Ben Leber is an NFL multi-hyphenate whose name can be recognized from both his time playing the game and as an on-field reporter often seen on the sidelines. A graduate of Kansas State University throughout the reign of legendary college football coach Bill Snyder, he went on to a 10-year professional career playing for the San Diego Chargers, the Minnesota Vikings and the St. Louis Rams. Here, Leber chats with us about his life off the field, his partnership with Douglas & Todd bourbon, and his exciting plans for the future.
You’ve spent the majority of your life playing both collegiate and professional football. What are some of the biggest lessons you learned during your incredible tenure on the field?
It’s so tough to narrow down all the lessons I’ve learned from playing football, but there is one very important lesson that I’m grateful for. Through football, the process of daily improvement and feedback from tough coaching, I’ve learned how to internally challenge myself to push past boundaries and my own self-doubt. Football creates a very vulnerable and uncomfortable environment in the mind and body. The feeling of self-doubt can be so overwhelming. But through football, I’ve learned how to use these uncomfortable situations as fuel and to not shy away from challenges.
What are a few things you’ve become interested in during your time off the field?
The biggest thing I’ve done since I stepped off the field is getting to know my community better and developing deeper business and personal relationships. One of the biggest missteps I had as a player was not taking advantage of networking opportunities. I was told by older players to always be cautious of people taking advantage of you. So I stayed pretty insulated as a player.
That logic couldn’t be further from the truth. And since I’ve opened myself up, I’ve created some amazing relationships. And now, I’m the proud host of the Ben Leber St. Jude Golf Celebration, an ambassador for Bell Bank, and a partner with Douglas & Todd bourbon as well as many more business connections.
On a personal level, I enjoy coaching my kids in flag football, basketball and baseball. I’ve also picked up fly-fishing during the pandemic. Although I don’t get out as much as I’d like, I enjoy the process of learning something new.
What prompted you to switch professional lanes from playing the game to on-field reporting?
Every player is always hit with the dilemma of what they are going to do post-football. And it hit me hard, like it does for a lot of players. After exploring some business options, I thought: Why not continue to do what’s right in front of me? I had always enjoyed doing media work as a player and had a lot of opportunities afterward. So instead of just dabbling here and there, I made the commitment to pursue it.
You’re also an ambassador for Minnesota-made Douglas & Todd small-batch bourbon. What attracted you to this brand?
It’s a relationship that started very organically with my love of the brand’s bourbon and the timing of the company’s debut. I immediately became a fan when I tried it at a bonfire; it is very smooth and flavorful. I also loved that they only use sustainably farmed ingredients all grown within 30 miles of where the bourbon is distilled in Minnesota. It’s fun to see how a simple conversation can lead to such a tremendous partnership.
Your career has allowed you to live in so many places. What has it been like to settle down in Minnesota?
Let’s make one thing clear: Nothing compares to San Diego! It’s an amazing place to live, and we met some down-to-earth people who are still our friends to this day. But when it comes to raising a family and weighing out all the positives and negatives, I couldn’t be happier in Minnesota. My wife and I are both Midwest kids, and we wanted that value system for our kids. Minnesota provides all the opportunities we could ever want as a family along with the best NFL franchise in the league.
What are a few things you’re looking forward to in the future?
I want to continue to make personal and business relationships throughout Minnesota. I want to continue to build my broadcasting career and keep challenging myself to push further — radio, television, podcasts or any other medium. But through it all, I want to continue to help make Minnesota a better place and to be a positive influence in our communities by helping raise awareness for those who need it.