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Ray Reyes, a restaurateur based in Norman, Oklahoma, was searching for another partner. Ryan Broyles, meanwhile, had been looking for another opportunity.
Broyles worked hard rehabbing from injuries his entire time with the Detroit Lions. He was smart and shrewd, and he wanted to work. When Reyes saw Broyles jump in alongside the workers they hired to construct the restaurant, he knew he had something different.
Ryan Broyles turned his NFL savings into a company that manages about 40 rental properties. He talks about his real estate investments and then gets in there and starts demo-ing tile and putting in toilets, doing things of that nature.
Football never worked out, with injuries continually derailing Broyles' chances to be consistently productive. He was released during the preseason.
She explained different ventures. One stuck: real estate. But I never thought that I would own a property-management company. Never thought at some point I would be raising money to build buildings and apartments.
I want to continue to build that way. They started a property-management company, Infinite Rentals, which Welcher helps manage.
Not that he ever anticipated his life going quite like this when he left Oklahoma. He spent the season working out four days a week at the Michael Johnson Performance center in Dallas, waiting for a phone call for a tryout or a chance to re-enter the league.
That call never came. Broyles went to Oklahoma's pro day the following spring. He had a tryout with Jacksonville that went nowhere.
Not wanting to be a guy who hung on just to hang on, he moved on. Ryan Broyles, hampered by injuries, played only 21 games in his three-year Lions career.
She first met Broyles in her special-education class at Norman High School when he came to work with students. She saw how he interacted with special-needs kids and suggested he work at the YMCA summer camp while he was at Oklahoma, after getting university approval.
That was more than a decade ago. Welcher had by then started to do her research, too. She knew the percentage of athletes who ended up broke. She heard Broyles talk about wanting to reach the NFL. Welcher began repeating this message: You want to live to be years old?
Your money has to last. She'd grown up around commercial real estate, invested on her own and began advising and making suggestions. Broyles bought his first investment home in Tulsa in , a property he recently sold. He eventually bought three properties with Welcher during his Lions tenure, all based in Oklahoma.
It just became like a drug.
He branched out to restaurant co-ownership last year, too. But there's still always a connection to sports. He describes The Porch restaurant as a "4-iron" away from the school's football stadium.
And he's compared his new world of real estate to his old one of memorizing X's and O's, of drilling route combinations and route trees. When he finishes a transaction, Welcher said, Broyles compares it to scoring a touchdown. Plus, he has a handle on plans for his long-term future.
He's a real estate and restaurant investor. He's a father. A husband. A mentor to those who might want to follow in his path. He learned something else along the way, too, something that helped him partner with Welcher and Reyes and other people in his real estate ventures -- something he didn't always understand in the NFL.
I need relationships. I need bankers.
I need mentors. I think a lot of people, when they leave the game, they may not realize their full potential until they actually have to use it.