Some discover what their life's work will be while they're in college. Former Jets linebacker Matt Monger came to realize what his would be while he was in the second grade.
And it wasn't to play in the NFL.
Monger's father was a doctorate of education, a school superintendent, and his mother was a doctorate of mathematics, so understandably, football was secondary to getting an education.
A walk-on at Oklahoma State, Monger, who was named to the Big Eight Conference All-Academic Team three times, and was an All-Big Eight Conference linebacker as a senior, found playing football to be a bonus.
"The Jets took me in the eighth (round of the 1985 NFL Draft). And quite honestly, I'm a math kid who's focused on education and football is, of course, a dream," Monger said. "So just the fact that somebody was interested and that I got drafted, I mean, I was super excited. I knew nothing about New York. I'm an Oklahoma country kid. I was just super excited that somebody wanted me to participate. It was a thrill of a lifetime."
Monger's participation as a rookie was aided by a veteran teammate.
"You look back and always appreciate the others that are there. Sometimes it takes a reflection to do so," Monger said. "But I would look to Lance Mehl, who went out of his way to try to lead and encourage and lift others up and help them, make sure they understood intellectually so they could perform at their best athletic ability. Lance Mehl was just fantastic. What a high character integrity guy he was. I would tell you he was that guy not only for me, but for probably a couple other guys that came in with me at the same time."
Following his first season with the Jets, Monger, who had undergraduate degrees in business marketing and business management, returned to Oklahoma State to earn his MBA in finance.
Football aside, he was following a journey which began when he was a child.
"I knew what I would do when I was seven years old," Monger said. "I'm at a party talking to a next-door neighbor, and the man I was talking to was a millionaire. And he asked me a life-changing question. 'What do you want to be?' I'm thinking to myself, 'I'm seven! What do I know?' But I liked the way everybody was treating this man, so I said, 'A millionaire.'
"He said, 'Matt, it's real easy. You only have to know how to do two things. Every time money comes in, write it down. Every time money goes out, write it down.'
"Well, I didn't fully understand what he was saying, but I started keeping a ledger of my money. Twenty-five cents for milk money. Sold a ticket to Larry for a nickel profit. So I started keeping these ledgers and I saved quite a bit of money.
"What he was telling me is, in America, we are so blessed, that if we just be accountable to the gifts that we've been given, we can make anything happen. So I started saving my money. I had enough money saved at age 11, I bought my first stock. And at age 26, I had $1 million saved."
With the Jets for four seasons, 1985-88, and with Buffalo for two, during the last half of his NFL career, Monger wasn't only playing ball, but he was also working for Merrill Lynch in Tulsa.
"(I was) managing money for other players while I was playing. And then when I retired, I just came back to my office fulltime. In Oklahoma, I probably run, if not the largest practice in the state, it's got to be one of them. I've been phenomenally successful, which probably just means I've learned how to hire a team and staff well," Monger laughed.
In the business for 33 years, Monger is the Managing Director of Investments for Merrill Lynch Monger & Associates.
"I honestly don't have to work. I've been phenomenally successful," Monger said. "I work because I want to. I love what I do and I love to serve others. And I believe I am called to serve. So that's what I do. I hope I die in the chair at 105."
Monger and his wife, Karis, have three children: Miah, Caden, and Nora; and make their home in Tulsa.
And what's the best thing about being Matt Monger today?
"The wisdom to realize that I'm snow-covered dung. I believe that without the blood of Jesus Christ, I would be just dung," he said. "And when I came to that realization, right or wrong, not everybody agrees with me, I get that. But when I came to that realization for me, it made my life a lot easier.
"It turned me into a guy who wants to serve others. It turned me into a guy who doesn't have to stress about competing or being the best all the time. Because I'm going to be whoever He designed me to be. So for me, that's the best thing, it's my faith. And I've got to tell you, a very close second, I married way over my head."