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Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila playing for the Green Bay Packers Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila playing for the Green Bay Packers
 


From Football to Personal Finance

Aztec Hall of Famer Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila is founder and president of Yoseph Financial Storehouse.
By Suzanne Finch
 

With San Diego State University President Adela de la Torre driving major institutional initiatives in support of student, faculty and staff development, and with ambitious plans for future growth, SDSU opens 2019 with increased momentum toward an expanded community impact.

"Directions: SDSU in 2019" is a series highlighting top stories related to university research, student success and innovative programs and provides a forward-looking lens into the work of students, faculty and staff. This is the final feature in the series. 


Entrepreneurship is in Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila’s DNA.

As a student at Los Angeles’ Crenshaw High School, Gbaja-Biamila planned to earn his degree in business so that he could successfully take over his father’s plumbing business.

Fast-forward a quarter century. As anticipated, Gbaja-Biamila earned his business degree and he became an entrepreneur – though not in the way he envisioned as a high school student. Today, he is founder and president of his own company, Yoseph Financial Storehouse, established in 2018.

But Aztec football and NFL fans don’t associate the name Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila with finance. They remember him as a nearly unstoppable defensive end who struck fear into opposing quarterbacks and offensive linemen. He has been enshrined in both the Aztec Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 2013.

At first glance, the leap from a career in professional football to one in personal finance might seem unusual, especially given the stories of high-profile athletes who found themselves in serious financial trouble once their playing careers ended. However, Gbaja-Biamila, became interested in the field of financial planning through a turn of events that transpired after riots devastated parts of Los Angeles in 1992.

After the riots, Gbaja-Biamila and other students from Crenshaw High had plans to start a student-run nonprofit business, Food from the Hood. It would transform an empty plot of land on school property into a large garden to grow produce for sale at local farmers’ markets. The students got help from Melinda McMullen, who had taken a sabbatical from her position with the public relations and marketing communications giant, Edelman.

“While she was there, she talked to us about the importance of investing and financial planning, and it sounded interesting,” Gbaja-Biamila said.

It was through Food from the Hood that Gbaja-Biamila got his first glimpse into the world of marketing and money management. “I worked on the bookkeeping and the financial statements,” he said. “But I was really good as a salesman for the salad dressings. When we would give out samples, I’d say ‘It’s so good, you could put it on your cereal!’ Customers really liked that.”

Food from the Hood became a huge success, eventually rocketing Gbaja-Biamila and his classmates to fame. The Los Angeles Times featured their story in October of 1993, and in 1995, Gbaja-Biamila and another student appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine’s May 29 issue. “That kind of exposure was good for me,” said Gbaja-Biamila. “It helped me to be polished in front of people, which was a really unusual for a kid from the ‘hood.”

That “polish” would come in handy for Gbaja-Biamila. Scouts and coaches from Division I football programs began taking notice of his abilities on the field.

“I was contacted by San Jose State, Colorado State and San Diego State. I chose SDSU because I liked the coaches and they had obviously done their research on me,” he said. “I was also really focused on becoming a student-athlete. The head coach, Ted Tollner and Ken Delgado, who was the defensive line coach at the time, wanted all the players to get their degrees, and I liked that. Remember, I wanted to take over my dad’s plumbing business. I knew SDSU had a good undergraduate business degree program.”

As an Aztec, Gbaja-Biamila became a star with lasting impact. He still holds the SDSU team record for most career sacks (34) and tackles for loss (58.5) and is third overall in tackles among defensive linemen (221). 

Off the field, Gbaja-Biamila was working toward his degree in management. “Originally, I was majoring in marketing,” he recalled. “But I knew that if I wanted to own a business, I needed to learn how to manage people, so I switched my major to management.”

Just before earning his SDSU management degree in May 2000, Gbaja-Biamila was chosen in the fifth round of the NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers. He played for Green Bay his entire career, during which time he was named to the 2003 Pro Bowl and broke NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White’s team record for sacks. Clay Matthews currently holds the team record for sacks with Gbaja-Biamila in second place.

After retiring from the NFL in 2008, Gbaja-Biamila took time off to spend with his wife and eight children. Because he had lived frugally, invested wisely and worked with a trusted financial expert to help manage his assets during his NFL career, Gbaja-Biamila was able to purchase his “dream home,” he said.
 
He also decided to make a career of his interest in personal finance. In 2014, he went to work as a wealth advisor for a Green Bay-based financial management company and he returned to school to earn a master’s certificate in financial planning, eventually becoming a registered CFP.

Gbaja-Biamila followed through on his high school goal of becoming an entrepreneur, but his skills and determination, along with his passion for football and wealth management evolved far beyond anything he imagined as a teenager. He offers this advice to people trying to build their own nest eggs: “The financial world is like the four seasons – there is constant change and, sometimes, things are green and other times, things are cold and stormy. But if you don’t panic and you have a plan in place, you can weather the storm.”