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12 on Tuesday: Jeff Mack


The former Badger linebacker, now a mortgage banker at BMO Harris and father of four girls under the age of eight, offers a few tips on how to build wealth, advises what not to call him, and reminisces a bit about some Southside Raider teammates.

Name your top five MCs. First off, this question is flawed! Are we talking now? Or EVER?

NOW would be Jay Z, Lil Wayne, Drake (ONLY when he raps…not singing… ever!), Fabolous (only on mixtapes though…), Kanye West

EVER would be 2Pac, Jay Z, Biggie, Nas, Rakim

Who motivates you more, doubters or supporters? I have a pretty positive attitude about myself and my upbringing, so I don’t think either group really motivates me. I’m confident in my overall approach at how I tackle certain goals and objectives, so I think it’s an internal “drive” that I have for my success. But if I had to pick one, my answer would be supporters as I want to continue to keep their confidence in me and my achievement.

Do you prefer to be called black or African American? I think I prefer “Black”, but either is fine. Just don’t call me “boy”. There will be problems. Believe me.

What three leaders in Madison under 50 have impressed you the most? Wow. Don’t have an answer for that, as I don’t really know anyone’s age or know what your definition of “leader” is. To ME, and if we are talking about in Madison currently, I guess I would have to say my older sister, Maaina Mack, as she is raising my nephew to be a great young man. My best friend, Derrus Ward, as he is in IT. In general, we don’t see a significant amount of black people in that arena, so he is a trailblazer to me in that profession to me (and I know nothing of what he speaks out when he talks about his profession…). I think lastly I would say Brandi Grayson. I’ve known her since high school, and I feel what she is doing with the Young Gifted and Black movement is necessary in regards to a “yin and yang” approach to change (think Lee Daniel’s The Butler, where in order to inflict change, you must have an inside and outside approach to creating a more equitable existence for all…).

What’s the biggest stumbling block in Madison to turning the corner on our racial disparities? My opinion is twofold – family structure/education and teacher representation. I came from a dual parent household where both parents had a college education and owned their own home. So the standard was set. To me, when I think of a “standard,” while it sets a precedence, it is the lowest level you can obtain to “pass” so-to-speak. I also came from a sports background, which pushes you to win, and be better than the rest. So in order to excel, I had to somehow do more, so it was ingrained in me that to be “standard” wasn’t acceptable. That pushed me to achieve more, or figure out how to “beat” the standard… (Still working on that…). As far as the teacher representation goes, from K-8th grade, I had 7 black teachers. At the time, I didn’t realize the impact of this, but in hindsight I think it had an enormous impact. So from a visual learning perspective (which I feel is the number one way in which children learn at that time in their lives) to see someone that looks like me and be the governing body of that environment, it gave me a feeling of an equal playing field, or the illusion, albeit true or not, that everyone is treated the same and held to a higher “standard” in class, just as I assumed I was.

What are your top three priorities at this point in your life? My top three priorities are: 1. Being an exceptional father, 2. Making my wife happy and 3. Being the best friend/son (and son in-law)/brother I can be. If I can accomplish that, all my other individual goals can/will come (I hope!).

Name the top five high school football players you played against. Wow… you guys are really trying to take me back! You must remember that I have four daughters under the age of eight, so I can hardly remember what I did last week! To be honest, I can really only remember one, and he didn’t even play when I played his team… Darwin Hoye. Honestly, the only players I thought were good were players that I played with on the Southside Raiders (Darwin was a Raider, fyi), so anybody that played on the Raiders with me and then went to LaFollette, East, or Memorial were good to me. Everyone else I didn’t worry about much. No disrespect to any of the great players at the other schools.

With all the challenges here for black community, why are you still here? In all honesty, I am comfortable here. The majority of my family is still here. I’ve also achieved a level of personal success that allows my family and I to live a comfortable life. Another piece of my comfort level comes from the fact that I have the means to leave Madison and travel when the “heaviness” of Madison gets a little overwhelming. Additionally, with a number of successful black friends and business partners that live in and/or around Madison, I don’t feel “alone” here. I believe a large piece of feeling challenged is the idea of taking on certain issues alone. As I have a strong group of friends and family that I rely on, when racial challenges and inequities, I have a subset of friends that I can discuss these issues with and deal with them head-on. Also, I believe that there is no “Utopia” in this world. It’s not as if I were to go to some other city I wouldn’t face challenges or obstacles; there would just be different ones in that particular city, so “better the (enemy) you know, than the one you don’t” right?

What are your top three tips for building wealth? 1. Ownership. 2. Multiple streams of income, if possible. 3. Minimizing Expenses. I think everyone’s heard of the first two, and know about the 3rd, but this one is a little elusive. The reason is we live in a “level up” society. The more money you make, somehow, someway, the more money you spend. When you ‘level up” your life, you then somehow “level up” your expenses. You have to figure out a way to curtail that. If you can do that and “stick to the script” that got you there, you develop certain habits that give you a strong foundation to grow on.  The next key is to instill those habits in your children and close family/friends (which will lead to “generational wealth”).

UW-Madison is not known for diversity in the student body. This year the incoming freshmen class only has between 150 and 200 black students. As a UW alumnus, give your best sales pitch. Why is UW-Madison a good place to attend for African Americans? Because UW Madison is in the top 20 percent of Universities in the world. It ranked 13th in Public Institutions alone. It really is an exceptional school. When I graduated from Wisconsin in December of 2003, I heard an amazing statistic that Wisconsin graduated more CEOs than any other school. This qualifies my alma mater as a great school for ALL to attend. At a certain point in your life, we need to all understand the value of being outside your comfort zone. Are you going to stick out like a sore thumb in class and on campus? Yep. Are you going to sometimes feel alone? Yep. But you must remember, you DESERVE to be there. And as long as you have confidence in yourself, who cares what your classmates think of you, as long as they respect you as person. And most importantly, you are confident enough to DEMAND that respect? But what is tough, is the fact that YOU have to respect yourself enough to take on that challenge, because you deserve to be here just like everyone else. Also, look at the positive of that 150-200 freshman class. You will have a chance to all get to know one another (or have a better chance) on a more personal level and really work together. You will work together to codify a new subset of the student body. Sometimes standing out forces you to truly stand out.

What are your favorite podcasts? Don’t listen to a lot of podcasts … don’t have an IPhone. I would say anything my boys do. An old teammate of mine, Anthony Davis, has a Badger Football podcast, and my other former teammate, Brandon Williams, has one as well – Gridiron GQ. Other than that, I really just watch Doc McStuffins, Octonauts and the Backyardigans with my girls when I’m not working.

You come from a well-known family whose involvement in Civil rights is well-documented. Define what “civil rights” means today, for this generation? Civil Rights today should have the same definition as it did before, except now it needs to encompass a broader perspective. I have this debate with a number of my friends, black/brown/white, whoever. There seems to be this “oppressed class” list where somehow minorities want their ranking still intact. I believe “Civil” rights are “human” rights, regardless of color, creed, sex, etc. At a very basic level, its giving our HUMAN neighbor, the benefit of the doubt, right? It’s saying, “You may be different than me, but I still respect you as a human being first and foremost.” Now, for me, from the perspective of the question regarding how my family was a part of it, when it comes to black civil rights, this generation’s fight is the one of subconscious racism. An example is, I am a white woman and am up against a black woman for a specific job. I lose out on that job to this particular black woman, and my immediate reaction is because of affirmative action or some “quota” system. Whatever may be the case, the fact that you don’t even think that maybe she was more qualified than you, is an example of just how our subconscious creates these divides in our society. When these feelings are not curtailed immediately or open to discussion, they can exacerbate these issues and create unnecessary walls for certain classes of people, ie black/brown people. So the meaning of civil rights is still the same to me (the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality), but we’re dealing with another “level” of it… the subconscious piece of it now more than ever. And one last point – we have no real understanding of any other groups’ issues. I think that is something that we as a culture have a bad habit of doing. Why do we feel like if we read a couple books or watch a couple movies/documentaries on a specific issue, we somehow have enough information to speak intelligently on that topic? There is NO WAY in the world I can speak as intelligently as a woman on women’s rights or gay rights. I believe you learn from experience, so to say “this is what women should do, or how this homosexual person should act” is completely mind blowing to me.