NFL star and restaurant entrepreneur Ndamukong Suh talks business amid the pandemic

NFL star and restaurant entrepreneur Ndamukong Suh joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the restaurant industry during the pandemic.

Video transcript


ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: When he's not crushing the competition as a defensive tackle with the Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Ndamukong Suh is busy scoring with his portfolio of investments. We are delighted to have this NFL star and five time pro bowler with us today. Ndamukong, thanks so much for being here. Look, we'll get to football in a moment. But I know you have been, for a long time, an investor in the restaurant and hospitality industry, and you recently tweeted out some information that's getting a lot of attention.

You said it's never been this bad for the restaurant industry. Tell us what you're seeing with regards to the restaurants you're involved in, and what needs to be done right now to help the industry.

NDAMUKONG SUH: Yeah, it's been very, very difficult. And unfortunately, we've been in this pandemic for close to almost two years now and counting. And I think, as we understand the restaurant business is a livelihood of a lot of many people, whether it's people working in the service industry or actually the cooks or the farmers. And it's important for us to understand that we've got to continue to support our community.

And I've been fortunate enough to be in the hospitality space since I first got out of college. Blue Sushi was a great restaurant I went to when I was a kid in college and I wanted to be a part of it, so I asked the owners and I've been able to create some great restaurants in and around Lincoln University of Nebraska.

KARINA MITCHELL: Yes, sir. Thanks so much for joining us. This is Karina Mitchell. So happy to have you on. Wondering what do you say to consumers who really want to help restaurants, but they are so afraid of this Omicron variant that perhaps they're not going out so much. And then because you are so involved in the industry, what are you hearing from restaurants as far as consumer behavior? Are they tipping well? Are they behaving well in the restaurants when it comes to mandates and vaccines?

NDAMUKONG SUH: Yeah, I think it depends on the part of the country that you're in. I'm in Florida and, obviously, have restaurants in Portland, Oregon as well. And really it comes down to people being courteous and understanding everybody's particular wishes when it comes to the COVID regulations and mandates. But I think the biggest thing people can do is first start in their community, and go out there and support the restaurants they've loved and they've enjoyed, and not be afraid to try new restaurants. And really take it to go if you don't want to dine in or there's not an option to dine in.

But I think that's important for folks to do because there's a trickle down effect, as I mentioned before. There's the farmers, there's wineries, distilleries. And really being from Portland, Oregon, that is one big place that we strive to be very elite in the agricultural world, and so it has a big effect.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I want to talk about your overall investment portfolio because it's quite wide ranging. What else are you investing in right now? I know there's some real estate in there. Are you playing with NFTs and crypto to any extent?

NDAMUKONG SUH: Yeah, so real estate has always been something that I've learned. And really from my parents, cutting lawn as a little kid to help be a part of that overall success of having apartments. And then really having that additional generational income to be able to help me support to go play sports and travel. I have dibbled and dabbled a little bit in the NFT and crypto space. Most notably, Metaplex was a recent investment that I just did along the Solana blockchain.

And it's been exciting to be a part of these things and really learn. And that's where I want to do as a young man. I know my career is probably coming to an end. Me being 35, they consider me a very old man in this game, but I have great aspirations to be more successful off the field than I was on the field.

KARINA MITCHELL: And one of your aspirational people that you speak to is Warren Buffett. I know he's given you advice in the past and suggests maybe taking advantage and buying the dip. So you know we saw the NASDAQ in correction territory yesterday. I wonder if there may be some buying opportunities and things that you are interested in looking at.

NDAMUKONG SUH: Yeah, for sure, there's some opportunities, and you definitely want to do buying the dip, and find things that have great intrinsic value, as I've learned from him. But also at the same time, just being able to know you have strong companies you've invested in and it's all about being patient. That's one of the best tools I've ever learned from him. It's about being patient, understanding that this company you believe in has strong roots. It's going to have to weather the storm, but most likely if it's a very strong company, it'll come out better on the outside-- on the other side, excuse me.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: So Warren Buffett is a mentor of yours, but you've become a mentor for many young athletes coming up. You know, we've seen this story before. They come into a lot of money early on and wind up losing it. What's a good way for them to build generational wealth, especially since a career in something like the NFL doesn't last very long?

NDAMUKONG SUH: You know, the career in the NFL's on average 3 and 1/2 years and I've always understood that. And so that's one of the reasons why I got my engineering degree and a focus in real estate. And also having the opportunity to have a father that was an engineer, as well as a mother that was a school teacher that always instilled that education is one of the most important things that nobody can ever take from you. So with that being said, I'd always wanted to find mentors and people that I've been able to understand how they've created success and follow in their footsteps, and then create my own focus on how I wanted my life to look at when I decided to retire.

So it was exciting for me to be able to have those opportunities, and the NFL opened up a lot of them even much more. And so for me, advice for young players and young people in general is just go out there. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Be hungry, and focus on things that you care about, and make the most of it.

KARINA MITCHELL: Ndamukong, want to turn things over to what you're doing on the field. You were with the Buccaneers last year. I'm wondering how different is it this year playing. Obviously, you have Tom Brady on the team as well. Wondering what that dynamic is like and what would a second Super Bowl ring mean to you personally?

NDAMUKONG SUH: Well, I mean, yes, we were the underdogs last year and we came in fifth seed. And really people didn't really care for us to think that we had an opportunity to win a championship and we've proved them wrong. And so the roles are really reversed. Now we're in Kansas City's spot, where they were last year being the previous Super Bowl champ, and people are targeting us. And we have a big opponent against the Rams this weekend at home that we need to make sure we take care of business to get our goals to being back in Super Bowl, and actually heading to LA to play in the Super Bowl, so that's exciting.

I think we have a great team. We've dealt with the injury bug. Guys are starting to come back. I'm excited to where our defense is trending in the right direction. And really to answer your other question of winning a Super Bowl, I've got twin boys, so I need another ring for my other son so they don't have to share.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I love it. That's great. And also when you say your career may be ending soon, folks are talking about you being a future hall of famer. When you think about your legacy and what you want to leave your boys, both on and off the field, what is that?

NDAMUKONG SUH: I think the most important thing is when it comes to being on the field, it's about dedication, hard work, and being a champion. I think that's one of the things that I've been able to be very, very steady and very lucky to be successful on the field. But when it comes to being off the field, it's just about being strong, young Black men that have changed, and being thought leaders, and being able to be an example for other people and help them grow. And that's something that I aspire to help them be, as very strong men that understand that they can make a lot of different changes. And they don't have to do it via sports. They can do it in any particular way they choose to as long as they're passionate about it.

KARINA MITCHELL: And, obviously, you have this big game coming up on Saturday. I know nothing about football, so I have no dog in the game. So I have no problem wishing you all the luck and hope you guys take it all the way to the end again. But I am wondering what challenges has the team had to face dealing with Omicron, and how well do you think the league has handled making sure the players are safe, and then bringing back fans into the seats this year?

NDAMUKONG SUH: Yeah, it's been a huge challenge, and it started all last year where we were tested each and every single day. The rules and regulations have changed and been fluid throughout this particular season, and something each and every individual needs to take into consideration of how they want a particular move forward. And then really for our own team that I can really speak for, we've done a great job.

I think we've had some cases where been potentially issues going into games, but I think overall guys have been cautious in respecting people's wishes and how they want to do it. Masking up and doing the different things that they feel is necessary for them to be safe and be ready for the games, but also respecting everybody in the locker room.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Real quick, that big game is just in three days. In addition to being on "Yahoo Finance," how do you prepare for a big game like that with just hours to go?

NDAMUKONG SUH: Oh to be honest with you, it's being able to compartmentalize. And I love to get away and being able to do these fun things, and be able to have you guys have me on "Yahoo Finance" and have great conversations because it keeps me sharp. It allows me to dive into football, to dive into things that I care about in the world, whether it's restaurants or real estate, and being very sharp. And I think that's something people don't really know, that athletes like to get away at times from sports, to not be just fully dived into them even though we're very focused and ready for the game time.

And I'll be for sure ready at 3 o'clock. This is my former team in LA. I actually lost the Super Bowl with them a couple of years ago. So we'll go from there.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right, Ndamukong Suh, we know you're going to have your game face on come Sunday. Best of luck to you and to the Buccaneers. Thanks for being with us.