Dhani Jones’ linebacker skills have taken him around the world
The serial entrepreneur on what he’s learned, and the great advice he got from Michael Strahan
Life is a big adventure for former NFL linebacker Dhani Jones. Even during his 11 seasons in the league, Jones, now 39, was in the process of grooming himself for the next stage in his life. As a linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals, Jones spent two offseasons exploring the world and participating in international sports for the filming of his Travel Channel show Dhani Tackles the Globe. At the same time, Jones went to work on BowTie Cause, an organization that creates custom-made bow ties to raise money for charitable groups. From that came Bow Tie Cafe, in Cincinnati.
“I played football. We’re entrepreneurs by nature,” said Jones. “Anybody that plays sports is an entrepreneur. Anybody who competes is entrepreneurial by nature. I came into that world by following a lot of other people. Also, by trying specific things and understanding what I like. The entrepreneurial world is not a comfortable world. I’ll tell you that much. You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
In 2011, Jones announced his retirement from football. Two years later, Jones co-founded Qey Capital, a private equity firm. “[Entrepreneurship] is an area in which I have an incredible passion, and also … African-Americans need to be able to get involved in investing,” Jones said. Soon, Jones was approached by CNBC about a new show, Adventure Capitalists, that combined his love for entrepreneurship and adventure. It premiered in 2016. Season two began on Oct. 10. The hourlong program showcases the products of four entrepreneurs who are seeking investments from Jones, Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson and world champion skier Jeremy Bloom.
“I’m as crazy as the rest of them,” said Jones. “I like learning about people just as much as I like learning about their product. There’s still the American dream that lives in this world. Whether it’s technology or packaged goods or whether you’re an artist, it all still can be accomplished. The most important thing is, you need partners.”
What question are you asked most by fans?
The question I get asked all the time is, ‘Why do you live in Cincinnati?’ People ask me that every single week. It’s amazing.
And what’s your answer?
My answer is, the Midwest is important. There’s a lot of things going on on the coasts, and they’ll always be extremely successful. But the Midwest is on the uptick. Think about all the people that support you — why would you run from them? People who play in Green Bay and they live in Arizona. Doesn’t make any sense. No one knows you in Arizona. … If you want to vacation in Arizona, great. But work where people know, like and trust you.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
It’s from Michael Strahan. He was like, ‘Say please. Say thank you. Shake people’s hands. Look them in the eye. Be very appreciative, and it will come back around in a very valuable way.’ That’s been very true. Strahan taught me a lot when I was on the Giants.
What’s a place you’ve never been that you’re dying to visit?
Greece, like Mykonos. Places like that. I haven’t been there. All my friends go. I’ve been kind of saving that place.
What is the worst purchase you’ve ever made?
I’m trying to figure out what I bought and didn’t like. We’ll have to come back to that one.
Oh, my belt. I’ve had this belt for a long time. I’ve probably owned two belts in my life, and this is the second one. I love it. I own a bunch of belts, but there’s only two belts I’ve ever worn.
If you hadn’t become a football player, what would you have been doing?
A pediatric neuroplastic surgeon.
Are there any habits you picked up in football that you still find yourself doing today?
Yeah, the most important habit I picked up in football is always sort of scanning the field, and I always scan the world. It’s helped me a lot in terms of the world of business. That’s the most important skill.
If you could go back and deliver a message to your 15-year-old self, what would it be?
Always take a beat. Be patient. Don’t be so … anxious is the wrong word, but don’t be so quick to do things. Take your time.