NFL's 11 Richest Entrepreneurs

By | Small Business

The average pro football career lasts three and a half seasons. This business school program helps players prepare for life off the gridiron.

The average pro football career lasts three and a half seasons. To help prepare players for life off the gridiron, the National Football League launched the NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program in 2005. Since then, nearly 700 players have participated in the program’s one-week intensive courses, which take place at the business schools of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern, and Stanford. Taught by the schools’ professors, the courses cover topics such as negotiation strategies and marketing. Here’s a sampling of students who have gone on to start businesses, positioned by annual revenue.

Donald Strickland | $20,000

Position: Cornerback (photo: top right) Teams: Several, including the New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers Status: Active (Jets)
Company: In 2007, Strickland founded Visionary Moments, a five-person San Francisco business that makes memorabilia cases with multimedia components. He plans to time a nationwide launch to the upcoming Super Bowl.

Will Herring | $70,000

Position: Linebacker Teams: New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks Status: Active (Saints)
Company: Herring took advantage of the recent NFL lockout to launch Herring Fitness, a 24-hour gym in Auburn, Alabama. The automated gym, which members access using PINs, employs two full-time staff members and several freelance personal trainers.

N.D. Kalu | $70,000

Position: Defensive end Teams: Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, and Houston Texans Status: Retired in 2008
Company: Five years before retiring, Kalu founded the Kalu Group, a Houston real estate brokerage that buys and refurbishes distressed properties and leases them to low-income families.

Ross Tucker | $250,000

Position: Offensive guard and center Teams: Several, including the New England Patriots Status: Retired in 2008
Company: Tucker started Go Big Recruiting in Bethel, Pennsylvania, in 2007. The four-person company provides an online platform for high school athletes to submit videos to college recruiters.

Michael Husted | $250,000

Position: Placekicker Teams: Several, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Status: Retired in 2003
Company: Four years after leaving the NFL, Husted founded the National Camp Series, a three-person business in Solana Beach, California, that holds training events for high school and college football players nationwide. He sold, a recruiting website, for $2 million the same year.

Rick Mirer | $400,000

Position: Quarterback Teams: Several, including the Oakland Raiders Status: Retired in 2004
Company: In 2008, Mirer founded Mirror Wine Company, a five-person winery in St. Helena, California, that sells Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc online and through distributors in 12 U.S. states.

Matt Chatham | $600,000

Position: Linebacker (photo: bottom right) Teams: New England Patriots, New York Jets Status: Retired in 2009
Company: In June, Chatham launched SkyCrepers, a chain of fast-serve crepe shops based in Bellingham, Massachusetts. Chatham, who received an M.B.A. from Babson College in May, has eight employees and plans to open several more shops in the next year.

Ryan Diem | $800,000

Position: Offensive tackle (photo: top left) Team: Indianapolis Colts Status: Active
Company: A hot-rod enthusiast, Diem founded Modern Muscle in Oswego, Illinois, in 2007. The eight-person shop specializes in complete car restorations and building performance engines. Its first big build, a 1,300-horsepower Twin Turbo ’64 Chevelle, was featured in Popular Hot Rodding in 2009.

Alex Bernstein | $2 million

Position: Offensive lineman Teams: Several, including the Baltimore Ravens Status: Retired in 2001
Company: Five years after retiring, Bernstein founded North Venture Partners, a software and technology incubator in Oakland, California. The 15-person company has launched or invested in 11 companies, including North Social, a Facebook design service that it sold for $25 million in February.

Eddie George | $3 million

Position: Running back Teams: Houston Oilers, Tennessee Titans, and Dallas Cowboys Status: Retired in 2005
Company: Two years before leaving the NFL, George founded the EDGE Group, a landscape architecture and design firm that serves commercial developers, municipalities, and schools. The 17-person firm has offices in Nashville and Columbus, Ohio.

Dhani Jones | $3 million

Position: Linebacker (photo: bottom left) Teams: New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Cincinnati Bengals Status: Free agent
Company: Jones founded VMG Creative in New York City last year. The 10-employee advertising and design firm has clients such as Michael Kors and Procter & Gamble. Jones also hosts Ton of Cash, a VH1 game show.

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