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'Hooters on steroids': One NFL alum's second act

NFL players have it made for life, right? Think again, says one former player with the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos, who has cooked up his own plan to live comfortably—by serving chicken wings.

After eight seasons in the league, Crawford Ker entered his post-football life, a period that includes financial struggles for many former athletes.

Crawford Ker, co-founder of Ker's WingHouse.
Source: Ker's WingHouse
Crawford Ker, co-founder of Ker's WingHouse.

"That money you have has to last," Ker told CNBC in a phone interview. "You either get a job, or you take a risk. It's very humbling to get a job making $40,000 when you were making a million."

He chose the latter option, co-founding a sports bar and grill in Florida with his last half a million dollars after his retirement in 1992. He describes the chain, Ker's WingHouse, as a "Hooters on steroids," featuring wings and scantily clad waitresses.

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Ker credits his NFL experience for some of his success in the business world. Yet his road was not an easy one. Before making the leap to the business world, Ker said he received "zero" help with money management skills.

"Once you leave the NFL, you're on your own," he said.

Since its founding two decades ago, the chain has grown to 24 locations. In July, Ker sold the chain—which generated $60 million in revenue last year—to private equity firm Third Lake Capital for a "good multiple." He declined to share the exact figure, and has stayed on as a consultant.

Ker said his experience in the NFL furthered his ability to make tough decisions, and helped him develop his work ethic.

"In the NFL, it's about performance and if you do well, they reward you," he said. "I took that same idea to the business world."

Moving forward, the chain's growth plan includes about five new restaurants per year and possible franchising plans. Currently, each location is company-owned.

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Although U.S. inflation has remained tame, meat prices have surged in the last year. That hasn't yet dampened demand for chicken wings, a perennial football favorite.

While Ker says chicken wing prices have been "volatile" in the past, he's not seeing a big impact this year ahead of the Super Bowl. In general, a wing restaurant can either raise prices or lose margins when wing prices rise.

"When your name is WingHouse, you're known for wings so you have to be careful," he said.