The Super Bowl is coming…so we thought it would be a great time to speak with a Hip Daddy who has played in the NFL! Former NFL lineman and current entrepreneur extroardinaire, Alex Bernstein, takes some time to talk fatherhood and football. He’s a Minnesota boy and a friend so read up!
Tell us about your kids. What’s it like being a Dad?
I have two kids and two dogs. An eleven year old lab and a one year old English Bulldog. The dogs are like kids because we have to feed them and pick up after them. I have a 14 year old daughter who plays volleyball like a defensive tackle, and a 10 year old son that is an aspiring computer hacker-gamer and soccer player. Being a Dad has been a wild ride for sure. In the beginning they are so helpless. Just eating, crying, poop machines that need their parents for everything. As they get older their needs change, so like most Dads I’ve had to adapt to more of a prevent defense instead of the tight coverage they needed when they were babies. Wow, that has to be the record for fastest sports analogy ever. Was that less than three seconds? New personal record.
Talk to us about your parenting style.
I’d like to think I’m the ‘cool dad’ but I have a feeling that I’m closer to the often nerdy “trying too hard” Phil Dunphy from Modern Family. I try to keep things fun, and sometimes the kids love it and play along, and sometimes they aren’t in the mood for humor and they want nothing more than to hide from their embarrassing Dad. I also get off easy as my amazingly patient wife does a lot of the discipline and is the one that makes sure they get their school work done, and get to the orthodontist and other not as fun things. I’m more of the “let’s go on an adventure” or “who wants ice cream?” Dad.
What’s the one thing you cannot live without as a Dad?
Cell phones. Coordinating with carpool for school, carpool for soccer, carpool for volleyball, making sure that I’m where I’m supposed to be and that I have the right jersey, snacks, water, etc. would be impossible without everyone having a phone. It’s like having a mobile command center with instant texting and messages making sure everyone is on the same page and that we’re all connected even if we’re not in the same room. We even text each other when we’re in the same room. It’s pretty absurd.
From Amherst College to the NFL, tell us about your experience playing in the NFL.
The jump from Division 3 to the NFL was so different it was almost like playing a completely different sport. In the middle of my rookie training camp I switched from defensive line to offensive line which was a complete reversal of everything I knew from college. I think that my defensive mindset helped with the transition, but it took about a year to get comfortable on the other side of the ball. I was lucky enough to play for some of the most amazing coaches in the history of sports like Bill Parcells, Bill Belichik, Kirk Ferentz, Marvin Lewis, Jim Schwartz, Romeo Crennel, Art Shell, and more. I ended up spending 4 years right on the edge of the roster… always under pressure to keep my job every time a new crop of studs came out of college. It was super stressful, it was really hard on my body, and it was a ton of fun. I miss getting to eat everything in sight, it was fun lifting weights all day and being 330 pounds.
Inc. Magazine deemed you as one to the top 10 NFL Successful Entrepreneurs. What’s the latest and greatest in Oakland with you?
Clearly my football career as a backup lineman wasn’t going to land me on very many top 10 NFL lists. Until that one from Inc Magazine popped up right after we sold a software company I had co-founded so the timing worked out.
Oakland is a fantastic city in the midst of a massive revival. The weather, the infrastructure, and the central location in the Bay Area creates an opportunity that a lot of people are excited about. It seems like announcements about high tech unicorns moving across the bay from San Francisco and Silicon Valley to Oakland are hitting the press every week. Uber just bought the old Sears building in Uptown Oakland and their new HQ will be about a block from Pandora. Right now I’m investing in a few start up ventures, while designing a new software product of my own, while also working on converting industrial buildings into commercial spaces like live/work lofts and office spaces for early stage companies. So my schedule looks like Tetris between work and all the kids sports and school stuff packed in there.
Super Bowl pick?
I can’t help but get a little swept up in the Cam Newton buzz. They had a great season going 15 -1, that’s no joke in a highly competitive league like the NFL, and they have a rock solid defense. That said, and despite my bitter memories of losing to Denver in the AFC championship in ’98, I’m sort of holding on for that old horse in Denver to win one more….So, I’m gonna ignore my brain and go with my heart and take Denver with their insane defense to pull out an upset victory in the big game with the final score of 17-14. I’ll never forget my old Amherst coach EJ Mills always saying that, “Defense wins games!”