Editor's Note: This column introduces Hunter Hillenmeyer as a new columnist for TheStreet.com. A linebacker for the Chicago Bears, Hillenmeyer is pursuing an M.B.A. at Northwestern University, and his columns will focus on how he's investing to prepare for life after his football career.I'm Hunter Hillenmeyer. Currently heading into my sixth year in the NFL -- already a wise, old man in league terms -- I'm still playing at a level worthy of starting for the Chicago Bears at strong-side linebacker. But I have never stopped preparing for whatever is next. I am currently pursuing an M.B.A. from Kellogg at Northwestern University, where I take classes during the offseason. During the season, my focus goes back to football, where I make up for my lack of strength with a lack of speed. In other words, I really shouldn't be in the NFL in the first place, but as long I keep those front-office types fooled, it's a pretty fun way to make a living. Every rookie in the National Football League hears these sage words of advice early on from veteran teammates, that NFL actually stands for Not For Long. While most optimistic rookies plan to play forever, the reality is that the average NFL career lasts just over three years. Therefore, those players who are smart enough -- or perhaps pessimistic enough -- to face this harsh reality continually prepare for their transition out of the game. Having never really expected to play at this level until late in my college career, I had plotted a path toward I-banking or some area of financial services. As I've begun to accumulate wealth in the NFL, I've started paying closer and closer attention to the markets. While I have my money spread out between a primary financial adviser, my favorite hedge fund, a REIT and so on, I do have my own online account where I search for value on a daily basis just like any other active investor. Today, I will offer my first three stock picks to you amid some of the most turmoil the market has seen in years. The roller-coaster of the last few months may have just started. I remain wary of this market, and am not certain that we might not have weathered the whole storm just yet. That said, my stock picks reflect that uncertainty in a market that can go up or down record amounts from one week to the next. When such market volatility exists, I like stocks that move more on news than momentum. My first pick is The Geo Group ( GEO). Labeled a consumer services company, which in this case is a euphemism for private prisons firm, The Geo Group has already had a good run. The stock closed at $24.01 on Friday. Recession or no, Geo is a smart play. The cynic may even say prisons would thrive when times get tough. For example, the state of Florida has just announced the need for 8,000 more beds that will be outsourced to private firms. Headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla., The Geo Group has a track record of collaboration with Florida correctional institutions. This history should make GEO a prime candidate to win much of this new demand. My next pick, familiar to all those
Lastly, for the speculative investor out there, take a look at Steve Madden ( SHOO). This company has been battered lately and has likely fallen as low as it will go. The big upside potential here is that this company is a likely buyout target. Even if the debt markets make a buyout less likely, look for a stock buyback announcement from SHOO sometime soon. I like the big upside if someone moves in, especially with little risk of the stock falling much farther than it already has. Shares closed Friday at $16.69. For those true risk-takers out there, buy some longer-term, out-of-the-money call options to cash in on a nice buyout offer. All three of these companies have good track records and reason to have faith in them even in tough markets. My advice in a market like this is to pick your spots. Find companies with growth opportunities whether recession strikes or not. I'll be throwing out a few of my best ideas here weekly on TheStreet.com, and sharing insight on how I'm managing my broader portfolio, so make sure to tune back in for some investing advice.