Retired Ram Applies Lessons Learned From Football in Building Business
Cleveland Gary Learned the Power of Faith in God to Overcome Challenges
Devin: What do you see as your superpower?
Cleveland: God has been good to me. You know, I’m a believer, I have faith, and I’ve always had to work at things, Devin. I’ve always had to work. I don’t know any other way. You know, whether it’s football, baseball, business, a lot of hours. I don’t have any alternative solution to success. I don’t have it. Maybe I sometimes wish I had. But it’s just it’s every day going back to the drawing board. And you know, as you get older, you know, you face a lot of uncertainties that you never that I was never introduced to. You grow up, your mother tells you, ‘Get an education. No one can take that away from you.’ But it doesn’t promise you success. When you wake up to reality one day, you know you’re dealing with people, personalities, politics, things that should not be in the way. Life: you should be judged by the content of your character, by your work ethic. Those are the elements that I think a person should be judged by. But unfortunately, life is not that way. You know, you have people in very prominent positions, and they may not be the best person at that position. So what do you do? You’ve got to stay focused, have faith and believe. You’ve got to believe in something. So I just choose to believe in God.
Cleveland Gary, known as The Cleveland Steamer, was a first-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 1989 and led the NFL in touchdowns in 1990. With the Super Bowl approaching, he says, “It’s always exciting when your alma mater is playing in the Super Bowl.”
“I enjoyed every minute of it,” he says, reflecting on his playing days with the Rams. “And to see them back in the Super Bowl, it’s like you’re there with them.”
Now a business leader, Cleveland shared some of the lessons he learned on the playing field that he applies in the field of business.
No cheating: “There’s no way to cheat and cut corners because the world is always watching you.”
Merit rules: “The best man wins. And that’s the way it is.”
Overcome Adversity: “It’s the little things you learn: how to suck it up, play in pain, how to overcome a lot of adversity on and off the field.”
Cleveland has now turned his attention to credit reporting, creating a company, Ecrid, to compete with the big three reporting agencies.
“When we did our research, we discovered that over 80 percent of the American population have inaccuracies on their credit report, which therefore causes higher interest rates on their mortgages or auto loans or personal loans,” he says, explaining his motivation for launching the business with a focus on redeeming people with bad credit.
“The credit bureau doesn’t discriminate against anybody, but it’s just a system. It’s antiquated. It needs to be revised so it can make it easier on the American everyday nine-to-five working Americans,” he says. “And so we created a system where you can revive, you can redeem yourself.”
Ecrid has an entirely new and independent model. Built with a lending model to provide credit, the system returns borrowers with late payments to good credit status more quickly than the traditional approach, which keeps records of late payments for up to seven years.
“Our credit scoring model has a redemption plan,” he says.
He notes that he knows “multimillionaires” with poor credit who will benefit from the program but acknowledges that folks earning $75,000 per year, working to buy a $300,000 or $400,000 home are the most common users of the new agency.
Because Ecrid requires users to make loan payments through its platform, the company has first-hand knowledge of on-time payments, eliminating much of the risk for errors.
At the moment, Ecrid is undertaking a public offering, selling 40 million shares at $0.50 each to raise $20 million.
Through all of life’s ups and downs, Cleveland has seen his faith in God as his superpower.
How to Develop Faith in God As a Superpower
While Cleveland can connect his football career success to his faith in God, there may be nothing that has challenged him and forced him to call on his faith more than COVID.
I had COVID and it was tough. Pretty bad. Something that I wish no person would ever experience. It gives you a different perspective on life. You start thinking totally different when you're in the bed, when you're weak. I lost 20 pounds in 10 days, 20 pounds in 10 days.
He says his faith in God got him through it.
One of the significant challenges of his football career came when he transferred from the University of Georgia to the University of Miami, where Jimmy Johnson was coaching. He anticipated being forced to take a year off, but the NCAA forced him to miss another season, meaning he only got regular playing time in a single season of college football.
“That one year, I set a single-season reception record that still stands to this day,” Cleveland says. Still, he reflects on the four years of college as a difficult time. “I struggled and suffered for four years of uncertainty.”
“The answer I have is just faith, hope, believe,” he says.
“People get tired, they just get tired, and some just can’t hang on anymore. But yeah, you’ve got to just to feel his presence and know that he’s there. You know that there’s hope.”
“You’ve got to believe in something,” he says. “So I just choose to believe in God.”
You can develop faith in something, God, the universe, ancestors, whatever you choose. Like Cleveland, you may find that faith can help you overcome adversity and allow you to apply your other superpowers to do more good in the world.