Willis Marshall is a retired former 12-year professional football player in both the CFL and AFL, winning three National Championships and two MVP titles in both leagues. These days, Willis is enjoying his “new life” as the co-founder of DaO Detroit (www.daodetroit.com), an all natural, plant-based hair care company out of Detroit that provides a transformational hair experience for women, men, young and old, regardless of hair type.
SportsGossip.com sat down exclusively with Willis to learn more about his new life after football, who he thinks is going to win the Grey Cup / Superbowl, and his advice to other athletes who may be preparing to retire soon also….
SG: How was it transitioning from professional athlete to business owner / entrepreneur with DaO Detroit?
WM: The transition from being a professional football player for 12 years, to a business owner/entrepreneur was probably smoother for me than most. I have always been a frugal or “max for the minimum” type of person when it came to my spending habits, so the money earned during my career was properly saved, to provide a comfortable life when I retired from football. Being “comfortable” may have been good for most but it wasn’t gonna be enough for me. With this realization in 2008 (2 years before I retired), I started on my 1st entrepreneurial endeavor by launching a personal training company, with a specialization in aquatic therapy. I have since expanded into 3 cities, including my hometown of Detroit where I met Erin Patten, co-founder of DāO. Together we realized that having a healthy scalp or head of hair is more than just the products we use, but more about the lifestyle we live. This includes our diet, the amount of exercising we do, and the overall way we choose to shine our positive light. Our products also focus on hair health by using plant based ingredients that act like a multi-vitamin to the scalp, which gives your hair the desired manageability. Our most enlightening moment was understanding that our products were not only great for women, but men, and children as well. In a nut shell, our products are for EVERYONE, regardless of gender, age, or hair type. DāO is beauty and wellness redefined!
SG: When playing football, did you know you wanted to do these kinds of things afterwards?
WM: When I started my professional career I knew that I would keep my body in good enough condition off the field, that barring any major injuries on the field, I’d play a lot of years. With that being said, my early years as a pro were about training and family. Although I did a good job at putting money away, it wasn’t until later in my career that I realized I’d been blessed to play a physically demanding and violent sport longer than most. I still felt great, but my time in this game I love so much was soon gonna end. The spark that ignited my becoming an entrepreneur was that youthfulness I still felt inside. My dad would always tell me growing up “You should always go after what you want in life, ESPECIALLY while you have the ENERGY to do it.” Those were words duly noted, and I am still running on a full tank.
SG: What is your advice to other current athletes about planning ahead & life after football?
WM: When planning ahead or for life after football I would advise any current athlete to have a plan A, B, C, & D. Most of the time plan ‘A’ is obvious, but when it comes to having a contingency life plan, people are not as prepared. I would also add to put quality time in to whatever your plans A – D are for several reasons. The 1st reason, is just to be ready in case implementation is necessary. Preparation + Necessity = Survival. Next, it’s good to be well versed because a “plan B” can become a “new business” or secondary revenue stream if the right opportunity presented itself. Preparation + Opportunity = Success. The sports we are blessed enough to play, at the highest levels, are just a chapter in our life’s great novel. The remaining chapters and fruits they bare, are determined by the seeds we continue to sew.
SG: What is your greatest memory of when you played?
WM: This is a tough question because there are so many outstanding memories from my career. Winning 3 NCAA D1-AA football championships at Youngstown State, a Grey Cup (1998) in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders, and 2 AFL ArenaBowls (2001 & 2005) makes it hard to choose. However, If I have to pick, my greatest memory as a player would have to be the 2005 Arena Football League ArenaBowl (Colorado). Besides it being named one of the top 10 games in Arena Football League history, I was named game MVP and Ironman. At the time, and maybe still, I am the only person to garner both awards in ArenaBowl history. The game was even more special because my cousin ( Former Dallas Cowboy), Robert Thomas, was playing on the opposing team and our entire family and extended family were in the building. Not to be too sentimental but the real winners that day were our parents.
SG: CFL: Who is going to win the cup this year?
WM: It is early in the CFL season but I would have give the early nod to the Calgary Stampeders to win the Grey Cup. As a former Stamp I know I may have a little bias here, but there strong start to the season and dismantling of the Toronto Argos recently, votes well for the Stamps. Calgary’s head coach, Dave Dickenson, is also a former teammate of mine so I know he’ll make sure the team continues running on all cylinders as the season progresses.
SG: NFL: Who is going to win the super bowl this year?
WM: I am gonna go out on a limb and say the Detroit Lions are gonna win the SuperBowl this upcoming season. I know, I know! More bias right? Here’s why they’ll win it all: Matt Stafford has finally figured out that sweet combination of playing with a “gunslinger mentality” and being a good “game manager”. The running game will get a boost with recent early round draft picks, and the receiving core is under rated with 3 versatile big play guys. However, defense wins championships and the Lions return several key players in that front 7, especially the D-line. The secondary also returns several guys making the overall Defense as a unit, a solid veteran group, with the appropriate amount of youth and cockiness. Throw in the cherry on top, head coach Matt Patricia, and you have a focused veteran lead team that has been battle tested in every way the past few years. Great recipe for a SuperBowl if I must say so.
SG: Would you ever go back into football, either as a coach, scout, or in some other capacity?
WM: I would definitely consider getting back into football as a scout or coach. I find being a scout more attractive at this time because of the freedom it would give me to make sure my entrepreneurial endeavors continue to thrive while scratching the itch I have from being away from football. I do, truly miss the game, so eventually being a scout may feed the urge to be more hands on and that’s where coaching may come in to play. Timing will be everything.
SG: You have no hair… but your product is for the bald too… can you explain it more to us?
WM: One of the best things about being the co-founder of DāO, a plant-based hair care and wellness company, is that I actually have a bald head. People always ask the same question in a joking, yet not wanting to offend me way, when I tell them about our company: “How do you own a hair product company with no hair?”, which is usually followed by a chuckle from us both. I’m the type of person that loves making lemonade out of lemons and this is exactly the question I wanted them to ask. The answer is very simple. At DāO we realize that the scalp and its health are vital to a healthy head of hair. Even if your hair doesn’t grow anymore and you wear a bald look the hair follicles on your head need to be nourished consistently, post-shave, to decrease the likelihood for razor bumps or discoloration. In other words, just because you don’t have hair as a man or woman, doesn’t mean you don’t care about being well groomed. We created Vitalise, a scalp and skin balm that contains plant based essentials to rejuvenate the scalp and skin while restoring its natural moisture, and simultaneously supporting the health of the hair follicle or skin. We have several other amazing products that make up our Divine 7 product line, and they all focus on the hair’s health, first. Ultimately, we encourage everyone to embrace that person in the mirror and realize that we are all imperfectly perfect beings! The DāO movement has begun. Defy All Odds!