Steve Wyche - Staff
Friday, May 26, 2006
Falcons backup fullback Fred McCrary has scored just one touchdown in nine NFL seasons, but he knows the true meaning of paydirt. When he leaves his day job, he turns dirt into dollars.
"Who knew?" McCrary asked. "Who knew there was all this money in dirt?"
McCrary sure didn't when he had a chance golf pairing with a stranger named Robert Murphy two years ago in Atlanta. Murphy introduced him to brothers Phil and Fred McLauchlin, who had an upstart hauling business they wanted to expand. That led to what has become Colonel McCrary Trucking LLC, a company McCrary and his partners said is worth more than $10 million.
"I had been released by New England and was out of football, and one day I got to my golf course. I was a single, [Murphy] was a single and we said, 'Let's play,' " recalled McCrary, who re-signed with the Falcons for one year and $710,000 this spring. "We played. We talked. From there is history."
McCrary and Phil Mc-Lauchlin initially invested $300,000 each to buy four dump trucks. They worked from a tiny Buckhead office. The plan was to haul dirt and debris from one construction site to a dump or alternate site that needed or could handle the day's take.
Within five months, they recouped their initial investment and were growing rapidly, almost too fast, McCrary said. So they decided to seek additional investors. Soon after, with four new partners, McCrary said the company spent $5 million to acquire 87 acres of land on Moreland Avenue, eight miles southeast of downtown. The dirt and stone debris is recycled and sold to other construction companies.
The tiny Buckhead office is now a portable trailer on Moreland at the base of several piles of dirt and stone, which ascend high enough to capture a picturesque view of Atlanta's skyline. At high points, they have sub-contracted nearly 200 trucks a day. Barring bad weather, business is nonstop, McCrary said.
"The original mission was to be the premier dump truck operator in the Atlanta area, and if that worked, go beyond that," said Fred McLauchlin, the company's managing partner. "In reality, we wanted to make money, and each week see how it went."
McCrary spends his mornings in the offseason training with teammates at the Falcons' Flowery Branch facility, nearly an hour away from his business operation. He said he works at his office for three or four hours, three times a week.
During football season, McCrary visits the work site on Tuesdays, when all NFL players are off, and Fridays, when practices and meetings are cut short. When he's not spending time with his family, he's on his computer checking out everything from payroll to profits.
"Football is my primary job, and I've never lost sight of that," McCrary, 33, said. "I give all of my efforts, equal efforts, to both. I make a living at football and I make a living with my company, but football is what I love."
McCrary, who attended Mississippi State, said his business acumen was fostered as a youth in Naples, Fla., when his mother forced him to get jobs cutting grass and working at the local recreation center when he was barely a teenager.
When he was cut by New Orleans after the 1997 season, McCrary worked as a corrections officer at the Orleans Parrish maximum security prison.
Released by New England after the 2003 season, McCrary bought Hot Spot, a barbershop in Providence, R.I., which he still owns.
"My barbershop does well, too," McCrary said.
Not long after purchasing the barbershop, McCrary met Murphy and the McLauchlins. Then he got a call from the Falcons at the end of the 2004 season when injuries claimed all of their fullbacks. He performed well enough during the playoff run to still have a job.
Talk about a run of good luck.
"You better believe I feel all of this is a blessing," McCrary said.
When McCrary's playing days are finished, he said he'll increase his role with the hauling company, mainly in the marketing department. His gift of gab --- he hosts a weekly show on the team's Web site --- is a benefit his business partners said they use to the company's advantage.
"Fred's really our salesman in a couple different ways," Larry Fletcher, a partner and Atlanta-based land developer, said. "He sells the company to people he comes across, and he can be pretty persuasive. We're not going to lie, either. It is nice to be able to tell people, 'We got a partner who is a Falcons player. No. 44. Look for him.' It gets their attention."
However, McCrary said his love for football is too deep to completely cut ties to the sport and immerse himself in corporate America. McCrary plans to become a referee. He's interned at the NFL Europe referee training camp twice.
"Hopefully, with all this, I can let my money work for me and my kids will be set," said McCrary, a married father of two. "That's why I've done all this. I had to struggle growing up. I had to buy all my clothes, anything I needed, not wanted; anything I needed I had to buy. I was making minimum wage, $360 every two weeks. And you know what? I was rich."
COLONEL McCRARY TRUCKING LLC
> Founded: 2004
> Management: Fred McCrary, CEO; Phil McLauchlin, COO; Fred McLauchlin, managing partner
> Financial investors: Thomas Crymes, Mike Bell, Jim Mottola, Larry Fletcher
> Full-time employees: 25
> Sub-contractors: About 30 companies
> 2005 revenues: Not provided
Source: Fred McCrary