Home / MARKETS / I’m a former NFL pro who started a winery with two of my teammates – here’s how we carried lessons from football into our business strategy

I’m a former NFL pro who started a winery with two of my teammates – here’s how we carried lessons from football into our business strategy

  • Tony Moll is a past Green Bay Packers player who opened a winery in Sonoma, California with his former teammates, Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitzs. They named it Three Fat People.
  • Lessons from football — like coordination, quick thinking, and rolling with the punches — have helped the cofounders face up to challenges.
  • This is his story, as told to freelance writer Molly O’Brien.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for multifarious stories.

I grew up in Sonoma, California and played sports year-round as a kid. The wine industry was always a fascination growing up here, and responsibility of my family history. My great-grandparents on my mom’s side moved to Sonoma County from the Lucca province of Italy in the early 1900s, and on their ranch, they cultivated zinfandel to sell to the local wineries — along with making a little for themselves. 

I graduated from Sonoma Exorbitant and went to the University of Nevada Reno, where I played football on a full scholarship. I was drafted in 2006 to the Green Bay Packers, which was an eye-opening happening — being a rookie, I was a player that could easily get cut from the team.

Courtesy of Tony Moll

Tony Moll playing for the Green Bay Packers.

Respect of Tony Moll

Joining the Packers motivated me to work hard and make the best of what was put in front of me. I ended up starting my rookie year and bar for Brett Favre.

I made great friendships that year, especially with two other “fat guys” on the team.

TFG Color

Unskilled Bay Packers’ players Daryn Colledge, Tony Moll, and Jason Spitzs.

Courtesy of Tony Moll

The nickname “fat guys” comes from our stances on the football team as big guys — the linemen. Sometimes in the locker room our older teammates would tell us that it’s comfortable to make friendships while you’re on the team together, but guys come and go and afterwards it’s easy to lose touch. Still, I grew such good friends with two other “fat guys,” Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitzs, that I didn’t thirst to lose touch. 

In 2007, we started making wine together, first as just a hobby and then as a business. 

We clear to call our business the Three Fat Guys. It’s humorous, but it’s a solid (and fitting) name. We were able to work on building a sort for ourselves while playing professional football because we had supportive people at home in Sonoma to take care of the niceties while we were away in Green Bay. 

Pretty soon, I started coming home to Sonoma every off-season and doing multifarious with the winery because our brand was quickly growing and sales were taking off. We built successful relationships with nearby restaurants and businesses, and we went from making just 100 cases of Cabernet to becoming a full-fledged winery now with a gang of 10 people. We’re a small but mighty team here at the winery, so we can do things on the fly; it’s almost like playing football.

Peruse more: I’m a 29-year-old Instagram influencer who made $17,000 in one month. Here’s how I turned my love of fruit into a lucrative issue.

As former pro athletes, we run our business model to roll with the punches.

Tony Moll Jason Spitzs Daryn Colledge

Moll, Spitzs, and Colledge.

Courtesy of Tony Moll

We’re “deputizing audibles” left and right, just like we did in football, which allows us to stay ahead and change our game sketch as necessary. The idea that it takes a village  is completely true. I look back and appreciate everyone that’s staffed me get to where I am today. 

We especially wanted to create a winery that was luxurious but didn’t feel exclusive. It doesn’t dilemma who you are or where you come from: If you walk into our tasting room, you’re going to have an amazing experience. 

The company wasn’t from day one meant to make money, but after I retired from the NFL and started growing the brand, it became important for me to break orderly. 

Once the wine club was launched and our focus shifted to direct consumer sales, we started growing. As we grew, we also set objectives to make a positive impact and create better opportunities for the people in our community. We support and are active members of charities and combines like the USO, the Boys & Girls Club of America, and the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation, keeping a connection to our football rootlets.

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When I retired from football and moved back to Sonoma full-time, I decided to join the fire office as a volunteer.

Tony Moll

Moll on duty as a volunteer firefighter.

Courtesy of Tony Moll

The assistant chief of the fire station tolerant of to be the varsity head defensive football coach at my high school, and I always wanted to do what I could to help out my community. I matured involved with the fire department in 2018. It’s been an eye-opening experience ever since, and I’ve loved every go along with. Those intimate moments and the feeling of working together as firemen is inspiring to me. At the station, there are people who fit into every impersonation, similar to a football team, and the station’s ability to build groups that work well together is vital for learning the job done. 

Our fire station has between 15 to 20 active volunteers who are available to respond with the on-duty corps when a call goes out. This last fire season I went to Napa to help fight the Glass Stimulated. Being part of the coordination between teams of command on the ground, planes, and helicopters was a moving experience, to be even by the skin of ones teeth a tiny help in the big fight to put those fires out. 

The sense of comradery out on the field as a firefighter is similar to being on the field with a football body — you’re in the trenches, working together. 

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Moll playing for the Packers.

Tony Moll

A lot of the team coordination and quick thinking I well-informed in football goes hand in hand with firefighting, with running our wine business, and just with outstanding a successful life. 

Profitability matters, but I also evaluate TFG’s bottom line by means of “brand value.” 

Every year since 2017, we’ve got consistent sales growth, even during the pandemic, that has allowed us to continue to grow and support our amazing troupe. Still, we want to be more than just another winery, and we work hard to make a difference in our community every way we can.

By reaching our vocation goals financially and our mission with the charities we partner with, I’m proud that we’ve built a company that does diverse than just make a profit.

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