All too often, the careers of professional athletes last a few short, but profitable, years. And once those years are over, many players struggle to stretch their salaries. But the smart ones start thinking early about their second acts. So kudos to these current NFL players who are also budding entrepreneurs.
Jake Locker, Michael Koenen, & Will Herring – Fitness Center Czars
Locker, a quarterback for the Tennessee Titans, and Koenen, who plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, recently went into business together. The pair, who both have roots in Washington state, purchased a fitness center in Ferndale, Washington that they are renaming the Locker Room. They’re planning a grand opening for January, and hope to open up more locations in the future. They’re not the only NFL players to use their fitness expertise to open a gym: St. Louis Rams linebacker Will Herring recently moved his three-year-old gym to the Auburn University Club.
Drew Brees – New Orleans Clothing Seller
The New Orleans Saints quarterback signed a record-breaking $100-million contract back in 2012, but he’s also a local entrepreneur. He and his wife, Brittany, founded a clothing company called Nine Brand, which celebrates all things New Orleans. One popular item: A T-shirt reading “Domenation” over an image of the iconic Superdome stadium.
Lance Briggs – BBQ Master
The Chicago Bears linebacker opened up a barbecue restaurant this fall in his home town of Elk Grove, California. “This is not the stop you want to make if you’re dieting,” Briggs told a local news station. He’s not exaggerating — the menu includes catfish fritters, creamy mac and cheese, and smoked brisket. The name, Double Nickel Smokehouse, was inspired by Briggs’s NFL jersey number: 55.
Frostee Rucker – Frozen Yogurt Guru
Rucker, a defensive end for the Arizona Cardinals, has a name that seems custom-made for the frozen yogurt business. He bought two Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt franchises in Cincinnati back when he played for the Bengals. He has said that his first business idea was to open a breakfast-only McDonald’s. When that didn’t work out, he eventually turned to investing in fro-yo. “It’s like learning a new language,” he told ESPN. “It just doesn’t limit me to being a football player.”
Charles Woodson – Wine Purveyor
Woodson first became interested in wine when he visited Napa Valley for training camp with his team, the Oakland Raiders. Eventually, he partnered with a well-known winemaker and industry veteran to launch his own wine label, TwentyFour. He’s doing something right: Wine Spectator has called his merlots and cabernets “exceptional.”
Jon Vilma – Bar Owner & Tech Entrepreneur
Vilma owns a bar in Miami, which led him to his next entrepreneurial venture. The free agent, who has played for the New Jersey Jets and the New Orleans Saints, developed a bar-focused mobile app after noticing that people often fiddle with their phones when they’re at bars. BarEye lets people order drinks for themselves or friends, skipping the lines and the annoyance of waiting to open a tab. Vilma tested the app in Tallahassee, where 17 bars signed up for the service. Now, it’s expanding to five more cities.
Peyton Manning – Pizza Franchise King
The Denver Broncos quarterback owns 21 Papa John’s franchises in the Denver area, a venture that he called, “a smart investment now and [for] long after I’m done playing football.” Manning had participated in promotions with the pizza chain in the past, and he also liked the fact that Papa John’s was an official sponsor of the Broncos. Today, business is booming. Why? “There’s some different laws out here in Colorado,” he told Sports Illustrated — which appears to be a coded way of saying that marijuana legalization is good news for pizza places.