Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs Faine has 'Midas Touch'
ORLANDO - Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Jeff Faine plays one of the least glamorous positions in football. Few people outside of family members and friends wear his No. 52 jersey to games. Faine is never on TV for scoring touchdowns or recording sacks. Only football purists would recognize Faine if they saw him without a helmet. Faine doesn't play a popular position, but most players, and even entrepreneurs, might wish they were in his shoes. Although Faine, 28, signed a six-year deal with Tampa Bay worth $37.5 million in 2008, he is becoming better known for his off-the-field success. He owns three businesses in Cleveland - a restaurant, bar and nightclub - and a clothing store in Orlando. He is part-owner of steakhouses in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, a peanut company, a real estate company and a production company. He is also a successful oil investor."People that know football hold Jeff in high regard, but truthfully, if you're on the outside looking in, or you're the casual fan, you may know more about Jeff Faine the business guy than the football player," said Ben Dogra, Faine's football agent. "Usually when I hear players talk about doing some type of business endeavor, I discourage it and tell them to focus on the game. "Jeff has had so much success, I say he has a Midas touch. It's just amazing." Faine's most recognizable business can be visited in downtown Orlando. Two days before Thanksgiving, Faine opened Forty VII Clothing on the corner of Church Street and Magnolia Avenue. Forty VII, named after the 407 area code of Faine's Orlando hometown, attracts customers with speakers outside the store pumping hip-hop and alternative music. The eclectic 3,200-square-foot store sells modern clothing for men and women, ranging from a simple T-shirt to a custom suit. As customers walk into his shop, they can pour a complimentary cup of beer before examining racks of contemporary clothes within the store's brick walls and hardwood floors. After picking out a designer top, which could include a T-shirt from Faine's own Forty VII clothing line, consumers can walk past the curved shoe wall into an all denim room to select matching jeans. They later can sit on a leather couch underneath a DJ booth and pick out accessories to complete their outfit. "We're very selective about what we bring in to the store," Faine said. "We don't bring in everything that they sellers offer. We try to find what is going to be the next thing." Even though Faine is a trendsetter among entrepreneurial athletes, the feedback from observers has been mixed. "Sometimes, I get a lot of negative vibes because people think you're not focusing enough on football, or you're not doing enough. But the thing is, when I'm working on football I'm focused on football and that's 100 percent my effort," Faine said. "Then, I get a lot of great reactions. "Guys are really, really supportive of it, that I'm doing something with my money, that I'm investing instead of buying trinkets and toys and ruining all of my money." Faine's knack for successful investments is rare among NFL players. Ken Ruettgers, a former player and current advocate for NFL players transitioning from professional sports, said most athletes do not start thinking about life outside of football until it is too late. Ruettgers was a 12-year veteran with the Green Bay Packers and now is executive director of GamesOver, a nonprofit organization in Sisters, Ore., designed to help athletes transition from professional sports to other careers. "What Jeff is doing is, he's saying, 'I'm not going to be pigeon-holed under one identity. I'm more than just a professional athlete. I'm a business owner, I'm an investor,'" Ruettgers said. "And he's broadened his identity to include a great view and perspective than just football. "It's very rare that a guy can do all of that and stay competitive, because obviously he's competing against guys that are fully focused on business. It takes a guy who is secure in his abilities, a guy that can multitask and have more than one focus in life." Faine, who is entering his seventh NFL season, has remained successful in football despite his outside interests. He started all 16 games last season and anchored the line for an offense that was ranked 11th in passing and 15th in sacks per passing play. "I'm not in the most glamorous position on the field, but the stuff off the field is starting to catch up to it," Faine said. "I hope it outweighs it one day. "If it does, it means you're more than just a football player."
Reporter Anwar S. Richardson can be reached at (813) 259-8425.