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TORONTO — Henoc Muamba didn’t get much use out of his information systems degree during his 12-year CFL career. Now that his playing career is over, he can finally put his education to good use.

TORONTO – Henoc Muamba didn’t get much use out of his information systems degree during his 12-year CFL career.

Now that he has finished his active playing career, he can finally put his education into practice.

Muamba was a speaker last month at the Collision Tech conference in Toronto, an annual networking event that will move to Vancouver next year. He said his passion for innovative companies never left him, he just put it on hold when he played professional football.

“As a football player, you do everything you can to become the best you can, but there’s always time left,” said Muamba, standing on the floor of Toronto’s Enercare Centre at the conference. “What I’ve preached in the dressing room for the last five, six years of my career as one of the veterans has always been to develop and grow outside of the game.”

“Find specific things you’re passionate about beyond football. For me, it happened to be business, and that’s how I got into the technology industry.”

Muamba was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but grew up in Mississauga, Ontario and attended St. Francis Xavier University before being selected first overall in the 2011 CFL Draft by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, for whom he played for three seasons.

He played one season for the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL before returning to the CFL and playing for the Montreal Alouettes (2015), Saskatchewan Roughriders (2016-17), Montreal again (2018-20) and the Toronto Argonauts (2021-23).

Muamba was the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian with the Roughriders in 2017 and won a Grey Cup with the Argos in 2022, where he was named championship game MVP and Most Valuable Canadian.

Muamba, 35, who also works as a commentator for TSN, said the tech world is “totally different” than when he graduated from St. FX.

“It was really learning on the go, learning through experience,” said Muamba, a board member of BILI, a social commerce platform that connects brands with social media creators.

“A lot of it has been through learning on the fly and using my years of experience in football and my network to continue to really help the business.”

BILI announced an exclusive partnership with the CFL Players’ Association in November.

Muamba isn’t the only professional football player venturing into the technology sector. NFL running back Austin Ekeler was also at Collision to promote his social media platform, Eksperience, which is designed to help athletes build deeper relationships with their fans.

Ekeler said he enjoyed walking around the conference and admiring all the startups looking for investors.

“It’s like an ocean of AI. It kind of reminds me of the crypto hype when that was going on,” said Ekeler, who signed with the Washington Commanders in March after seven years with the Los Angeles Chargers. “It’s like, ‘OK, what’s really going to stick, you know?’

“As an investor, I can understand that while you are excited about investing in AI, at the same time you are very, very hesitant because (…) I keep hearing the same kind of concept and I ask myself, ‘How is your concept different?'”

Ekeler has 4,355 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns, as well as 3,884 receiving yards and 30 TDs in his seven NFL seasons. The 29-year-old American said he was drawn to entrepreneurship before the NFL.

“I studied business administration and paid for my studies with football. I didn’t know at the time that I played football so well that I got the chance to play in the NFL,” he said. “My entrepreneurial side never left me and still hasn’t left me. But it actually helped me become a better football player because as an entrepreneur you get so immersed in your projects.”

“It’s the same with football. I’m immersed. That’s me.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 9, 2024.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press