in kind of valuing companies, valuing industries,” said Nick Morris, a fellow alumnus of the UPenn football program and a partner who runs the trading desk at Weiss. “You tie that into his personality and there is a lot of opportunity for him on Wall Street. Those characteristics, there’s a lot of opportunity.”

Per ESPN, Copeland is working in tandem with Weiss trader Ron Darnowksi, to “develop strategies that will help shape how they pitch investors and decide on prices they want to invest at.”

Said Darnowski, “He’s part of the process and he works for our firm and with me because he contributes to the process and makes our team better. This isn’t, ‘Oh, let’s help out Brandon and teach him some stuff and give him some work to do.’”

“He’s doing work and adding to our process here,” Darnowksi went on. “But the flip side of that is like anybody who is very new and green and learning the business, their contribution is going to be relatively small, but it is material. He’s part of the team.”

Through his connections at Wharton and the UPenn football team, Copeland was able to shadow Morris in the 2014 offseason. Both he and his mentor realized he had a future in the finance world when Morris sent Copeland to a brokerage house without telling him he would have to give a five-minute off-the-cuff presentation. Copeland nailed it.

“I sent him out to these brokerage houses just to meet people and network.. While he’s on his way back, these people are calling me, like, ‘This kid is a superstar.’ So it’s not like I have some special talent of picking people out,” Morris told ESPN. He just has that kind of ‘it factor,’ and there are many opportunities for someone on Wall Street who has that.”

Said Copeland, “That was the time for me. I understood then that the actual selling and trading and buying and selling of stocks was very intriguing to me. You can change your finances overnight, not that we’re trying to make bets, but for a young guy from Baltimore looking at a computer screen I’m like, ‘OK, you can change your bank account overnight and your back doesn’t hurt; you’re not lifting a weight.’

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“It’s just, you’re using your brain to make money. That intrigued me.”

While with the Titans the following season, Copeland began day trading on his phone.

“In between reps with my trainer, I remember sitting there holding my phone and waiting to pull the trigger. I was really big into options, and they can move pretty fast, which was good. In between reps, I’m all up in my phone,” he said.

But he soon realized he needed to dedicate himself fully to football.

“Now I’ve learned that, ‘Hey, I need to focus 100 percent on what I’m doing,'” he said.

He told ESPN he hasn’t day traded at all since he joined the Lions in 2015.

Unlike some NFLers, Copeland allots himself a pretty frugal budget. Per ESPN, he lives off about 10 to 15 percent of his salary, saves around 30 percent and invests the rest.

“I live off what I make in the spring in terms of OTA checks and all that type of stuff and live off this active season…I still hold myself to strict guidelines in terms of what I touch in terms of that money,” Copeland said. “It’s guaranteed football is going to be over one day. I tell kids that all the time.”

Copeland takes youth mentorship seriously. He plans to use the money he’s making with Weiss to fund his football camp for children in his hometown of Baltimore and provide them with school supplies.

“Brandon is an incredibly talented kid, not only as an athlete, but as a human being and what he does for society and the programs that he’s set up in Baltimore for inner-city kids,” said George Weiss, founder of the firm that bears his name. “He’s got talent, and I know this because we’d hire him in a second when his NFL career is over.

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“So it’s really trying to help him get his future in line after he’s done playing football.”