NASHVILLE SINCE 2013
Luke Rodgers has built a 10 million dollar sports merchandise company. He’s been an NFL analyst for CBS Sports. He’s also traveled the world, living in an orphanage in Thailand, rebuilding a city destroyed by a mudslide in the Philippines, and surfing in Australia. Now he’s got several new projects in the works, from his sports podcast with his brother Jordan called Sports Related to a coffee-related project. He’s creating a podcast with snippets on being a man and a gentleman, and he’s a new co-owner of Nashville’s ultimate frisbee team, the Nashville Nightwatch. With each, he’s got one common goal: connect with others and make a difference in the world.
Luke grew up in northern California, and was pre-med for undergrad. “I was gonna go to med school, I took the MCAT and everything, I just didn’t feel like that was me at the end of the day,” he shares. He got an MBA instead, in the midst of which he started his first company, the licensed apparel company Pro Merch.
The company took off like wildfire. They were NFLPA, MLBPA, and Major League Baseball Hall of Fame licensed, and partnered with about 50 retired athletes, from the Babe Ruth and Walter Payton estates to Devin Hester and Don Mattingly. They had an exclusive partner in Target. Luke’s business partner lived in Nashville, so Luke, who loved the city, took the plunge and moved in 2013.
“I have an MBA, and you think you know a lot about business when you come out, but when you wear every single hat in a company you realize how difficult things are,” he says. “I feel like I learned more in the first six months of starting a company and having it grow really exponentially fast than I ever did in two years of business school.”
For the first two years of Pro Merch, Luke chose not to take a salary, re-investing in the company and the six employees he was able to hire instead. “That was six families, and that was really cool, cool enough that I didn’t pay myself, because I wanted to make sure that everybody was taken care of before me,” he says.
When the company eventually came to its end, Luke took that ethos to CBS Sports, where he worked as an NFL analyst. But it didn’t feel quite right. “At the end of the day, I didn’t make the world better, and that kind of bothered me,” he says.
After two years, he quit, and channeled his love of sports into his current focus, the podcast. He and his brother, former Vanderbilt quarterback and Bachelorette star, Jordan Rodgers, discuss the sports world and host a range of guests. With each episode, he’s connecting people to each other and to the sport. “At the end of the day,” he says, “I want to feel like somehow what I’m doing, whether it’s directly from my occupation or because my occupation is a tool for that, is making the world a better place for someone other than me.”