Connect with us

Sports

Buckeye Business Bureau: 5 former OSU athletes trade athletics for entrepreneurship

Mitch Hooper

Published

on

When it comes to being an athlete on the football field, making it to the next level is more of a miracle than a rite of passage. Rosters can only hold 53 players by the time the regular season begins, and there’s a 5.8 percent chance that high school stand out will even make the cut. Even if they find success on the field, the odds of making into the league as an NCAA senior is one in 50, or 2 percent. And for anyone looking to take a different route and skip college, the odds of making it on an NFL roster are about the same as having a 150 IQ. In other words, athletes need a plan B, C, and Z.

But what happens after a successful life on the field? Here in Columbus, we’ve seen Heisman winners phase out of the league in a few short years as well as highly recruited players forced to make a position change just to have a shot. Names like Troy Smith come to mind, or Braxton Miller and Terrelle Pryor. For whatever the reason may be—didn’t have the physical attributes the coach was looking for, or just never got that chance to prove themselves—life goes on, and former Ohio State favorites have found ways to use their namesake and recognition to thrust themselves into a new career.

Photos: Rebecca Tien

Whether they took down the Big Ten foes in football or lead basketball squads to new heights, the super stardom of playing for the university creates household names and that alone can get you far if your professional career in athletics falls through. In a world where it’s who you know more than what you know, getting your foot in the door is a crucial step.

But how far can namesake get you? At the end of the day, it’s a lot like sports. You can be the five-star recruit set to blaze the country, but until you actually perform those skills on the field, you’re just another player on the team. Sure your name catches the coach’s attention, but that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed anything. Take Zach Justin, and Mike Boren of Boren Brothers Roll Off Dumpsters and Trash Removal Services. You might recognize them from the iconic image of Zach towering over a curled-up Devin Gardner, a former Michigan quarterback.

Justin, a 2011 graduate of OSU, earned First Team All Big Ten and Second Team All-American Honors and seemed primed for a life in the league. He made the leap to the NFL where he was bounced around from the Baltimore Ravens, the Detroit Lions, and the Denver Broncos. Due to lingering injuries, Justin’s NFL career prematurely ended after three seasons. Similarly, his brother Zach joined the Buckeyes in 2009 as Ohio’s Defensive Player of the Year. While playing with the Buckeyes, he found himself on both sides of the ball as fullback for the first three years and linebacker for his senior season where he served as a captain on the 2012 squad that never lost a game. Though he hasn’t fully given up on his dreams of playing on Sundays, his time in the league also lasted three seasons with a new team each year.

These setbacks might be enough to diminish confidence, but the Boren brothers chose to embrace the Buckeye work ethic.

“It’s kind of a running joke now, but the coaches talked about when we played,” Zach said. “If you go to Ohio State, especially as an athlete, and you do what’s expected of you, give back to the community, and take full advantage of that position you’re in at that time, Columbus will always treat you right.”

This name recognition has helped the brothers open doors and meet with people that might have never given them the time of day, Justin explained. But, to reiterate, that’s only half the battle.

“The connections get your foot in the door,” Justin said. “Once your foot is in the door and you have the opportunity, you have to perform. You have to run a legit business, do the right things, and focus on service, but it at least opens a lot of doors.”

This lesson parallels with performance on the field, and it’s those takeaways the two learned while at OSU that they apply to their business. The mantra is simple, but powerful: they treat every day like it’s a football game.

“You have to show up, you have to do your job, you have to perform,” Zach explained. “And if you don’t, you’re losing that day; you’re either winning or you’re losing.”

In the same vein as football, Justin said a lot of success boils down to the team around you. While the Boren brothers along with Mike, the father and a former stellar Wolverine (now fully converted to scarlet and gray) and Jacoby, the youngest former Buckeye of the three, are the face of the company, their staff is out doing the work on a day-to-day basis.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY

This also holds true for The Pit BBQ on Cleveland Avenue, a smoked meats adventure started by former Buckeyes Chimid Chekwa and Bryant Browning as well as D’Andre Martin and Mike Johnson. After Chekwa and Browning tested the waters in the NFL, they found themselves much like the Boren brothers looking to move past a life in athletics. The question that rings in many former athletes’ head was looming: what’s next?

While Chekwa is originally from Clermont, Florida, Browning, Martin, and Johnson all grew up in Cleveland dining at barbeque joints which eventually came to influence how they do business in Columbus. They took their time to carefully scout how other places went about barbecue and eventually decided it was their turn to share the love. First, the idea was to create a franchise through The Pit BBQ, but the restrictions that came along with it steered the four away from it.

“Throughout Cleveland there’s a lot of Ma and Pa pop-up stops that Columbus was lacking at that time in the area so we wanted to take that style and that taste and bring it to the Columbus area,” Browning explained.

While the recognition was helpful for starting the business, Bryant explained that it also puts you under a microscope. At one point, you could’ve been known as an All- American cornerback, but if you serve bad barbecue, you’ll be remembered a guy with bad barbecue.

“The other side of that is having the opportunity to go back where you have some recognition and memories to provide not only good food, but also do good for the community,” Chekwa added.

Whether it’s crafting large quantities of meats and fixings for someone’s tailgate through the catering service, or simply helping the business rush sink their teeth into high quality cuts of brisket, it’s a complete and total team effort. On any given day, it’s no surprise to see the once All-American cornerback Chekwa in the back preparing the food for the day, or the former OSU captain Bryant manning the cash register. Just like football, it’s a complete team effort.

“If I’m working the cashier stand, people will come in and say, ‘Wow! You’re a big guy!’ ” said the 6-foot-4-inch, 325-pound offensive lineman Bryant. “With helmets on, and being many years ago, they might not recognize your face right away or who you are. But yeah, an All-American cornerback is back here working the grill.”

However the big lights may shine, the former Buckeyes never forget the lessons they learned on the field.

“To be successful we understand it’s work,” Browning said. “It wouldn’t be a surprise to see me driving around in a food truck to an area to sell food. We understand it’s going to take the same grind it took in football to be successful. That’s just in our DNA.”

To get in contact with the Boren Brothers for commercial waste removal, visit borenbrothers.com. For more information on hours and catering options, check out thepitcolumbus.com.

millennial | writer | human

Continue Reading
Comments

Sports

Another professional Columbus sports team might see action this year

Avatar

Published

on

While the Columbus Crew were sent down to Orlando to compete in a tournament to restart the season, the NHL is close to following in similar fashion, according to a report from ESPN.

According to ESPN, the NHL and NHLPA have finalized protocols that would allow for the season to start Aug. 1, with training camps resuming July 13. Play will occur in two hub locations, including Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, according to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, as told to ESPN.

That means Columbus could see its beloved Blue Jackets back in action in a few short weeks. 

There’s more at stake in teams returning to NHL play than there are for the MLS teams competing down in Florida. If an agreement is reached, the NHL will skate right into a 24-team playoff.

That’s not before starting training camp, which has a target date of July 13. If all goes well, the Blue Jackets will travel to Toronto on July 25 or 26 to compete in exhibition games.

The playoffs would begin the following week with a qualifying round in which the Blue Jackets would face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs in a best-of-five series. 

Players have the opportunity to opt-out of playing without being penalized. 

Continue Reading

Sports

No fans on the course, but The Bogey party will carry on for Memorial Tournament watch parties

Avatar

Published

on

It’s a little more than a month later than expected, but Jack Nicklaus will once again host the world's finest golfers—minus their fans— at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin next week.

The 45th Annual Memorial Tournament will be held July 13-19. While originally it would have been the first PGA Tour event with fans, due to surging COVID cases, the Tour announced this week they will no longer allow fans on the course. "The safety of our public and our employees is our highest priority,” said city of Dublin Director of Communications and Public Relations Sue Burness. 

Outside of the course, with bars and restaurants still navigating operations under health guidelines from Gov. Mike DeWine, the Ohio Department of Health and local health agencies, Memorial Tournament-week festivities are limited.

No large events are planned at Dublin's Bridge Park, which has hosted Fore!Fest concurrently with the Memorial each of the last two years, according to Burness.

But one long-standing tradition will remain intact in 2020—The Bogey in Shawnee Hills will host a watch party throughout the week.

Photo By Julian Foglietti | Shown here is The Bogey's General Manager Mark Dombek

"The Memorial Tournament and The Bogey is a special tradition," General Manager Mark Dombek told 614. "People are going to be ready to enjoy live sports, and The Bogey has always been a place people come for the tournament."

The Bogey will have two giant video walls and stream as much of the tournament as is allowed by the tournament's broadcast partner, Dombek said. 

Health guidelines are ever-changing, Dombek said, but at press time his plan was to have more than 145 new tables added outside the venue (in addition to the 46 new outdoor tables The Bogey added when it re-opened in May), including in the parking lot, which will be barricaded to accommodate the additional tables. A tent will also be set up, so some tables will be covered.

"We're going to fully utilize all of our available space," Dombek said.

Current guidelines still prohibit standing in common areas in bars and restaurants, Dombek said, so patrons will be asked to rent the tables, available for groups of 4-10.

While capacity is impacted by health guidelines, Dombek said he expects to be able to welcome about 1,000 customers at a given time, including the current capacity of 178 inside The Bogey.

Dombek said his staff will enforce social distancing as much as possible, and will place hand sanitizer stations in the temporary outdoor area as well.

The Bogey will host live bands in the evenings, Dombek said, in an effort to make this week "as close to what we'd normally do."

"We've had a ton of people reaching out, asking what we were going to do. This has always been a big week for us. We're listening to our customers and letting them know we're here for as much as we can be," he said.

Visit bogeyinn.com or call 614-766-1900 for information.

Continue Reading

Sports

The Basketball Tournament 2020: Aaron Craft’s goodbye and lifelong bonds

Avatar

Published

on

Editors' Note: The original publication of this article referred to the Columbus TBT team as the Carmen Crew. The correct name for the team is Carmen's Crew.

Carmen's Crew, the all-Ohio State basketball alumni team, will be taking to Nationwide Arena this Wednesday to defend its title as champions of The Basketball Tournament.

The Tournament is an annual 5-on-5 single-elimination competition consisting of players who lit it up in college and even the NBA. This year, 24 teams were selected to compete for a $1 million prize. You can read more about the tournament on (614) here.

Some of the teams will be structured with players who participated in the same basketball program or even played together. Carmen's Crew is one of those teams, consisting of Ohio State basketball alumni, from coaches to players. 

On Monday, six members of Carmen's Crew held a virtual press conference from a Columbus hotel room two days before they take the court for the 2020 TBT. Leading things off was former Carmen's Crew player and current GM and coach Jared Sullinger. Evan Turner will be joining Sullinger on the sideline as a coach as well.

Sullinger, who has taken time off from professional basketball to focus on raising a family that includes two twins, knows that his team has a big target on its back this year.

“We became the hunters to the prey,” Sullinger said. “Now everyone wants a piece of Carmen’s Crew just because we won it.”

Even though Sullinger isn’t playing professionally in any capacity, he still has an ultimate goal of making it back to the NBA. We won’t see him taking the floor for the tournament at Nationwide, though.

However, we will still be seeing a court full of familiar faces. On the player side, Carmen's Crew roster consists of point guard Aaron Craft, shooting guard William Buford, shooting guard David Lighty, power forward Deshaun Thomas, shooting guard Jon Diebler, power forward Jeff Gibbs, power forward Pape Malik Dime, small forward Lenzelle Smith, power forward Dallas Lauderdale, and point guard Demetri McCamey.

Thomas was a last-second addition to the roster.

Buford, the MVP of last year’s tournament, sees no reason as to why Carmen's Crew shouldn’t walk away with back-to-back ‘ships.

“We got better this year as a team and I think we’ll do just fine if we stick together and play how we play,” Buford said.

A handful of the questions centered around the bittersweet reality that Craft would most likely be suiting up for his final few days as a basketball player, also citing family as one of the reasons why it seemed like a “perfect storm” to walk away from basketball. 

“This is one of the toughest things for me because I’ve been playing with him since we were 15-years old,” Sullinger said. “It’s going to be real tough knowing that this is going to be his last go-around.”

Sullinger mentioned that Craft’s ability, effort, and mindset is very contagious and will be incredibly missed on the court.

Craft isn’t trying to focus on himself for the upcoming tournament, however. Even without fans cheering him on in Columbus for his final minutes on the court, the cherished Buckeye point guard is looking forward to hearing his teammates on the court without having it being drowned out by those raucous Buckeye crowds.

“As we continue to get older we continue to appreciate it a little more,” Craft said.

Being in Columbus and not having a crowd does carry some positives, though. Players like Lighty mentioned that having the tournament in Columbus in the midst of a global pandemic made the decision to play a little easier.

Craft has an even more unique perspective, as he was quarantined in Italy in the middle of international basketball play. Being in Italy, one of the first major hot spots of COVID-19 has shown him that only pockets of our country have been taking the virus seriously while things were different.

“I think the biggest difference I’ve seen...is the seriousness with how all the public took the virus, whether it was on their own or by (government regulations),” Craft said.

But most of all, Carmen's Crew is looking forward to being together once again. That’s why we see players like Turner, who are still taking a stab at an NBA career, come back year after year to suit up with their old college teammates once again.

“One thing for sure is that these are my best friends, these are my brothers,” Turner said when asked why he continues to be a member of Carmen's Crew.

Carmen's Crew will put their cohesiveness and togetherness to the test on Wednesday with its first match of 2020 TBT. It will be suiting up against House of Paign, a team made up of Illinois basketball alum. Tipoff is at 4 p.m.

Continue Reading
X