5 NFL players who run a successful business following retirement 

Peyton Manning runs a production company capitalizing on his media fame
Peyton Manning runs a production company capitalizing on his media fame
Chris Winterburn

Life in the NFL is now more lucrative than ever before, yet players need to be sensible with their earnings.

With countless examples of former players who have thrown away their fortune and ended up on hard times, players are now encouraged to be more mindful of life after the NFL.

This has become evident in the post-career lives of some players, with several NFL icons now living successful second lives running a business.

The NFL careers of such eminent businessmen vary in longevity and quality, yet they are all making strides in a business career.

While unlikely to be as profitable as a modern NFL contract, these business ventures allow players to secure their money and have something to focus on to stave off the emptiness retirement can bring to an athlete.

#1 – John Elway

Chicago Bears v Denver Broncos.
Chicago Bears v Denver Broncos.

John Elway retired from the NFL after winning two Super Bowl championships with the Denver Broncos.

It had taken him the entirety of his career in the league to finally get his hands on the Vince Lombardi Trophy. But his work away from the sport has been equally as impressive.

Having turned the John Elway Autos business into an $82 million sale before even retiring, Elway has since made more money in the business world.

Elway would continue to work inside the automotive sector, opening a Chrysler Jeep dealership in Colorado and two Toyota Scion dealerships in California.

He also opened a chain of restaurants in Denver under the banner of ‘Elway’s Colorado Steakhouse,’ which has undergone significant expansion as of 2011.

#2 – Brian Orakpo

New York Jets v Tennessee Titans
New York Jets v Tennessee Titans

Brian Orakpo was a dominant defensive player in the NFL, spending his career with the Washington Commanders and Tennessee Titans.

Having been a first-round selection in 2009, Orakpo earned a good salary in the league but has since turned his focus to a business empire revolving around cupcakes.

Alongside his former teammate Michael Griffin, Orakpo started a business called Gigi’s Cupcakes in Austin.

Orakpo saw this move coincide with his retirement and was immediately involved in picking a location and ensuring the correct permits were in their possession.

Griffin baked the cakes, and Orakpo decorated them as the business took off.

Former Titans linebacker and Texas great Brian Orakpo owns a Gigi's Cupcakes near Austin, Texas. He just made one special to honor @texasfootball legend Cedric Benson and is giving them free to all @utaustin students and alumni.

A Microsoft Surface Pro commercial involving the cupcake business saw Orakpo’s company gain much attention, with business booming ever since.

Trademarking the name ‘Cupcake Guys,’ Orakpo and Griffin have since produced a television show for the Food Network.

Orakpo’s success has given him the confidence to open an Esports gaming facility in Texas.

#3 – Rosevelt Colvin

ESPN The Magazine's "NEXT" Event
ESPN The Magazine's "NEXT" Event

After seeing his NFL career end after a successful spell with the New England Patriots, Colvin has moved into the business world. He currently owns five UPS stores in Indianapolis, which act as delivery access points for drivers and consumers alike.

Several services, including passport photos, printing, industrial shredding, and notary facilities, are all on offer in Colvin's stores, which have expanded from an initial purchase of two stores.

Alongside this move into the UPS business, Colvin has also been part of a confectionary business he runs alongside his wife. The cupcake shop called 'SweeTies Gourmet Treats' was formed before his NFL retirement, but his work within the business only began afterward. Since then, there has been an expansion to two stores in Indianapolis, which is profitable for the Colvin family.

#4 – Darryl Sharpton

Seattle Seahawks v Houston Texans
Seattle Seahawks v Houston Texans

Darryl Sharpton played in the NFL with the Houston Texans, but his real success came from e-commerce.

Having seen his career cut short through injuries, Sharpton utilized what money he had earned in the sport by opening an e-commerce furniture business.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a generally negative impact on businesses, Sharpton saw the shopping spree created by people stuck at home as hugely beneficial to his business. People were buying furniture from him left and right, which saw his revenue production virtually double.

Sharpton started 'Edloe Finch' and 'Albany Park' furniture companies, and they provide products to Amazon. The companies were estimated to make $20 million in 2020, despite their 2019 accounts showing just $3.9 million in sales.

What is remarkable about Sharpton's success is how he used his $4 million worth of NFL earnings to start the businesses, which he has now more than doubled in the years since.

As of 2022, the projections for Sharpton's businesses are around $100 million in revenue.

#5 – Peyton Manning

Miami Dolphins v Indianapolis Colts
Miami Dolphins v Indianapolis Colts

Peyton Manning's interest in business began before his time in the NFL ended. For six years, Manning owned 31 Papa John's Pizza stores across the Denver area. However, after selling the stores, Manning has spread his business wings in other directions.

Papa John’s says in statement that they & Peyton Manning have sold their joint venture in 31 franchises to new franchises who will own Denver market. Deal was being done way before Papa John’s and NFL deal was disbanded.

2020 saw Manning team up with broadcaster Jim Nantz and his brother, Eli, to release a premium bourbon called 'Sweetens Cove.' Manning part-owns the business alongside Nantz, Eli, and former tennis star Andy Roddick.

The former Indianapolis Colts quarterback has also invested in an NFT company worth around $1 billion.

His success in business has also coincided with a promising broadcasting career, with Manning launching a media company called 'Omaha Productions' to take ownership of his media work.

Manning is also loosely involved with the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA, with his wife having a part-ownership share.

Edited by Piyush Bisht


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