WINDERMERE — It’s not that Tony McGee disputes the factuality of the ESPN “30 for 30” film titled “Broke” — a film that chronicled how an alarming percentage of professional athletes struggle to maintain the wealth they accumulate during their playing careers.
On the contrary, the Windermere resident makes a point of keeping up with former teammates and colleagues from his 11-year career playing in the NFL and is often disheartened to learn that some of the former athletes are not doing so well.
What McGee, the CEO and owner of HNM Global Logistics in Orlando, takes issues with is that more of the good stories are not being shared.
West Orange County and Central Florida, at large, have long been popular places for former athletes to make a home after their playing days and, as McGee tells it, many of them are sharp, astute businessmen who are an asset to the economy and the community.
“We don’t know about that because all we see is the ‘30 for 30,’” McGee said. “Why don’t they do a ‘30 for 30’ on the 30 guys who have done the best? That’s something I would really like to watch and see. Let’s focus and concentrate on the positive, sometimes we just sensationalize all the negative.”
McGee, a native of Terre Haute, Indiana, who played nine of his 11 years of professional football for the Cincinnati Bengals, originally settled in Dr. Phillips in 2001.
“Back then (moving to Central Florida) was a trendy thing to do because you could get a lot of house for your money, you had a favorable tax situation and, (once) you spend a couple years in Cincinnati and Indianapolis in the offseason, it doesn’t take much to realize that a T-shirt in January is not a bad lifestyle,” McGee said.
The former tight end started thinking about life after football before his playing career ended, but said he originally spread himself thin in dabbling in investments, restaurants, a sports complex and more.
Capitalizing on the Florida housing boom of the last decade, his company, originally named HNM Enterprises, was started as a real-estate firm.
A gradual shift occurred, though, as McGee recognized other opportunities. In 2008, he was certified as a minority business owner, and that opened doors for contracts — including the venues projects in Orlando that include the Amway Center and Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts — that brought his firm into the realm of construction and, eventually, logistics.
Those contracts were awarded in 2010, and by 2011, the growth potential in logistics was so apparent that McGee focused the efforts of his company there. Then, much as a good head coach seeks out top-notch assistants, he put together a formidable team of logistics professionals.
“The best decision I ever made was assembling the team we have in place now,” McGee said. “Our core people, everyone is still here three-and-a-half years later. Our growth potential is pretty amazing. … The one thing I will take credit for is really assembling a great team.”
Now, the biggest problem he and his team face is how to handle that growth and continue to move forward.
“Everything that we deal with on a daily basis is good because it’s, ‘How do we figure out how to deal with the volume that’s coming in?’” McGee said. “How do we widen our footprint and open up offices in other markets? Those are all great problems.”
What’s more, the lifelong athlete — who still rises well before the sun comes up each morning to complete a 4 a.m. workout — utilizes that same competitive mindset as an executive, just with a different variation of what constitutes a win.
“It’s very exhilarating when you land a big client or you move a shipment,” McGee said. “To me, it is a game. It is a competition.”
In addition to training physically each morning, McGee spends time each day keeping up with current events, as necessitated by his line of work. Things such as the value of the dollar, gas and oil prices and current happenings such as the work stoppage at the port in Los Angeles all affect his business.
The longtime football player finds a great sense in fulfillment in life after the game both as an executive and a father. His daughter, Hannah Nicole McGee — for whom his company was named — is a standout tennis player at Windermere Prep.
McGee said there is a blueprint available for athletes to be successful after sports and that it continues evolve. Among his advice to current athletes, or anyone in any position of relative prominence, is to start thinking ahead now while their own personal income is high.
“The biggest thing I tell people that are in the spotlight is to really build all your relationships and do everything you want to do at that point, because your phone calls get returned a lot quicker when you’re a current player versus former.” McGee said with a laugh.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].