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Former Dallas Cowboys football player Darren Woodson retired from ESPN this week to transition full time into a commercial real estate career.
As Woodson made the move, Frisco, Texas-based ESRP named him a partner.
Woodson joined ESRP, a tenant-rep firm, as executive vice president in 2017 and spent two years commuting back and forth between DFW and Connecticut to keep his analyst career at ESPN going.
After tireless travel, his gut pushed him in one direction over the other.
“I know where my heart is. I know this [commercial real estate] is what I love to do, and I made a decision to walk away from a career that was part of me for 14 years,” Woodson told Bisnow.
The Cowboys connection is strong: ESRP was co-founded by fellow Cowboy Emmitt Smith in 2013, though he left in 2017 to focus on real estate development and construction. The company is located at One Cowboys Way at The Star in Frisco, developed by a firm associated with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
This may be Woodson’s third career in three decades, but the former NFL safety has spent more than two decades preparing for a leadership position in commercial real estate.
The last two years he went through a training camp of sorts, which required him to work Sunday nights through Tuesdays at ESRP.
“It’s been a really hard juggle. I fell in love with ESRP a couple of years ago and when that happens, your focus is on one thing and your joy is in one category. It’s hard to juggle whatever you are doing on the opposite side,” he said.
The connections and network that Woodson brings to the table at ESRP after more than two decades as a national athlete and public analyst is invaluable, considering the company leans on strong relationships with the community to effectively represent tenants.
“My role … is to create strategic partnerships with corporations and leverage the relationships I have made here in the community for the last 30 years in Dallas,” Woodson said. “Relationships with CEOs and CFOs and a lot of those individuals that are in C-suite positions now are men and women that I’ve grown to know in the last 30 years being associated with the Cowboys or out in the community.”
Woodson is well-connected within DFW having worked with the Make-a-Wish Foundation and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.
In the past two years, he assisted ESRP in working with key customers such as NTT Data, Argo Data and MoneyGram.
Now that he is a full-time tenant rep, Woodson said relationships he has cultivated for two years may transition into future deals.
He believes one of his strongest assets is how well he knows the hometown that adopted him as a Dallas Cowboys player.
From the Bishop Arts Center to Uptown and Legacy West, Woodson views his experience with DFW and the relationships he has here as a way to introduce relocating companies and tenants to the area.
“There is so much going on here that I can show them and make that introduction,” he said. “I don’t think there is one restaurant owner that I don’t know, and that’s the part of me being a Texan and a Dallasite.”