IT MAY NOT MATCH the thrill of making a game-clinching reception in the National Football League playoffs, but former wide receiver Mike Siani believes his new job as a banker is every bit as challenging.

"I've been there," said Mr. Siani, who joined NationsBank Corp. earlier this year to create a professional sports and entertainment group in its trust department. "I can relate to the athlete because I've seen former players and teammates of mine ripped off by agents, promoters, and whatever."

The Charlotte-based bank company calculates that it has relationships with 257 professional athletes in a range of sports, although many have only checking accounts. In one or two cases, these customers were carrying $1 million or more in their low-interest accounts.

Mr. Siani, who was a wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders and the Baltimore Colts, has been asked to sell money management advice to the athletes.

"Certainly, they're candidates for our services," said F. Huling Poston 3d, manager of NationsBank's personal trust unit.

Mr. Siani said his three-person team will begin by soliciting clients from professional rookies and college players living in cities where NationsBank operates.

"They really need help planning for the future, because they've got a long, long time to live once they get out of playing ball," Mr. Siani said.

Mr. Siani, 43, is familiar with their plight. A 1972 graduate of Villanova University, he played for the Raiders from 1972 to 1978. Highlights of his career included playing in the 1977 Super Bowl and catching the deciding touchdown pass in the 1973 American Football Conference championship.

In 1979, Mr. Siani joined the Baltimore Colts, where he was voted Most Valuable Player by Colts fans in 1980. But a foot injury ended his career the following year.

"I was really depressed and disappointed, because at that point in my career I was making some pretty good money," he said.

Fortunately, Mr. Siani said, he had majored in business at Villanova. He parlayed his name and education into a job as a corporate bond trader on Wall Street for Gintel Co.

Later, he ran his own home construction business in New Jersey, but retreated into bond sales when the Northeast's real estate recession slowed his business.

He moved to North Carolina to be a municipal bond salesman for First Charlotte Corp., a subsidiary of J.C. Bradford Securities. NationsBank recruited him from the firm earlier this year.

"He brought to the table a down-to-earth, articulate manner that I thought represented NationsBank well," said Mr. Poston, who is Mr. Siani's supervisor.

Although he has not worked for a bank before, Mr. Siani has proven adept at mastering the bank's terminology and procedures. But negotiating its bureaucracy is proving as difficult as shaking off a clinging defensive back.

"We are such a big organization," he said. "The hardest thing is just trying to figure out, well, who does what and who do I talk to if I need this?"

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