It was not too long ago that Jake Plummer could not get far enough away from football.
In the year after he decided to retire from the NFL in March 2007, he and his wife Kollette traveled to Costa Rica, Thailand, Peru and across Europe. The 1993 Capital High graduate had no interest in watching any games, but recorded Super Bowl XLII.
“It cut off before Eli Manning’s big drive,” Plummer said of the game in which the Giants stunned the previously unbeaten Patriots on Feb. 3, 2008. “I was pretty miffed about that, but it was kind of a sign, I didn’t want to be around it much at all.”
But in the decade since he stepped away after 10 seasons with the Cardinals and Broncos, Plummer is reconnecting with old friends and finding ways to aid players both young and old.
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“It was nice to be free of obligations — for a little bit,” said Plummer, now a father of three. “Football had been a job, so I had to find that passion again. It doesn’t have to define me, but I’m excited I can still have some validity.”
That passion began to be reignited in his home state, when he decided to volunteer as a coach at Sandpoint High in 2009. Since, he has served as a Meals On Wheels volunteer in northern Idaho, common Denver radio presence, Pac-12 Network college football analyst and an advocate for alternative ways to treat athletes’ pain. He is the executive vice president at ReadyList PRO, an interactive football playbook software company.
Now living in Boulder, Colo., most of the time, he still visits his hometown fairly regularly — he will host a skills camp June 3 at Bishop Kelly High free to kids 8-14 that features an array of games meant to carry over across many sports.
“He’s either all in, or he’s not going to do it,” ReadyList PRO co-founder Chad Friehauf said. “He finds something he’s passionate about and he goes for it, doesn’t care what people think. If he thinks it’s going to help people, he’s going to do it.”
Friehauf and Plummer first met in 2005 when Friehauf was an undrafted rookie quarterback with the Broncos out of Division II Colorado School of Mines. He said digesting the 4-inch playbook in a short time was “like a foreign language,” but Plummer was willing to serve as a bit of a translator. Over the next seven years in various leagues, Friehauf played on nine teams, learning new languages over and over.
With his engineering background, he built a program that makes it easier for players to digest the playbook and make it interactive. Plays are drawn in, along with the terminology, and players can take it home on iPads or similar devices and test themselves. Coaches see the data to understand what players are or aren’t grasping.
“I try to compare it to the Rosetta Stone, from a player’s standpoint,” Friehauf said. “If it’s interactive, it’s less like studying.”
About two years ago, the first person Friehauf thought of when he wanted to unveil his idea was Plummer.
Plummer said he “hasn’t made one cent” off it yet, using his reputation to help get the product in front of coaches. He said a key tenet in Denver was to treat everyone with respect, not just those who can help you. It came full circle when the unheralded quarterback from 10 years before got in touch.
Last week, the duo helped install the software at the University of Arizona, and earlier this spring did so at Louisville. It was also used by coaches at the Senior Bowl.
“The Heisman Trophy winner (Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson) is going to be using it, and that’s pretty cool,” Plummer said.
Plummer has been active in finding ways to help those in the middle or end of their careers, too. He’s been an outspoken advocate for CBD hemp oil, which does not include THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. A shop selling it plans to open soon in Garden City. Plummer is helping with a non-profit designed to assist athletes transitioning out of competition and off of high doses of painkilling drugs.
“I truly think it can help people. I know it helped me after I had hip surgery a few years ago,” Plummer said. “Part of it is educating people that the CBD oil isn’t the same thing as marijuana. I’ve heard from athletes and non-athletes how it’s made a difference. That makes me happy.”
When he comes back home, Plummer simply hopes to get kids interested in sports, be it football, volleyball or whatever. His “Skills And Thrills Challenge” is something he has planned for a few years.
“Football camps, I’ve done them, and they’re fun, but kids are being pushed to specialize, and that leads to burnout,” Plummer said. “I’d come home from football, and my brothers would be throwing the baseball or shooting hoops. I know it helped my career. I’d play handball or basketball to break up the monotony, and you kind of seamlessly started to pick up other skills.”
When he stepped away, Plummer still could have been a starting NFL quarterback. He was only 32 when he retired and had been in the Pro Bowl just a little more than a year before. But he left on his own terms, a bit battered but now feeling about as strong as ever. The spotlight isn’t as bright as it was when he left, but Plummer is happy to be back in the way he wants.
“I get excited now to watch the Broncos and Cardinals play,” Plummer said. “I didn’t play in a Super Bowl, but I did more than I ever thought I could. I got to keep some sanity around my existence. Because of that, if I get the chance to help people, that’s all I can ask for.”
JAKE PLUMMMER SKILLS AND THRILLS CHALLENGE
▪ 1-6 p.m., June 3 at Bishop Kelly High
▪ Free to ages 6-14; register at idahoyouthsports.com
▪ Area coaches interested in helping can contact email@example.com
▪ Event will include “out of the box games” to develop skills that cross over to different sports