Austen Lane played in the NFL from 2010-14 for four teams including the Jacksonville Jaguars. He then transitioned into MMA before becoming a sports radio show host.
As a member of the Jags, Lane played under the Khans and he talked about his experience working for them when he spoke to Wrestling Inc. on our WINCLY podcast.
"My last year in Jacksonville was in 2012 and the Khans were just coming in. So, I pretty much played for Shad Khan for about a year-and-a-half," Lane said before adding that the Jags were still a fairly new franchise and were owned by the Weavers beforehand. "So when Shad Khan took over it was like a breath of fresh air. Here comes this guy with his mustache and everything who's a self-made billionaire who started making auto parts in his garage and now owns one of the biggest auto breaks pads companies in the world.
"What he's been able to do is spread the brand of the Jaguars whether it's adding to the stadium or to the amphitheater where the Fight for the Fallen is gonna be this Saturday. I think he has a lot of lofty goals and I think Tony Khan really shares his dad's work ethic and his business sense. Now you have a guy in Tony Khan who has taken a risk in the wrestling world and it looks like it's paid off."
Most people never even knew that Tony Khan was that into wrestling and that goes for Lane who would see Tony at Jaguars' headquarters.
"It's funny because when you're in an NFL locker room, you don't really talk about pro wrestling unless there's a lot of fans of it. When I played on the team, there wasn't really a lot of wrestling fans so those conversations I wanted to have never transpired," revealed Lane.
"My interactions with Tony were few and far between because he was more on the analytical side of it. I would see him in passing every once in a while, but I had zero idea he was a wrestling fan. I really had no idea until it was announced that All Elite Wrestling was gonna start up and I was like, 'Man, being in the locker room, we could have talked wrestling but I had literally no idea.'"
The difference in benefits between the NFL and pro wrestling are night and day and Lane went into detail about what he received in the NFL.
"In the NFL the benefits are non-stop," Lane said before adding that a new CBA is being discussed, "and basically that means they are gonna redo the whole players' union. That's gonna determine players' benefits, their pensions and insurance policy.
"As far as when I played, the benefits were top-notch. Insurance was covered and all of the medical was covered. If you had an injury then the team would take care of that."
He added that the NFL stands for "Not For Long" because most players only get 2-3 years of play. He then said the NFL does a great job with pensions and 401K that help players make smart investments with their money for a second job.
"I was a journalism and mass communications major at Murray State. I had no experience in radio but when I retired, I went to an NFL broadcasting boot camp which was a three-day event that the NFLPA puts on at Bowling Green. It kind of got my feet wet and the ESPN690 thing is due to that," stated Lane.
The conversation then shifted to wrestling and Lane was asked if AEW wrestlers should receive those same benefits.
"Yes, but it's hard because yes, [wrestlers] are under contract with AEW but at the same time the reason why I was able to get all of those benefits was because I had a union that had my back," said Lane. "You want the medical, the benefits and the 401k, but if you don't have a union to express those goals to upper management, I feel like it's not gonna transpire."
It wasn't until 36 years after the formation of the NFL that the NFLPA was created. Lane was asked what advice he would give to wrestlers about getting a union going.
"With AEW, the beauty they have is, yes, Tony Khan is the boss, but he's put people in place like Cody, Kenny and The Bucks that have been wrestling their entire lives. They know the business in and out and anytime you have the faces of the company, and you mix them with the younger talent, conversations with them can start a union," said Lane.
Lane also added that it's hard in UFC to get a union created because the top faces of the company are more well off and don't communicate with the guys at the bottom who don't make as much.
Austen Lane can be heard weekdays 3 - 6 pm EST on ESPN690. Lane's full interview with Wrestling Inc was included as part of Thursday's episode of our WINCLY podcast. The full audio can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post.