Nov. 8, 2021

NFL Star Ndamukong Suh on Pro Athletes & Financial Literacy

Plus: Some big ideas for cinnamon rolls. Watch out, Cinnabon!

Super Bowl champion and investor Ndamukong Suh joins Scott and Nora to talk about his football career and his other passions including a partnership with Stash, a virtual banking company that provides financial literacy in his hometown of Portland, Oregon. 


Nora Ali: Top professional athletes have long relied on the same strategy to attempt to maintain financial stability after retirement, rely on their fame, maybe their network to find sponsorship deals. Though often lucrative early on, this approach has led some athletes to financial hardship in the long run when their fame fades and their savings run dry. But the past decade has seen a new generation of athletes preparing themselves for careers and investing in entrepreneurship after retirement, including the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Venus Williams, and Michael Jordan, to name a few.

Nora Ali: Today, we're talking with an athlete who is passionate about financial literacy and affordable housing, defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Ndamukong Suh. In addition to building up an impressive portfolio alongside his mentor, Warren Buffett, Ndamukong recently teamed up with personal finance app Stash to launch Stash101, an immersive banking and investing simulation geared towards improving financial literacy among young students. For Morning Brew, this is Business Casual, the podcast that gives you a front-row seat to candid conversations with some of the biggest names in business, asking them the questions you wish you could ask. I'm your host, Nora Ali.

Scott Rogowsky: And I'm your other host, Scott Rogowsky. Nora and I are here for your ears, bringing you stories of how business shapes our daily lives now and into the future. Let's get down to business.

Nora Ali: Scott, in preparation for this particular episode, I went and counted up all my financial accounts, and there's at least 11, whether it's retirement, banking, investing, and to be honest, I'm not entirely sure what each one of them does. I think being an adult and managing your finances is very confusing, and I for one have never taken a financial literacy course. So what has your experience been like trying to figure out finances, learn all the acronyms? Because even as someone who literally worked in finance, it is still quite confusing to me in many ways.

Scott Rogowsky: I mean, I think the listeners of this podcast know by now that I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to money, although my dad did, to his credit, tried to get me on very early, tried to turn me on to this. He opened a bank account for me when I was probably eight years old at Dime Bank.  I sold my turtles. I was about making money, entrepreneurship. I sold soda in sixth grade. I sold Coca-Colas. When our school only had a Pepsi contract, I brought Cokes in. I was a Coke dealer. I was a Coke dealer in sixth grade with a different connotation than-

Nora Ali: This is going to get clipped out of context and it's going to go viral. It's going to be great.

Scott Rogowsky: So I was doing all that, making some money, but I didn't start investing in the stock market until February of 2020, which was a great time to get in.

Nora Ali: Wait, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. One more time. February 2020 was the first time Scott Rogowsky got in the stock market.

Scott Rogowsky: My very first trade was AMC movie theaters, February 2020. You can't make this up. You can't make it up.

Nora Ali: You are literally the emblem of meme stock trading. You got into it because of the meme stocks.

Scott Rogowsky: No. The meme stock thing happened a year later after I'd sold it all at a loss. This was pre-pandemic, Nora. This was right before the crash.

Nora Ali: I got my dates all wrong. Wow. 2020. Yeah. Okay.

Scott Rogowsky: I didn't know about WallStreetBets or any of this stuff. My stock tip was from a guy I used to know on Facebook. He goes, “AMC is looking good at $6.” I was like, “You know what? AMC? Movie theaters. Yeah. I like movies. I'll buy 1,500 shares.” I was like, “What?” I was like, “No idea what I'm doing.” So yeah. It's definitely good to have mentors to ask questions instead of blindly making trades or making investments like I did. And how about you, Nora? Where are you investing these days?

Nora Ali: Yeah. I've dabbled a lot. I like to get into it. You can invest with just a click, which in some ways can be detrimental if you don't do your research and your due diligence, but there's still a lot to learn. And I'm glad we got a chance to learn from our guest, Ndamukong Suh. He is just a wealth of information on financial literacy, real estate investing, on how contracts work in the NFL, which is something that I am not very familiar with.

Scott Rogowsky: And a quick note to our listeners. We recorded this interview right before the Buccaneers game against the Saints on October 31st. And you'll hear us talk about that briefly at the beginning. So now, without further ado, here's our conversation with Ndamukong Suh.

Scott Rogowsky: So here we are, recording Business Casual on Wednesday afternoon, Tampa Bay time. Ndamukong Suh, you should likely be prepping for this week's game against New Orleans, but here you are talking to us about financial literacy. How do you balance this all, man, between actively playing pro football and getting your other projects off the ground?

Ndamukong Suh: I mean, it's a ton of fun, to be honest with you. And it really comes down to compartmentalization, but also great time management and having a good team around you. So from my perspective of being able to do it all and make sure I'm for sure for well-prepared and studied for Alvin Kamara and the crew, definitely studied earlier this morning. So I was up at 6:00. I got my workout in and then took care of business, practice field, and then I've got a nice little hour and a half gap where I can speak to you guys.

Nora Ali: I love that you mentioned compartmentalization and the fact that you do do it all. I want to get to the of money side of it if we could jump right in. So the business of professional sports is unique in that as an athlete, you can come into a large amount of money suddenly, obviously after years and years of hard work, but it's not like you're gradually building up your salary or working towards a promotion in the traditional workplace sense. So your first contract can be many millions of dollars, as was in your case with the Lions. What were you thinking when you signed that contract? Were you thinking, "How am I going to manage all of this?" Were there people around you saying, "Ndamukong, you're going to have to figure this us out." What was going through your head upon signature?

Ndamukong Suh: Yeah. Upon signature and really getting drafted second overall back in 2010, it really came down to just sitting down with my parents and my friends and family, primarily my older sister, who actually ended up moving to Detroit with me to have her thumb on me so I wasn't running around crazy, just doing whatever I wanted to do. We had a parent, for lack of better words, that was there for me. Obviously, having great opportunities to be on Nike commercials, Subway commercials, all these different pieces bringing in different revenue, meeting new people, meeting financial advisors, you're soaking up all this information out of a fire hydrant. And really, what I wanted to do was stop and say, "All right, let me start to educate myself on all these different pieces."

Ndamukong Suh: And I think that's where I think it's very important for people to have financial literacy, be a part of the schooling, whether that's when they're young youth in middle school or in high school, but especially when you get to college, because there's a ton of things that you encounter as you're going through your young adult life. And then for me, I just graduated from college. I was a young 23-year-old and really had no clue what the real world was bringing to me.

Nora Ali: Was there anything you wanted to do with that money that you were advised not to do? Like, "Hey, I want to buy a boat," and then your friends and family are like, "No, maybe not right now. "

Ndamukong Suh: Yeah. So I actually really wanted to buy a house in Houston, Texas. I always loved spending time in Texas. And actually, my mom and my dad forced me to say like, "No, we're going to wait. You're going to rent down in Texas. You can spend your off seasons down there." And really another piece of that was we had a lockout the following year. So we had no clue what football really looked like the year after. So it was all about saving money, paying off debt, and really being able to say, "All right, we're going to start from ground zero as a family, and then we're going to build from here and really see where things go."

Scott Rogowsky: Texas. I didn't know that was part of your background there. I know you're a Portland kid, went to Nebraska, Lincoln, but where did Texas factor into this?

Ndamukong Suh: So I've got like an uncle who's a really close family friend that was a coach of mine that lived and played, obviously in Portland, and coached me there. And then we spent a lot of time down in Texas in the spring in summer. So I just fell in love with the city. And obviously, it's really great for taxes as well. So that off season money helped out being a resident down there. Yeah.

Scott Rogowsky: We’re talking about taxes? We’re talking about Texas? Texas and taxes.

Nora Ali: We're talking about taxes.

Scott Rogowsky: We're talking about taxes. Ndamukong, so just to put this perspective for people, context here, back in 2010, I was working at Topps football cards company. I was sitting there as a 25-year-old making football cards. I was making your cards for your rookie year there. But there I was, 25, making $36,000 a year as an entry-level employee at Topps. You're 23 signing a $65 million contract. It's one of the most incredible things I think in our society, these NFL drafts, these pro sports drafts. I love watching them because you see these kids who, yeah, it's pure elation on their faces. They're just living out their lifetime dream, becoming a pro athlete. Also, hitting the Powerball jackpot instantly. I mean, overnight becoming multi-multimillionaires. And I guess for you, what I've read, it wasn't always a lifelong dream to become a pro athlete and play football. Is that true?

Ndamukong Suh: Yeah, it's very much so true. I grew up really just from a very humble background with my family, both my parents being hardworking individuals that came from-third world countries. My mom, Jamaican, my dad, Cameroonian. And my mom was a teacher and worked 30-plus-years. My dad, self-made man and mechanical engineer. So that's all I really knew. Sports were exciting and fun. And our family sport was soccer, which I loved since I started that at three. And then as I got older, people said, "Oh, you should play football. You should play basketball." Loved basketball. Really wish I was a couple of inches taller. Would've went to college for basketball. But I think I made the right decision.

Ndamukong Suh: And really, football, I grew a love for, really just going out there, and then got a scholarship to go to University of Nebraska, amongst some other opportunities, and really turned into what it is now. But ultimately, my goal was to go to the University of Nebraska, get my engineering degree ,and go home and add a division to my dad's business, which was construction management, build projects.

Nora Ali: With that engineering degree, is that going to play into your next moves when you retire from the NFL? How does that play into your decision-making? And how does it play into how you invest today?

Ndamukong Suh: Yeah. I think for my engineering degree on a daily basis is always a part of me. It helps me understand how I'm going to focus, how I break down offenses on different plays and how people want to go against me and how I'm going to destruct them and take them apart. But then at the same time, when it comes to investing in my life after football, analyzing and looking at different things from a numbers perspective. And then obviously, I have a great focus in wanting to own multiple different companies, but then at the same time, build some. And so it's about taking those different learnings that I had in school and finding my own niche, but then also tackling the housing market, being able to see all the problems that the US currently has right now with our housing market and wanting to be a part of the solution versus adding to the problem.

Scott Rogowsky: You can tackle more than just running backs and quarterbacks. You can tackle the housing market too. It's good to see that. Your financial literacy started with your parents, started earlier. I know your mother was very good about teaching you how to balance a checkbook and stay on top of your credits and debits. But this is a whole new ballgame. And we're talking about multi- tens of millions of dollars of contracts. What are those steps really. I want to get into it because there are so many people who probably come at you and say, "Invest in this. Buy this. Work with me." Yeah. How do you find the right people and feel confident in your decisions?

Ndamukong Suh: Yeah. I think I'll really start back to where my mom really laid the groundwork. My mom and my dad, just from the standpoint of saying, "All right, here's the basics of it. Let's understand what a credit card is and how to build credit." Understanding, like you said, checking and balances. And really, from that standpoint, my parents took me as far as they could, because obviously, they weren't millionaires before I came into what I was fortunate enough to come into. And so then it came into something that my mom has always told me, "Don't be afraid to ask questions." So one random day, I asked a guy by the name of Joe Moglia like, "What do you do? Why do you always leave our football practice on Thursday nights in a black SUV? And you're always gone. And then you show up on Saturdays ready for game day." And he was like, "Well, I'm the chairman of TD Ameritrade." And I was like, "You might be a good person to ask about how to budget and manage some different things, especially millions of dollars and things of that nature."

Ndamukong Suh: And so after I graduated in 2009, I came back up to school and spent time with him and really learned all the different nuances and different pieces that he could explain to me of what I potentially was going to come into. Just building those relationships, having mentors like that, that have been able to give me guidance and let me learn from their experiences, good and bad, is what's really been able to get me to where I'm at right now.

Nora Ali: I love that you had so many mentors and people around you and you really curated that group of people, but you've also said that real estate investment is important for creating generational wealth. So if you are starting in the world of real estate and trying to create that generational wealth, where do you start? If your family members can't tell you what to do... And it's daunting, right? Real estate investments are big assets generally, and they're generally illiquid. So how would you advise people to start in that category?

Ndamukong Suh: Well, I think there's a lot of different opportunities. I think first and foremost, you got to educate yourself. So don't be afraid to take the time to go and learn from somebody who seems to be an expert or who is an expert in that particular field. And then really, from that standpoint, the best way to learn is obviously get your hands dirty. So get into a smaller investment. And there's a lot of great platforms that are out there right now that have opportunities for people to invest at a smaller rate. And I think that's one of the best things about where technology is growing and how it's getting better each and every single year. It's allowing everyday people to get into the real estate market or the investment world and say, "All right. Here. I'm going to try this," rather than just going out there and trusting somebody else to do it for you.

Nora Ali: And to your point, there's this huge surge and interest in retail investing, where you can buy and sell stocks super easily. You can even invest in other asset classes like crypto super easily. So for the newest and youngest NFL players that you come across and interact with, do you get a sense that there is more inherent interest in investing? Is the mentality shifting among the younger folks?

Ndamukong Suh: There's no question the mentality and really the culture is changing. It's become the talk of the locker room. What's the newest, hottest crypto? What's the newest, hottest real estate deal?

Nora Ali: What is the hottest crypto in the locker room? Please tell us.

Ndamukong Suh: One of the most recent ones... actually, in our group chat, one of our older vets put in Solana. So that was an interesting one. And I laughed because I had heard about it pretty much about two or three weeks before he had actually sent that message. So it's always interesting. Instead of guys being in the locker room talking about, "Oh. Let's go to this club. Let's do this. This party was the best." It's like, "All right. What's this real estate deal that you're working on. What's your idea over here?"

Ndamukong Suh: So the culture and just the way things have changed in the locker room since when I first got into the league to where it is now is tremendous. And I think it's a good thing, but it's also a little bit dangerous because everybody sees everybody making a ton of money from these different pieces and not understanding the risk and rewards. And so I think we also got to start to educate each other. And I think the importance of that is not only on themselves, but also just as a collective group of older gentlemen like myself to help them understand what you're getting yourself into.

Scott Rogowsky: There must be something about your draft class, because there's a fellow member of that first round class, Russell Okung, who's also big on Twitter like you are, and he's famous for taking half his salary in Bitcoin last year, which turned out to be pretty nice move. Do you chat with Russell about this stuff? Is he in the group chat?

Ndamukong Suh: He's not in the group chat. He's an offensive lineman. So he is not welcome.

Scott Rogowsky: He's on the other side of the ball. But you played both sides back in the day. You know what it's like.

Ndamukong Suh: Yeah. But he's made some smart decisions. And I think he's one of those educated guys that found ways to get connected to the right people when he's been in the right places. And so I think knowing him, he educated himself and made some calculated bets, and it worked out for him.

Scott Rogowsky: It's all about asking questions and learning, and that's what we're doing with Ndamukong Suh. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll discuss Ndamukong's efforts to promote financial literacy and affordable housing.

Nora Ali: Ndamukong, you wrote a fire Twitter thread recently about rent burden, which schooled me. I didn't know a lot of these figures that you referenced. So to be rent burdened, you have to spend over 30% of your income on rent. And according to your thread, millennials spend 46% of their income on rent, which is mind-boggling. Gen Z's rent burden is expected to reach over 50%. And it's only getting worse because rent is increasing at multiples higher than inflation. And you're focusing your work in that realm on young professionals to try to alleviate this problem, which I think is a large portion of our listener base. So how can you help young professionals when it comes to rent and housing? And why is that particularly your focus?

Ndamukong Suh: Yeah, I think it's something that's very, very important, and especially understanding that income is not ascending, as you mentioned, the cost of rent and the cost of purchasing a home. And I think it's important as a country that we find ways to close that gap and create different opportunities. And so myself and a couple partners have been looking at some different opportunities to create attainable housing and really have a big initiative of wanting to create a different form of affordable housing. And we're talking about getting into real estate deals.

Ndamukong Suh: We created a little concept called altcap, which is altruism and capitalism coming together at a river. And I think the exciting piece about that concept is you not only get to rent at an affordable pricing, but you also get an opportunity to look at investing in these same properties. And then the ultimate goal is to have the ability to say, "Hey, I've rented. I've gotten my leg up. I'm now being able to move out. And I also owned a part of this asset. And as I move on, I can either sell that and take what I've made or I can keep it in and create that generational wealth, be able to pass that down to my family." So as we continue to expand and grow this concept and really work as an overall team, I feel like it's something that's going to be very, very game-changing. And I think we can have an opportunity to put a dent into the housing crisis that we have.

Nora Ali: That's so interesting. Is this rent and invest model new? Is this something that you and your teams came up with?

Ndamukong Suh: Yeah, something we just came up with during the pandemic, actually. My partner, Joel Anderson, we were sitting in his office quarantining away from everybody and really just spitballing on the whiteboard. And it was an exciting opportunity, and I'm glad it came together. And we're still in the early phases, but I think it's looking quite nice.

Nora Ali: Who do you reach out to first to make that happen? You have this idea. It's this new model that doesn't exist. Who are the first people that you email to figure this out?

Ndamukong Suh: So actually, I've been working on a deck over the last couple months, and one of my close mentors, a guy named Gary Shiffman of Sun Communities, he's one of the first guys I actually sent it to because I respect him wholeheartedly. He is a straight shooter. And at the same time, he'll give me the good and bad and different pieces of how he views the projects and working through the different numbers. As I mentioned, I'm a very number-oriented person and don't always believe everything that I put out is 100% right. So I'd like to get it fact-checked. So just my mentors in the real estate space, like to touch base with them and understand what their opinion of the overall concept is.

Nora Ali: And as you're making housing more accessible, obviously, financial literacy becomes that much more important for people who are accessing these forms, these relatively forms of housing. So I want to go back to the financial literacy aspect of this. You started the Suh Family Foundation 10 years ago, and you guys have teamed up with the personal finance app Stash. You're working on something called Stash101, which teaches students about personal finance with banking and investing simulation. Can you talk to us a little bit more about what you're trying to achieve with Stash101, and maybe what that is teaching students that you didn't have access to growing up?

Ndamukong Suh: Yeah. Being able to learn about financial literacy at a young age was very, very important to me and my wife, who's the main leader of the Suh Family Foundation. And then we obviously were fortunate enough to have a great partner in Big Yard Foundation with Brennan Scarlett, who's a close friend and training partner, a linebacker for the Miami Dolphins. So first and foremost, we wanted to start in our back home of Portland, Oregon. And so we worked with the Portland Public Schools District to work with their youth and their middle school this summer to create a program that was really Stash101 times a summer school organization that they were doing. And so putting this information to these kids' ears and eyes and letting them work at hand in hand at this early age was something that we felt was very, very important and be accountable for all the different pieces of how you want to set up your 50 30 20 from a budgeting perspective.

Ndamukong Suh: I think it's important to be able to say, "Work through these exercises," and then really have these conversations with your parents and see what they know and see what you may teach them, vice versa. And so at the end of the day, our big focus was to continue to expose our youth to these different tools so that they become second nature to them as they become young adults, because it's going to be something that they deal with in real life very, very soon as they get off to college, and really even before they go to college in high school.

Scott Rogowsky: It's something that even I feel like I need some more help with, financial literacy. I'm just starting to understand where to put money. I mean, you mentioned Joe Moglia and Warren Buffett, another early mentor of yours. Do you think if you had not played at Nebraska, your life would've played a whole different track here?

Ndamukong Suh: No question. I could only imagine where my life would be if I hadn't gone to Nebraska. I think it was one of the greatest decisions I ever made, especially as a young kid coming out of high school. Had no clue at 18 that I was going to be able to have the opportunity to build these real relationships and meet Warren Buffett and Joe Moglia. So I think it's from a standpoint of everything happens for a reason. And I was very, very fortunate in that aspect, but also took the time to learn from these great minds as I want to become one of them and be able to grow and learn just like they do each and every single day.

Nora Ali: What do you think is the most memorable or important thing you learned from Warren Buffett as one of your mentors?

Ndamukong Suh: I think probably one of the most important things I've learned from Mr. Buffett was just people. If you look at all the different things that he does in talking about all the different companies that he owns, it's all about the people that he's working with he has overseeing those different particular aspects of Berkshire. And so I think as I've learned and grown, you can have the smartest people in the world, but if they're not good people and hardworking folks that really have the excitement to do their job and really be a part of what they're working on without enormous amounts of pay, then they're probably in the wrong business.

Scott Rogowsky: We're going to take another quick break here with Ndamukong Suh. When we come back, we'll talk about the developing culture of entrepreneurship in sports. 

Scott Rogowsky: Ndamukong, in the past decade, we've seen an influx in professional athletes who are dedicated to planning for financial stability after their sports careers rather than relying on the sponsorship deals after retirement. What do you think is sparking this change in how athletes think about their post-playing careers?

Ndamukong Suh: I think the excitement is really centered around the ability to be more than an athlete. I think that's something that's exciting to be able to say, "I can have a great NFL, NBA, MLB career, but at the end of the day, I still am a human being. I'm a young man or woman that wants to aspire to be something else and be able to be multidimensional." And I think that's something that I pride myself on very much so, from being able to say, "Hey, having a great career playing in the NFL, I want to continue to play at a high and elite level, but I am more than an athlete. And I'm also an engineer, an entrepreneur, and I can run a company and start my own company and help other folks continue to grow and build other things." So something that I've always said I want to be known more off the field than I was on the field, which I know is I put up a big task because I've done some good things on the football field.

Scott Rogowsky: You sure have. I think your Twitter bio says it all, the way you identify first, investor, engineer, developer, entrepreneur, and then at the bottom, NFL player.

Nora Ali: By the way...

Scott Rogowsky: Yeah. Hall of fame, all 2010s, all decade team. Yeah, sure. Put that at the bottom.

Ndamukong Suh: Yeah, for sure.

Nora Ali: Well, I think my favorite part about this is that you're showing younger athletes, younger players that there are other options out there to continue having a lucrative career beyond things like endorsement deals or marketing deals, which I think up until this point has been the traditional business side for athletes. But how does that fit into your portfolio, these traditional endorsement deals, and has the sentiment around that changed among players generally?

Ndamukong Suh: No, I think the sentiment around endorsement deals and things of that nature have really become, "Do I want to be paid cash or do I want to be paid equity or do I want to get a combination of those with different pieces?" And I think that's where people are saying, "All right, I can also use my name and likeness, but also I can help you on some other aspects." And that's where I've viewed myself. I've got a good name and likeness. I'm very fortunate to be able to be on commercials and different things where I can be recognizable. But at the same time, I can also use the tools that I've learned in sports to be able to help me in the investment world and find different ways to connect dots and create different relationships that'll help companies grow. I think that's a way of being able to not only just be, say, "Hey, I've got a pretty face, but I can also help you do some other things on the other side of a business."

Nora Ali: Is the construction of those deals now a little bit different then where athletes are asking for equity in the companies that they're representing? How has that shifted?

Ndamukong Suh: Yeah. I think that's definitely shifted. And I think there's a way of being able to do that, especially when you're speaking with younger companies, up-and-coming companies. One company that I've been able to work with and have a lot of excitement that I like to do different things with is Oura Ring. I'm big on sleep. I love to be able to track my different pieces like that. And it's a cool ring. But also being able to do that in the health and wellness space as I have with my foundation, being able to support things like that. So I think there's exciting things to do with companies, especially if you catch them at good stages.

Scott Rogowsky: Look. Pro athletes have an infamous history of losing control of their finances after retirement. In fact, over 15% of NFL players filed bankruptcy within 12 years of retiring, according to the stat I read. I'm sure that's impacted the way you thought about it. I mean, there's a fear aspect there. A lot of guys are saying, "I don't want to end up in that 15%. I want to be responsible now." And is the NFL itself in terms of the commissioner's office or the teams, are they doing a good enough job to get the players educated and thinking about their post-playing career?

Ndamukong Suh: I think the players, NFLPA as well as NFL, do a pretty good job at the very beginning, especially as rookies and second-year guys. But as you get older and understand things, you have to educate yourself that much more. And I think for me, like you said earlier, the fear, being on 30 for 30 was not something that I wanted to ever aspire to be, unless it was on the positive side of things. Obviously not going broke or anything that. And so that was been always my thing is like, I want to save my money. I want to make the right decisions and really focus on not being one of those guys that are part of the statistics.

Ndamukong Suh: But ultimately, you got to find ways to not overspend. And I think that's where people want to live that same lifestyle when they were playing post-living versus saying, "All right, let me be smart and save. And then as I've been able to make my money work for itself, I can start to spend as I get older and get into true retirement." Because for me, I've got kids now, and I know for the next 18 years I'll be working in some form or fashion.

Scott Rogowsky: Your post-playing career is going to be father, dad. That's the job.

Ndamukong Suh: Yeah. Exactly. And if they're anything like me, I know they're going to be eating nonstop. So I'm going to have to bring tons of groceries home.

Nora Ali: Well, as you have taught yourself these financial terms and these mindsets over time, it feels like it starts on day one, going back to that contract where... No one's surprised I've never looked at an actual NFL contract before. I've never been offered one. But I was looking up the terminology and there's so many words and phrases that I had never heard of before. How did you go about learning those terms and making sure you had your own agency to help negotiate and make decisions versus allowing the machine around you, your agents, your managers, your lawyers, preventing them from making all of those decisions on your behalf?

Ndamukong Suh: Yeah. It comes down to asking questions and really knowing... When I was unfortunately leaving Detroit in 2014 and going to Miami, it was probably a year prior to that, I was like, "Let me really break down these contracts and all the different meanings." Because when we first came into the league in 2010, everything was pretty much slotted. And there was some wiggle room to negotiate and do some different pieces, but there wasn't much. But knowing there was a new CBA that came out, understanding what those new terms meant. And that's where I said, "All right, I'm going to be fully involved in my negotiations," versus saying, "All right, here's my agent. I trust you. Give me X amount of dollars and then I'll just sign on the dollar line," not knowing what you're signing.

Nora Ali: I do want to ask you a little bit about the hospitality space, which I know you're interested in. You mentioned having to feed your kids for many years, and that's a space that you're passionate about. What do you think are the biggest developments coming out of the hospitality and food space, whether it's ghost kitchens, automated delivery, plant-based proteins, plant-based meats? What do you think are going to be the biggest trend that drive that industry?

Ndamukong Suh: So I've been very, very fortunate to have a lot of success in the hospitality space. I know a lot of athletes in previous years have gone into restaurants and not done well and really burnt out, for lack of better words. And so when it comes down to the hospitality space, I think it's really understanding where the world is turning and changing to. So as you mentioned, you have the ghost kitchens, but also the healthy eating and the all natural way of doing things.

Ndamukong Suh: And really, I think what it comes down to it is we saw in the pandemic, people got tired of cooking at home and really wanted to get that delivery and high quality food. So if you have a high quality product, whether it's on the healthy side or the non-healthy side... and I think if I were to have one particular piece that I think is going to be quite interesting in the near future, I think there's going to be something around cinnamon rolls that I think people are going to start to enjoy a bit more.

Nora Ali: Cinnamon roles?

Ndamukong Suh: I know Cinnabon has the hold on the that right now, but I think there's some exciting things in the future for that.

Nora Ali: I once went to Cinnabon twice in one day. I'm not ashamed to admit. But yeah. What does that mean, innovation in cinnamon rolls?

Ndamukong Suh: I think there's going to be something exciting. Just stay tuned. Maybe I'll-

Scott Rogowsky: He's seeding something here. This is-

Nora Ali: What a tease.

Scott Rogowsky: This is called buzz marketing, Nora. This is buzz marketing. This is just dropping some hints-

Nora Ali: Lab-grown cinnamon rolls.

Scott Rogowsky: Dropping the crumbs of the cinnamon roll.

Nora Ali: Oh, I love that.

Ndamukong Suh: We'll have to circle back on that one, but I'll make sure to keep you guys in the loop.

Nora Ali: What is your go-to pre-game meal? I'm just very hungry now. So I'm thinking about food.

Ndamukong Suh: My go-to pre-game meal, I love breakfast. So anything in the breakfast realm, pancakes, waffles, french toast, eggs, maybe some Cinnabons.

Nora Ali: Yes. There you go.

Scott Rogowsky: Ndamukong, it's a pleasure talking with you and hearing about your career, decisions you made that have clearly been the right ones. There's a lot to learn from you. There's a lot you can teach others. If you see Ndamukong out there asking questions...because you've been asking questions and it's worked for you. So you're going to answer our questions. Right?

Nora Ali: He's got answers.

Ndamukong Suh: I will definitely answer questions and I look forward to... This has been a blast.

Nora Ali: Thank you.

Scott Rogowsky: Appreciate it. Good luck this weekend.

Ndamukong Suh: Thank you guys.

Scott Rogowsky: And now BC listeners, we want to hear from you. What is your experience with financial literacy? How do you think about the intersection between athletes and finance? Send us an email at or DM us on Twitter @bizcasualpod, That's B-I-Z casualpod, with your thoughts.

Nora Ali: You can also leave us a voice memo on our website, or give us a ring and leave us an old-fashioned voicemail. Our number is 862-295-1135. And as Business Casual grows, we are excited to get to know our listeners old and new. Drop us a line and don't forget to leave your name and where you're calling or writing from so we can hear from you in a future episode.

Scott Rogowsky: Business Casual is produced by Katherine Milsop and Bella Hutchins. Additional production sound design and mixing by Daniel Marcus. Alan Haburchak  is the director of audio of Morning Brew. Sarah Singer is our VP of multimedia and Jessica Cohen is our chief content officer. Music in this episode from Daniel Marcus and the Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. If you like what you heard, please follow Business Casual on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you go for ear candy. And we'd love it if you would give us a great rating and a review.

Nora Ali: Thanks for listening to Business Casual. I'm Nora Ali.

Scott Rogowsky: And I'm Scott Rogowsky.

Nora Ali: Keep it business.

Scott Rogowsky: And keep it casual.