GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt played football for Dartmouth
The class of 1978 Dartmouth alum played football for the Ivy League squad, working his way up from co-captain of the JV team to starting offensive tackle his senior year. In the NFL campaign "Football Matters to Me," Immelt reflects on football and life, and talks about the life lessons he learned on the field that he has carried with him through his career:
"It was great to be a part of a team that had wanted to do something very dramatic and wanted to win. Not every play works, not every situation works, but you've got to figure it out, and there's always a next play. And I think all of those things just happen to stick with you for a lot of your life, and in my case for my whole life. This essence of trying to build a culture of excellence that I learned in sports I very much brought to the business world."
IBM CEO Samuel Palmisano walked away from an NFL tryout with the Raiders
Samuel Palmisano was a star offensive center on the Johns Hopkins football team and walked away from a tryout with the NFL's Oakland Raiders to pursue a sales job. The center — one of the least glamorous, yet crucial positions in football — is responsible for handing the ball to the quarterback and getting the play rolling. Palmisano also made moves at IBM and pushed the successful company to continually stay one step ahead of competitors.
Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman was a four-sport athlete in high school
Whitman carried her passion for sports from high school athletics — she captained the swim team and played lacrosse, tennis, and basketball — to the collegiate stage. The class of 1977 Princeton alum competed on the squash and lacrosse teams. In her book, "The Power of Many," the two-sport collegiate athlete writes: "I liked team sports the best. When I'm pulling a business team together, I still use those basketball aphorisms I learned as a young person: 'Let's pass the ball around a little before game time.' 'Do we need man-to-man or zone defense?'"
Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb was a soccer star at Stanford
Before running the Whole Foods team, Robb led the Stanford soccer team, playing midfield and center back all four years. The Cardinal soccer star excelled just as much in the classroom as he did on the soccer field, graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the Ivy League school.
Sunoco CEO Lynn Laverty Elsenhans played for Rice's first women's basketball team
Elsenhans has always been a trailblazer. She was a member of Rice University's first-ever women's intercollegiate basketball team before she became the first woman to run a major oil company. While the rookie team went 0-11 in their inaugural season, Elsenhans used the losses as a learning experience, and went on to letter from 1974-1975.
Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan started with football and ended with rugby
The Bank of America CEO flirted with football his freshman year atBrown before switching to, and excelling at, rugby. His leadership on the field has transferred to his leadership at Bank of America. The Brown Daily Herald interviewed Moynihan in 2010 and when asked about sports colliding with business, the CEO said: "The lessons of leadership do transfer — how to motivate people, how to try to get people to do more than a team can do apart. You can only win in rugby if you play as a team. I mean, every person has to carry the ball, every person has to tackle, every person has to pass the ball, so you have to work as a team."
Mondelez International CEO Irene Rosenfeld played basketball at Cornell
This powerful woman once played college basketball at Cornell University before competing and succeeding in the corporate world. Her athletic career was cut short when she broke her leg as a freshman, but she continued to use sports as an outlet for her competitive spirit by playing intramural sports.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts won a gold medal for the US squash team
Roberts understands that to succeed in business you have to be tough mentally and physically, two attributes he learned on the squash court at the University of Pennsylvania. Roberts played for four years at Penn and built up an impressive résumé — he played in the number one slot, co-captained the team, earned first-team All-Ivy and All-American status, and made the U.S. team that won the silver medal at the 1981, 1985, 1997, and 2009 Maccabiah Games in Israel, and the gold in 2005.
Former General Motors CEO Daniel Akerson boxed at the Naval Academy
Akerson took up boxing at the Naval Academy, competing as a middleweight.
After graduating in 1970, he brought his fighting spirit into the world of business, and established himself as CEO of the major automotive corporation from 2010 to 2014.