Marques Colston is still using a lot of the skills that made him an integral part of the most successful era in Saints history.
Not so much the physical gifts. The receiving skills haven’t mattered so much since Colston made his last catch in the NFL, an 11-yard touchdown against the Detroit Lions on Dec. 21, 2015.
The intangibles — the stuff that allowed Colston to maximize his incredible length and flytrap hands — are still very much in play in his new role as a self-described serial entrepreneur.
Business, like football, is a goal-oriented trade. Team-building matters. So does an ability to work with a wide range of personalities.
Colston’s “irrational confidence” might matter most of all.
A seventh-round pick out of Hofstra in 2006, Colston knew the NFL odds were against him, the same way the odds are against striking out in a crowded industry or trying to create a new market.
Irrational confidence can be the spark that overcomes the odds.
“Irrational confidence that those numbers and those stats apply to everyone else, and if I work hard enough and I put in the time and the effort, I can control my own destiny,” Colston said. “That parallels entrepreneurship to a ‘T.’ … That approach that I learned, being drafted late and being able to work my way to the success that I had, translates well.”
Just getting started
Colston, who is part-owner of the Arena Football League’s Philadelphia Soul and serves as an advisor and executive for several other companies, is growing his interests again right now, expanding the scope of the sports technology company he founded in 2013.
Dynasty Sports Group was initially created to find tools across a wide variety of platforms to help athletes reach performance goals, but Colston kept seeing opportunities cross his desk that didn’t quite fit the initial vision.
“The sports tech vertical, while it’s been very good, for obvious reasons, there were a lot of opportunities outside of that initial scope,” Colston said. “It turned into a situation where there were a lot of good opportunities that I couldn’t take advantage of in that vertical.”
Colston responded by expanding Dynasty Sports Group to become Dynasty Digital, a company with a wide range of interests that fall into four categories: the sports tech arm, which includes consulting services, data analytics and a focus on the use of cannabis for medical reasons; a digital marketing arm; an information technology marketplace and service; and an arm focused on providing education to help people break into the IT work force.
“A total digital ecosystem,” Colston said. “We feel like there’s an opportunity to really make an impact, especially on the automated marketing side and the IT side, knowing it really touches all aspects of business and life.”
A risky proposition
When Colston first met Lance Johnstone, a defensive end who spent 11 years in the NFL with the Vikings and the Raiders, the two men were on different ends of the same spectrum: Colston on his way in, Johnstone on his way out.
The two Pennsylvania natives hit it off almost immediately. Early in Colston’s career, Johnstone was part of the Merrill Lynch team that managed the receiver’s finances, and he became a mentor to Colston for the transition from NFL star to businessman.
“Marques, I saw very early on, was very astute and determined to be an entrepreneur,” said Johnstone, who is now a partner in Dynasty Digital. “That’s the way his mind works.”
Entrepreneurship is a risky proposition for anybody, and there are plenty of stories about athletes and coaches whose ventures into the business world ended poorly.
Colston’s method for mitigating risk was to start with something he already knew, beginning with majority ownership in the Harrisburg Stampede, an indoor football team in his hometown that operated from 2007-14.
“Really, (having) a hand in running all of those aspects on a day-to-day basis really formed the foundation of what I call my business education,” he said.
Colston also started the MBA program at George Washington University, but the birth of his son ended that pursuit. He got his training on the job, then started Dynasty in 2013 and joined the ownership group of the Philadelphia Soul in 2014.
Being part of the Soul has been a different experience. Colston, who’s still involved on the marketing side, can be a little more hands-off, but the experience is invaluable.
“Being able to partner with the business people that I’ve been able to meet through the ownership group and really call peers has been a great experience,” Colston said.
Ownership in the Soul has also kept him close to championship football. Philadelphia takes on the Tampa Bay Storm in Arena Bowl XXX on Sunday night, the team’s second straight appearance in the title game.
Philadelphia won the Arena Bowl last season.
“The championship game that we played in last year was probably the most nervous I’ve ever found myself in a football game,” Colston said. “I had no control over the outcome.”
‘An outlet out of football’
Football players around the NFL have started spending their offseasons taking internships in a chosen field, going back to school, dipping their foot into the business world.
Drew Brees, in addition to his services as a spokesman, has partnerships in franchises like Jimmy John’s, Walk-Ons, Dunkin’ Donuts and Title Boxing, among others. Zach Strief is part owner of Port Orleans Brewery, a new brewhouse on Tchoupitoulas Street. Adrian Peterson opened O Athletik, a massive gym, in Houston last year.
A football player’s career typically ends in a player’s early 30s — old for football but young for the rest of the world.
“The more that guys can prepare themselves for that, I think it gives them an outlet out of football,” Brees said. “Everyone knows the transition from football is very hard for a lot of guys, because football has defined them for so long, and yet, the guys that have something that they’ve been cultivating while they were playing, have typically an easier transition after they’re done playing football.”
Colston had a career waiting for him.
“Marques was very diligent about being proactive in this third or fourth year in the league,” Johnstone said. “I saw that he was serious about becoming a better investor, and he also liked to roll up his sleeves.”
For that reason, when the Saints cut Colston in February of 2016, he didn’t feel the need to chase another NFL opportunity or play out the string in an unfamiliar uniform.
Colston, always a Saint, will be back in New Orleans for the Week 2 game against the Patriots. He will be honored as a Saints Legend.
“You’re never going to leave this game on your own terms,” Colston said. “But I like to feel like I got about as close as I could.”
Now, he’s attacking the rest of his life on his own terms.