Growing up in Cincinnati, I had one goal, one mission. That was to play in the NFL. Nothing else. To be able to play in Philadelphia and win a Super Bowl was an incredible 11-year journey that I'll cherish for the rest of my life. I knew football wasn't going to last forever. When I contemplated what I wanted to do with my post-playing career, I thought long and hard about all of the experiences that I've encountered since I was young.
I've always been curious about the real estate industry. Good design piques my interest. And being on job sites is a lot of fun. The real estate industry has also been a family business in a sense. My grandfather, Joe Zang, built custom homes in Cincinnati, and his brothers and my uncle were carpenters.
Nonetheless, I was a rookie when it came to the ins and outs of the trade. To watch it from afar is much different than being fully invested. And I wasn't going to do something unless I was 100 percent committed. I decided to get my real estate license and started a brokerage, mortgage, and title company with two partners based in Media, Pennsylvania four years ago.
It's been both educational and invigorating overseeing a sales team and investing in new developments. No matter what opportunities may present themselves in the future, my career will be rooted in the real estate industry. This is who I am now. I love it. Through it all, I've had to draw on the vast experiences from my previous life in football to create a culture which is the foundation of any successful team or company.
Attention to detail is a critical component of what it takes to win. And in both worlds, you need to be a great teammate. I can't stress that enough. I've tried to bring a team atmosphere and the mentality that it takes everyone working together to get the job done to my real estate company.
When I was playing for the Eagles, we used to discuss the Pando in the tight end room. The Pando, you might ask? It's the largest and longest-living organism on the planet, a root system in Utah where aspen trees spring up from a level of elevation where other seeds won't grow. One tree dies and the roots grow another tree in its place. Everything comes from within. So the idea is that inside an organization or on a team, if one person can't get the job done, then it has to come from within.
These are lessons I use every day when selling real estate or looking at new properties. I stress focus and attitude to my employees – if you can focus on the small details and you go into the day with a great attitude, then you'll have a chance to be successful. On the flip side, if you go into the day with a bad attitude, you are going to find ways to get out of stuff and start blaming your co-workers. Life is about attitude. That's another thing I learned in the football world. But it takes more than a great mindset. You need to have the work ethic and the awareness that you'll never know everything about a particular subject. You have to love it.
What I love about football is everything is exposed. You can't lie about anything because it's all on film, and you watch it over and over and over. Your coaches will ask, "What happened here? What were you doing with your left foot? What were you doing with your hands?" It's all on tape. In the business world, I tell my sales teams that we need to be 100 percent transparent about everything. We can't sweep our problems under the rug because 10 months from now or 10 years from now, it'll be the same problem. And most likely, it will only be worse.
The other big takeaway from my time in football has been learning how to react to certain life situations. Thankfully, I had great coaches to help me along the way. Coaches like Andy Reid and Doug Pederson were outstanding teachers. I don't take that for granted. I learned from them the importance of finding out how to inspire someone every day.
I treat people with respect, first and foremost. If I think someone created a problem, I point it out to them, "Hey, I think you created this problem. How can we fix it?" We fix the problem, and when it's over, it's over. There are no grudges. You have to create a sense of accountability, and people seem to appreciate that kind of honesty. Again, it's all about everyone working together toward a common goal. Everyone has a job to do.
I was taught at a young age to work hard every single day and believe in yourself. It's a mantra that works. I had two grandfathers who both served as outstanding role models in what it takes to be successful. Ed Celek was a school superintendent who worked as a real estate appraiser into his 90s! My other grandfather's company – Zang Custom Builders – has been around for 60 years now. I've learned from them that you can do whatever you put your mind to. You can be whatever you want to be. It just takes you focusing on that, giving it everything you got, and not settling for anything less.
The hard part? You have to be honest with yourself. I've been blessed to make it to the highest level in one profession and I know how much effort and hard work it took to get there. It's no different for me in the real estate world. It's going to take just as much dedication. Thanks to football, I know I'm up for the challenge.
Brent Celek is the part owner of Pando Mortgage, LLC, a full-service real estate company based in Media, Pennsylvania. An 11-year NFL veteran, all with the Eagles, Celek retired after helping Philadelphia capture its first Super Bowl Championship. One of the most reliable players in franchise history, Celek ranks fourth in regular-season games played (175), fifth in receptions (398), and ninth in receiving yards (4,998).