In 2017, former LSU and NFL quarterback Matt Flynn launched MyHy, a high-quality hydration beverage. Photo by Collin Richie.

Former athletes are now Baton Rouge business and community leaders

We first met them watching from the sidelines. We cheered them on as they ran marathons, made touchdowns and scored goals. We rooted for them as they broke barriers, won championships and shattered records.

Here in Baton Rouge, we spend so much time consuming sports, local athletes start to feel like family. But long after they’re done with the sports world, many of them are still here, making an impact on the community.

You probably know some of the big stories of local brands built by athletes.

Brandon Landry’s restaurant career has become bigger than many sports careers ever do, with nearly 50 Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux locations and counting. Marucci makes the baseball bats used by pro players and major league teams across the country, and it was founded by former MLB players Kurt Ainsworth and Joe Lawrence and LSU athletic trainer Jack Marucci. Of course, it’s hard not to think of Shaquille O’Neal, who has his hands in a long list of projects (including working on a Baton Rouge location of his Big Chicken restaurant), or even Lolo Jones, the still-active athlete who pays it forward with her Lolo Jones Foundation.

But there are so many other stories like these unfolding every single day across our city. We’ve compiled a few of them for this month’s cover story.

Former Southern football player Keith Tillage’s company is behind construction projects all over town—not to mention in multiple states. For Jenni Peters, helping other runners through her Varsity Sports shop means more than winning marathons or qualifying for Olympic Trials ever did. When LSU football star Darry Beckwith Jr.’s pro career didn’t pan out, he wanted to better prepare other young athletes for similar experiences entering the professional world. He started a nonprofit to train student athletes for life after sports.

While they may be done with college and pro sports, all of these athletes tell 225 that playing the game changed them forever. The lessons they learned on the field inform the work they do today—and their efforts to make our community better.

And in that way, sports is the gift that keeps on giving to us all.

For more on how these former Baton Rouge athletes are giving back to the community, keep reading the cover story from 225′s May 2021 issue.