The Super Bowl is the pinnacle of every NFL player’s career. Sixty minutes to determine what team was the league’s best. To the victors go the spoils. Teams and players will forever be immortalized. Shawn Bouwens, like millions of fans here in America and overseas, will be watching intensely to see who will step up in the clutch moments to help raise the Lombardi Trophy. Bouwens will have a different perspective of football’s ultimate game compared to the average viewer. That’s because Bouwens, once upon a time, earned a living playing in the NFL.
Bouwens — along with his teammate for life, wife Tracy — is the successful owner of several Scooter’s Coffee franchises in the Kansas City metro area. Serving coffee is his heart, but football remains in his soul.
“I still watch it to this day,” says Bouwens. “I enjoy both college and the NFL; the NFL more so because you’re watching the highest level of competition.”
The six-year veteran spent his professional football career with the Detroit Lions and the Jacksonville Jaguars. “I cheer for both teams,” Bouwens says. His six-foot-five-inch frame served him well as an offensive lineman, a position that is referred to as being “in the trenches.” His job required him to tussle with 300-pound defensive linemen every single play. Bouwens protected the quarterback and gave running backs room to run. Being “in the trenches” for Bouwens now means making decisions that impact hundreds of baristas, managers and others under his company’s employ. As Bouwens found, there are several skills that he learned playing football that translate well as a business owner.
“As a pro-athlete, you prepare yourself to be the very best every week,” says Bouwens. “You study, you meticulously watch film, you practice throughout the week. We had fun, but we worked hard. I take that same outlook in everything I do now with my business, with my family, with my relationship with Tracy. I’m always studying, I’m always analyzing, trying to figure out what procedure I need to take myself and my employees to the next level. Nothing beats hard work.”
Bouwens has found success in a career off the playing field. It’s a well-documented feat that many athletes to this day have difficulty navigating. Bouwens is first to admit it took him about 18 months to find his footing. “It was tough. When I was playing ball, that was my identity. That’s all I knew. When I retired, I knew it was going to be difficult. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a sense of purpose. But I ate, slept and drank football. Then it was gone. It was difficult not being recognized or being able to say, ‘Yes, I do play football.’”
“He mowed the lawn like clockwork for the first two years of retirement,” Tracy says. “I remember saying to myself, ‘again with the grass.’ The NFL does a good job educating and preparing players and wives of the various aspects of being a professional athlete, including the exit strategy. But discussing it and going through it was two different cases. When we went through it, it was hard. It was an interesting transition. We didn’t really have a plan for after the NFL.”
What they did have was each other. Tracy, who stayed at home to raise their three children while Shawn was playing, was now on a mission. She was ready to be an entrepreneur. Just as Tracy cheered Shawn on the field, he was now doing the same, as Tracy researched America’s love affair with specialty coffee.
That’s how they were introduced to Scooter’s Coffee. “We were watching the coffee industry emerge in the Midwest, and we’re ready to make the investment,” says Shawn. “After meeting with (Scooter’s Coffee co-founder) Don Eckles, we knew they were a perfect fit for us.”
Shawn wasn’t exactly sitting on the sidelines as Tracy was conducting her research. He was getting back to his family roots. While he and Tracy were cultivating their blooming Scooter’s Coffee franchise, Shawn was also jumpstarting his own general contracting business. Construction is something he’s passionate about. Bouwens advises athletes that it’s the passion for their post-athletic career that will keep them sane.
“Ask yourself what it is you want to do after athletics before that time actually arrives,” says Shawn. “Find something that you enjoy doing, whether it’s a trade, behind a desk, selling insurance, and determine how you can turn that into your own business.”
Bouwens advises players to be smart with their money while still on the field. Shawn says obviously when you’re a 22-year-old man making a significant amount of money, of course you’re going to make some extravagant purchases. “You’ve earned it,” he adds. Bouwens says the key is to have a supportive spouse by your side. “Tracy was my biggest cheerleader. She would challenge me. She told me whatever I set my mind to, I could do it. She always encouraged me, and that support has worked well for us ever since.”
While it isn’t as exhilarating as knocking a 300-pound defensive lineman flat on his back, Bouwens admits being a business owner has its own version of excitement. He notes, being part of the Scooter’s Coffee team brings back great memories. “They have fantastic systems in place to help entrepreneurs such as me and Tracy be successful,” Bouwens says. “We’ve been with Scooter’s Coffee for most of its existence, and the company’s systems, which have improved over time, gives franchise owners a great opportunity to help us succeed.”