Kevin Johnson learned a long time ago to always think ahead. He was raised by a single mother who made sure he remained focused on doing the right thing and preparing for his future. He also had others around him who did their best to impart their wisdom and guidance. And Johnson listened.
The former NFL wide receiver who played for the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Ravens and Detroit Lions, grew up in Trenton, New Jersey where an older friend took him under his wing. The friend, who Johnson still refers to as “my big bro,” taught him about life preparation, including the important lesson that from the moment a player enters the NFL he should immediately begin preparing for retirement. That friend was Troy Vincent, former Pro Bowl NFL defensive back and current executive vice president of football operations for the league.
But along the way there were others. Johnson attended Syracuse University, which recruited him as a quarterback. Unfortunately for him, he was on the roster behind future Philadelphia Eagles first-round pick, Donovan McNabb. Then another mentor stepped in. Syracuse teammate, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, who would go on to a Pro Bowl career of his own with the Indianapolis Colts, approached Johnson and gave him this piece of advice, “If you have an idea about going into the NFL you should switch to wide receiver.” Johnson made the switch and was drafted by the Browns in the second round of the 1999 NFL Draft.
“If Marvin had never told me that who knows what would have happened,” Johnson said.
Immediately upon entering the NFL, Johnson heeded the advice given to him by Vincent and started preparing for his life after football. He entered into the real estate business, buying properties in the Trenton area. Some he rented, others he fixed up and resold. The foundation was laid for his post-NFL career.
During his tenure with the Browns, the team’s owner, the late Al Lerner weighed in. “He said, ‘KJ as you grow up and you become a man there are two people you need - a phenomenal lawyer and a great tax accountant,’” Johnson recalled. “Those two guys have really guided me.”
Then his former wide receivers coach, Terry Robiskie, currently with the Atlanta Falcons, gave him another key suggestion. “He said, ‘build your team and build your company just like you’d build a professional team. Build your whole empire that way.’ And that’s pretty much how I did it,” Johnson said.
Now a full-fledged real estate developer, Johnson is the President and CEO of K Johnson Enterprises, a real estate development company. He returned to the Trenton area, where he lives with his wife and three children, and purchased 32 acres in Bordentown Township on which he has built a complex, which he calls Team Campus that offers a variety of medical and health service companies.
“I signed a major hospital to lease buildings,” he said. “I signed a bank. I signed a physical therapy group. I leased the entire complex out – 200,000 square feet.” The final addition will be a full service health club set to open in the fall of 2015 that will offer fitness options for everyone’s interests and needs.
“The key thing was playing professional football you’re able to get the best coaching and medical care,” Johnson explained. “So my goal was to come back to my local community and provide the best things for people. I wanted to create an environment for a regular person to get bigger, stronger, faster. I want to be able to put resources in front of them.”
The complex is helping the community in other ways. Not only does it feature companies offering essential services, but close to 500 jobs have been created. K Johnson Enterprises itself now has about a dozen employees with an eye toward future growth.
Johnson is trying to pay it forward, not only by helping his local community but by passing along what he’s learned from the mentors who have been so important to his accomplishments. His hope is that others can take advantage of what he’s learned and realize that there are people willing to lend a hand and offer guidance to take the next steps in life.
“When you play professional sports it’s such a brief part of your life. You meet a lot of great people but at some point that door closes and you have to reinvent yourself. I think that’s the biggest issue with some players. They’re afraid to say they don’t know and they’re intimidated because they’ve been the best at something for so long and they have to go through that learning process again. But, you can’t be afraid to walk through that door.”
For more information about K Johnson Enterprises and Team Campus: www.kjohnsonenterprises.com and www.team85fitnessandwellness.com