I’ll never forget my first real job interview.
It was the NFL Scouting Combine.
Part doctor's physical, part track-meet, and part job interview, the Combine is where 330+ college football athletes from across the United States gather to try and make it into the NFL.
Over four days, we are poked, prodded, X-Rayed, and measured by doctors to determine our physical health. Our cognitive ability is assessed during a 12-minute, 50 question "Wonderlic" test. And this is all before we even step on the field. Once out there in front of coaches, executives, and scouts, we are tested for endurance, speed, explosive power, and agility.
Nearly a decade of work and preparation was put into question during those four days of testing because I didn't do well—certainly not as well as I had wanted.
I lacked the prototypical speed necessary for my position as a Cornerback by running a 4.65 in the 40-yard dash; a newsworthy time would have been 4.39, and I wasn't newsworthy—yet. Fortunately, it wasn't all bad. I had a few things going for me, namely my size and my aggressive style of play.
Draft-day arrived, and my family and I watched every single one of the 254 selections over three days at my grandma's house.
My name—suffice it to say—wasn't called.
To those athletes who give everything to be a part of this game, it can be crushing not to make the cut, but I decided right then, and right there, my journey wasn't over—it was just beginning. If I was ever going to be a part of the NFL, it was time to get back to work, only now, I had gone from college-starter to undrafted free-agent.
We're getting ahead of ourselves, so let's take a step back…To understand the rest of my story, you need to hear about my past.
To say that my life experiences conditioned me for life as a pro athlete and later as a Commercial Real Estate Broker would be an understatement; I was forged, molded and shaped—at times by things far outside my control.
Life is all about perspective and persistence.
Sometimes I consider how my life would have turned out had my childhood gone differently.
I'd like to be able to tell you that my purpose and direction were influenced entirely by positivity, but that leaves out what might have been the most significant event in my life: the death of my father. My pops was taken from me by the day-to-day violence that plagued our inner-city neighborhood; I was 11 at the time.
I struggled with this event like any child would at that age, but unlike so many of my peers—I was surrounded by family, friends, and coaches who saw something in me that was worth supporting. Jeff, who is my older brother, did his very best to step up and into my father's shoes. To summarize this period of my life, I would simply say that I was surrounded by good people who had my best interests at heart.
To my family, coaches, and my community: I owe you a lot, and I'll never forget what you did.
Early on, I made the decision that I wasn't going to squander the efforts of everyone around me, or my own drive and talent. My singular focus became to play football at the professional level, and I was ready to work more intensely than ever to realize that dream.
From College Starter to the Buffalo Bills
The happiest days of my life were when I married my wife, and when my three children were born. Behind that, I don't think I'll ever forget the feeling of receiving a full-ride football scholarship to the Georgia Institute of Technology. My family's reaction was what you'd imagine…. they were excited.
College ball began to instill in me the skills necessary to compete at an elite level on and off the field. Whether you speak to the college football coaches or any other NFL coach, they'll tell you that elite players need to be tough, smart, and dependable among other things.
I continued riding high through college, but the NFL Draft would be a wake-up call. As I mentioned earlier, I underperformed in terms of my speed. It would have been so easy to slide into negative thoughts and give up, but I was determined—no matter what or how—that I would persist and make it in this game.
"Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit."
Football coaches drill us and push us relentlessly to survive and thrive in critical situations, and to be mentally tough under pressure. You see, when you don't make the cut in the draft, you end up a free agent trying to make a career in a sport where only 1.6% of NCAA athletes turn pro. This is the "freelancing" world of the NFL where you have to fight for every job, every spot, and every down.
Job security goes out the window.
For the next two years, I would be on and off the practice squads of both the Dallas Cowboys and the Denver Broncos, before finally being released by the Broncos in August of 2013. I prayed for guidance and then sat down with my wife to discuss my NFL career and decide if it was really over before it began.
Her advice and her words were exactly what I needed to hear, exactly when I need to hear them… She said, "Go! Follow your dream. Train. Do what you know you need to be doing." I listened. Then gave it 100%.
As usual, she was right (and she always is). In 2013 I was signed by the Buffalo Bills.
When you're not as fast as the other players as a cornerback, you have to develop additional skills to compensate. I replaced my lack of speed by being smart and anticipating what the offense was going to do, but most of all—staying calm under pressure every single down on every single play. Fair warning to Jets fans, this video isn't for you: Bills’ Mario Butler knocks away Kenbrell Thompkins’ chance to save the game.
Football requires far more than most of us are given credit for. Talent, genetics, and physical prowess will always take center stage with the fans, and while important, it is only one level of elite athletics. Often overlooked is the second level of play, in other words: the intangibles. These are the more abstract qualities professional athletes must develop if they want longevity in their careers, such as integrity, persistence, and the pursuit of constant development. By focusing on these intangible qualities, I was able to evolve as a player and overcome my physical shortcomings in the eyes of the coaching staff and scouts.
With the steadfast support of my community, team, and the coaches, plus my crusade to play at this level, I'd end up spending three years with the Buffalo Bills.
"To me, football is so much about mental toughness, it's digging deep, it's doing whatever you need to do to help a team win, and that comes in a lot of shapes and forms."
To pass on what was given to me without obligation or attachment, my wife and I formed the Mario Butler Foundation. Our mission is to provide opportunities for underprivileged children who grow up dealing with the same challenges I did. We provide scholarships, free camps, school supplies, and more. It's my goal to give the youth of my community more opportunities than I had.
To look back on my time in the NFL I never became a household name like Tom Brady, Randy Moss, or a Deion Sanders, but what I took away from the game of football has brought me success in every other facet of my life.
I wouldn't have changed a thing and am grateful for every minute of it, and the friends I made along the way.
A Transition 15 Years in the Making
Each person's story about their time in the NFL is varied and different. A reoccurring theme you'll come to understand is the immense difficulty most players experience as they transition past their pro-careers. The game of football consumes you as you focus on the next workout, the next play, the next quarter, making the team, and it leaves you with little time to think about the future.
As an NFL free-agent, my future was always uncertain; I had to carefully consider each decision I made during my time on the field. It was this mental conditioning that prepared me for life in the fast-moving world of commercial real estate. Now don’t misunderstand me…No transition is ever easy, but I was far more prepared than many. This preparedness and drive that I honed on the field—and with the unflinching support of my professional network—allowed me to bring my success on the field to the world of business.
My philosophy on life, on the gridiron, and in my real estate career, is still best summed up with the words “Every game is a big opportunity.”
The same level of drive and commitment I had in football, combined with the ability to compete at an elite level, has shaped my commercial real estate career and dramatically benefited my clients.
If you're looking to buy commercial real estate or sell your property, ask yourself, what should you look for in a broker?
Were you to research this subject you’d hear the following recommendations:
1. You want a broker that is highly available, communicative and puts in both the time and work.
2. You want access to pocket listings, off-market deals, or on-market deals that meet your goals.
3. You want a CRE broker that provides you current, relevant data, backed by keen insight into your target market and property specialty, including the minutia of various leases and financing or loan products.
4. You want a broker who can refer you, or manage for you, the network of people who will make your investment or sale a financially rewarding experience that is hassle-free. This network may include property managers, lenders, attorneys, and title companies.
5. You want a full-time broker who understands your market, your needs, and can advise you on the best way to allocate your time and capital.
This can be a lot to take in if you're considering buying or selling your first property or even your fifth. What makes a commercial real estate deal smooth-sailing is when you have the right broker on your side. For every single one of my clients, I bring consistency, quiet-confidence, discipline, a regimented work ethic, and a competitive series of tools to bear on each transaction.
Who better to have on your team and represent your interests than someone who understands what it takes to be part of the 1% of the 1%?
My specialty is helping my buyers and sellers with multi-family apartments.
If you're looking for guidance and someone to make sure your money is invested correctly, or you want to ensure the sale of your property generates the highest return on your investment, give me a call here: 904-903-4562, or email me at email@example.com so we can talk.
If you take anything away from this: I want you to know that I believe every client is an opportunity. I think about it, I wake up thinking about it, and I'm driven by this fundamental belief.
From my time on the NFL's battlefield to the commercial real estate world, it's prepared me to be your representative, your teammate, mentor, and real estate coach.
In summary, this story goes beyond my past and present. It's about our future—together. If you would like to say hello, or if you were inspired by my bio, or if it's time to put a starter on your team, then don't hesitate to reach out.
Here's to our next championship real estate deal.
Wishing You the Best,
Mario Butler, Associate Director