Who are you once the label of professional football player wears off? What can you do off the field to become something more than an athlete? Josh Martin’s guest, Buster Skrine, has formed a company to help athletes, models, and musicians do just that. Versatile NYC is a company focused on helping these individuals broaden their platform by linking them with brands that share the same mission. In addition to Versatile NYC, Skrine founded SkrineWay, an organization dedicated to helping children and single mothers in New York and New Jersey. Josh and Buster discuss life after the NFL and how to focus on the “Now what?”
Listen to the podcast here:
Becoming More Than An Athlete With Buster Skrine
I’m glad to have you on the show. We’ve been talking about this for a while. I was talking to David and I said, “Your brother was coming.” He was like, “Buster? You’ve got to have at least a plus 5 to plus 10 with the entourage.”
No entourage, we’ve got a team.
That’s what it is. It’s all about the team. That’s something that I pride myself on is doing everything for the team. I was telling these guys, “Do you want to know the coolest guy I know?” I think you probably are the coolest guy in the locker room.
I appreciate it.
You had the coolest clothes.
I was telling them before I came here. I said, “Josh is a good dude. We will have a real conversation.” He knows everything and 100% genuine too.
I have nothing else to give. It is not worth the energy. That being said, there is something to be said about authenticity and working to find your true self or work towards your true self and shedding any identity that might be placed upon you. That’s what this show is about and being more than a football player, but also this journey that we’re on in life, generally speaking. A lot of the guests that I’ve had on have been founders of companies, artists, videographers, people that I can learn from. That’s why you’re on the show. I’m excited to have a conversation to pick your brain and figure out what you’ve been working on.
We build off each other in a way. It’s a conversation for sure.
What are you working on? I know you have this Versatile NYC.
Versatile NYC is a PR and marketing company, but at the same time, it helps athletes, musicians, and models. It helps them broaden their platform because I feel like as an athlete, you play football and that’s all you do. Nothing else but play football, then when you get something off the field, your agent gets you one thing. Here is the signing of free T-shirts. You go and do a signing for a company, but you don’t know what the budget is. You’re completely blind because you’ve got to play football. That’s how you worry about it. You need to go back home and go to sleep and perform. I founded Versatile NYC because athletes and models are the same way. They have agents like, “I need you to be here at this time. This is how much they’re paying.” You have no clue what the budget is.
It is the same thing with musicians, “Sign this deal for six years for $1 million.” He has no money so he signs it. He says, “It sounds good,” but he’s not making any money. I started Versatile NYC and we keep everybody on the budget so they see the contract. “This is the budget. This is what we can give and this is what the other stuff is the money is going to be spent on.” In January 2020, we already got fifteen events. We had one guy, but he’s like, “My agent told me I couldn’t get nothing off the field because I got in trouble.” I’m like, “It’s life. You’re 24 years old. You’re going to mess up.” Yours got put in the media where he’s like, “Everybody else drinks every day and makes bad decisions sometimes,” but for him, to say, “It’s because you got in trouble. At least you know how it feels and this isn’t an excuse.” He’s blinded by that because if you’re under somebody that’s in New York, they’ve seen everything. They know everything. They know how it’s going to be NFL players and out every year.
It is your time to explore and get to as many people as you can is short. It’s a ten-year window. If you have a great career, it could be two years. I feel like people don’t maximize so I built the Versatile NYC. We ask people what their passion is. “What do you like to do? What are your hobbies?” We link with brands that would be willing to work with them. We try to get people retainers every month like, “Every month, you’re working with this brand. They’re giving you $500 a month. If you have ten people, you get $5,000 a month or we try to get stuff up front.” If you’re a bigger name player or well-established, you’ve been playing for a while, companies will pay you money upfront. If you wear this up holes like our contract, we’ll give him $20,000. Whereas in the real world, $20,000 is hard to get, but people have the money to do it. Why waste it on something like a flyer or something that’s not going to make you any money, when you can use the actual person and the brand that’s going to reach out to a whole new crowd. Not just your crowd, every other company you’re working with can reach out to those crowds. That’s how we came up with the concept. I’m excited about it. I also got screened with an event company that gives money back to charity. That’s Skrine Way. That’s all of it.
This didn’t just start. This is based on the experiences that you’ve had in your career. How long have you been with the Jets? I know you’re a free agent.
Four years and I was with Cleveland for four years.
Where you from Tennessee?
I’m from Atlanta. I went to school in Tennesse.
That’s my bad. I didn’t fact check that. You went to school in Chattanooga. That’s what I remember. You’re back and forth between here and Atlanta.
Mainly up here. It’s a little bit hard to get stuff started in Atlanta. Money is different.
Atlanta is coming up as the East Coast Hollywood I read in the Delta Magazine or something.
It is cheaper. People can get all this space and film and do stuff and not get charged out the ass. I’m from Atlanta, but I feel that the market is better in New York. It’s the heartbeat of the United States. This is the heart. People say LA is good too but I feel like if you’re in LA, you’ve got to be established to survive out there. Out here, you have no money. I met a promoter, I hand him bread. He’s on the sidewalk handing out flyers. I’m like, “You’ve got a good personality.” Now, he’s one of the town’s best promoters. He is making good money and the MSG bought Taso.
He’s already part of MSG.
He wants to be a promoter, a party guy, that’s cool, but he did a great job.
He’s making a living off of doing whatever. That’s what banners are all about. Making a living off of your passions and exploring that. I picked up Gary’s book, Crushing It!. Shout-out to Gary Vee. Not that he needs it but I’m about 30 pages in. It’s a good book. I’d recommend it.
I’ll check it out, the audiobook.
I think I’m going to buy a Kindle. I’m going on a trip to Asia soon. I’m going to buy one of those eBooks, Kindles, and chilling. Seeing the sites, it gets some content. I’m going to get my little handheld gimbal and record some footage and try to edit it up myself and see what I can do for me.
What are you trying to get into? That’s a hands-on lesson.
I’m getting into everything. I made this big networking push, especially I’ve had calls and meetings. I have this show, I have a vlog, a couple of blog series that I’m working on. I’m looking to increase my web presence by putting this content out. I have a web series coming up, The Spring, that I’m working on. I was talking to the guys in here before you guys showed up and trying to build something beyond football. They’re talking about this idea of legacy and leaving a legacy that’s larger than football. The larger than the legacy I’ve made for myself and football, but for me, it’s about affecting a positive change within the greater society. It would be nice for the United States and the world and doing that by establishing a brand. It’s not explicitly tied to football, though it may be informed by some of the experiences that I’ve had with football.Everybody's got to start from somewhere. Your job is to find your place and plant the seeds of your future. Click To Tweet
For example, being a part of a team, doing things for the team with the understanding that the greater good of that particular team is within my best interest for the team to do well. That same concept can be applied to politics in the country, in a neighborhood, in a society, or culture. If everyone’s doing good, we’re all doing good. That’s how it is. Being able to promote that through content that I’m brainstorming and executing on is the plan. I’m starting that explicitly informed by a more focused brand as opposed to putting out generic content, being more strategic with what I’m doing. That’s what this web series is for me. I’ll be traveling around the country, meeting with the social influencers in particular cities. I have the route plan. I want to announce the route yet, but hopefully touching on some social issues and using food, which is another interest and passion of mine. Everybody loves food. Your first experience in most cultures is through food. Food is an expression of culture. We’re trying to use that vehicle to start the discussions that I think are important. It needs to be in this country to help bring people together and start that conversation.
Do you ever see Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives? It is off the chain, but you’re going to come back out of shape.
The goal is like, “I’m going to take with me an exercise band and hopefully maybe jump rope and try to stay in shape with Reebok.” We are not paid to say that. It is funny you mention that. I’ll give you some more details. The show I’ve been working on the one-sheet and the pitch deck and trying to collect all my thoughts into a cohesive statement and something that I can present to people and be able to discuss what the show is about in a more holistic view. The show is a cross between Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, Parts Unknown, and then Huang’s World by Eddie Huang from Fresh Off The Boat sitcom. He’s a chef. I think he’s a first-generation immigrant. His parents were Taiwanese. He has a restaurant over in the East Village called BaoHaus or Gua-Bao.
BaoHaus is something like a menu.
He has a show before the sitcoms, Huang’s World, where he goes around the world and discusses social issues with people. It’s a cross between Anthony Bourdain, Huang’s World, and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives without the jukebox. There’s this element of not hip hop culture, but culture. I’m trying to describe it to you, but I’m still working on it. It’s a work in progress.
The Versatile NYC, I’m still working on that too. Every day somebody asks me a question, I’m like, “Let’s try to sound smarter than anything to get something out.” I go back and be like, “I don’t know if that was the right thing to say, but you could rework it.”
It’s always a work in progress.
I always tell people if somebody walked into the room, “You are human. I’m human. People mess up and everybody’s trying to figure stuff out.” Even the biggest CEOs in the world, I never judged anybody. When I do walk around, I don’t care if you like me or not or if you feel a certain type of way about me, I’m going to say what I’ve got to say. If I mess up, you should already understand that I’m not perfect. Even in football, I go out there and play. If I mess up, I don’t care. That’s why I feel like I’ve been playing for so long. If I mess up, I know everybody’s getting paid out here. He going to make a play too so I feel like that gets me by daily.
That’s perspective and perfection. Gary Vee says some stuff about perfection. I’m in his office so I feel like I have to reference Gary Vee a lot. There’s no pressure. Perfection is poison. I think he might have said that. There might be a direct quote that he said that before.
Poisoning is like a bad poison. I agree. He talks about regret is poison.
I messed it up. That’s my bad, but chasing perfection doesn’t get you much. This is about putting it out there, working with what you’ve got, moving forward, getting better every day and putting in the work.
That’s true. Everybody has got to start somewhere. You’ve got to start and plant the seed.
I want to touch on that. Where did you start from? You didn’t become the founder of Skrine Way, Versatile NYC, and eight years as an NFL Pro. How did you become? Where has your journey taken you from?
I was born in Georgia. I used to wrestle, so I feel like that’s where I got my aggression from. Everybody’s like, “He’s a feisty little guy.” I wrestled and I played football. I made it to the all Georgia State team. It is big time, but I was only doing that all Georgia State team that did not go to a big school because everybody came to my school and they’re like, “It can’t be you because you’re too little.” I graduated at 140. I was small so I wouldn’t have a chance at Chattanooga. Even the schools I did visit often before when I got there. I don’t know if you remember Joe Daniel. He might’ve been here before, but when I got to the schools, they pulled the offers like, “Something came up, but we’re going to stay close in case.”
They offered you and then pulled the offer. They watched the film, saw the plays, they saw you in person, and pulled you off.
They’re like, “Come on and visit. Once you come here, we got you.”
I’ve never heard of that before.
The first school, I went to Georgia Southern and then Fairmont. Both of them pulled, but Georgia Southern DB coach ended up being my coach for the Jets. It’s like we circle back around. He’s like, “You did make it.”
It’s a small world.
I got drafted and went to Cleveland. You know how this fifth round period you’re not promised. “We’re hoping you’re paying out.” When I was in Cleveland, they had paid a dude a nickel three-year, fifteen minutes. I’m like, “Why did you even pick me up if you’re going to pay a guy that’s going to be in front of me?” He ended up getting hurt and I took advantage of the opportunity. I started from thereon. They traded him to Miami and then on my third or fourth year in Cleveland, I probably watched some more film than I ever watched in my life because I said, “I want to set myself up financially.” I ended up interning in New York before I signed on. Before I flew there, they knew they wanted me. I interned at the Downing Group to figure out what I was going to do with my money.
I told my agent, “Miami wants me. That’s where I want to go.” Miami ended up offering me and the Jets offered me. I said, “It’s more opportunities in New York.” In Miami, I probably just party to it,” so I ended up coming to New York and played for the New York Jets. I started something called Skrine Pro Speed in the offseason. It was for kids who couldn’t afford speed training. I went to their school and I would train them in real detailed stuff. In high school and middle school, you’re bound to get anything from anybody who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. I was like, “Every Saturday and Sunday, I go to the schools and I’ll speed train them.” A parent came to me and said, “Why don’t you do stuff for grownups?” I’m like, “I can’t be doing all this for free.” I started putting a number on it. I reached out to a place called Core New York. They’re like, “You can come in. You can use the studio and then make sure we donate half to the charity and then you can keep the other half.” I did these workouts at Core and everybody’s like, “It’s like a party in here. I’m having fun. I’m getting good workouts. It’s like the vibe.” I said, “I should start doing events.”
That’s where the events came from. We started trying to do events. They get people and I can give a different experience every time. It’s like the yacht event, wine, and sip. We try to switch up every time, do a different spot. In 2020, I partnered with GoldBar. I’ve got a little partnership going on. I’m going to be there at one time. I’ve got a couple of other people who have reached out, but then I started Versatile NYC because I’ve seen as a vet, everybody is one-sided. It’s just football, but I try to open people’s eyes to see that you can be a football player, a model, or a musician. Sometimes you get tired of it and the way you can stay sane.
You feel burnout.
That’s what I was saying, “I like you to do stuff outside of it but still keep my mind building because I feel it works in football too.” You are always going and trying to think of ideas and stuff. It carries over to football. You build certain confidence. Overall, you become a better person. That’s when I started looking.
I can identify with this burnout idea because it comes too much. It consumes all of your life and then you recognize that “This isn’t going to last forever. I’m putting my heart and soul into this.” Not that you shouldn’t put your heart and soul into this or to whatever you do, but it was consuming me.
One day, you’re going to be 30-something years old and then what? Now you’re supposed to sit at home and golf every day.
Not everyone gets those big contracts. Even in speaking to high school students or college students, I know some players do. They assume that they’re going to make it to the NFL and that path isn’t always as straightforward as people may think. You had your experience with the college coaches taking back offers after you put it on film.
It’s like going to the community college, in the street.
That’s how it is sometimes. You have to work your way up to make it through the CFL. Guys have injuries. They have to work through injuries and that decreased their value and end their careers. The reality is you have to invest in yourself beyond football. I like to think of it in the way that, “I put all this work into football.” Football has provided me a certain number of opportunities. All that work that I put into football provided me these opportunities. I need to take advantage of and make the most of everything that my football career provides me. Whether it’s a nice contract, a nice car, relationships, access, and to make the most of those relationships and that access in pursuing different professional opportunities, which you’ve done an excellent job of. I admire you for that.
With you saying that too, we say football players take advantage of opportunities. Everybody in here and you started here. I’m sure you want to be your own boss and CEO one day. You’re taking advantage of the opportunities you’re getting to build what you want to build with at the end of the day. Everybody is pretty much the same. Since we put on, I’m not going to say a higher pedestal.
There are stages, for sure.
You get labeled.
That’s how it is. That’s the cool thing about this show. I had Brandon Copeland on one of the first episodes of the show. I think it’s important to recognize how much football is a business. It’s a profession. The same rules apply to other fields and industries. It is the same determination and grit and versatility applies. The same rules apply. If you want to last and be successful and have this not necessarily glamorous life, but be fulfilled in what you do. It all requires the same skillset for the most part, beyond the physical abilities and requirements of the sport.
I feel like hard work too. People might say, “Hard work,” but that does pay off.”
Hard work pays off.
A lot of people think that you can be physically gifted or mentally gifted and get by.At the end of the day, you shouldn't really care what anyone thinks. You could be completely wrong, but you're never wrong on purpose. Click To Tweet
The kid doesn’t catch up until he catches up.
Every time you’re trying to figure out why, “I don’t know what I want to do,” because you play video games.
He coasted and he was dealing with you the bare minimum. It’s not to say that you weren’t necessarily successful in doing the bare minimum, but what’s next when that doesn’t work anymore? I’m glad we touched that. I had a thought in my head that I wanted to talk about. What does your future look like beyond football? Are you planting those seeds in there? Do you have a lot that you’re doing off the field? The Buster Skrine organization, company, brand, what does that look like in 5 to 10 years down the road? I want to say 5 to 10 years because you’re a healthy guy. You have to take care of your body after your career because you never know.
I want to continue to build. You plant that seed and you let the tree grow. I feel the seed is still being planted. I’m still trying to put the dirt on it. It is only getting started. People are like, “You’ve got so much going on.” For me, I don’t want ever to feel I’m done like a flat line. I want to go like this. I can’t tell you where I’m going to be in 5 to 10 years, to be honest, because every day is something new. I get a call every day. I don’t know how it turns into.
It’s onward and upward. One thing that I recognize, for a little context, Buster and I are pseudo locker neighbors. Our lockers are only one space down. Spencer Long was between us. We had these conversations and I remember I asked him, “How do you manage everything that you’re doing? Do you have a system? Do you have people to help you manage these relationships? Do you leverage technology? What do you use to stay organized?”
I never want to be that guy that’s like, “Here’s a project. Go and do the project.” Most of the time, I’m involved, but I do have a team of people. I’ve got a couple of women that work on the firm. I’ve got my brother and he’s always with me. I have a team, but it’s a team of people I trust. It’s hard to trust people. I’m going to tell you, I had a $20,000 deal on the table and I let somebody that I barely even know go in there and speak for me and he jacked it up. I got so mad at myself. Why did I do that? Am I getting comfortable? All I had to do is ride twenty minutes. I could’ve done it myself, but I went with somebody I didn’t trust. They say in the NFL, prove and reprove, that’s the same way for me. I want you to prove and reprove because you’ll be better for yourself and better for the company as a whole. A lot of people were like, “I work for him.” I would say, “No, we work together. I am working for you too.” We both tried to create something and that’s it.
I feel that. I’m working on building my team and I reached my limits and my abilities. I feel I’m starting to go crazy again and trying to manage everything that I have going on. It’s a good crazy because I’m excited. I had a conversation with someone that I met through my assistant. Another one of her clients and hopefully, I’ll get her on the show. She is a super amazing and impressive young woman. I was talking to her about building a team and about how I found this new passion and focus on my brand and trying to effect positive change through this celebration of diversity. That’s for me, but for anyone, there’s a good busy and there’s a bad busy. It’s a bad busy when you have no direction and you’re scrambling to doing anything and everything.
It’s a good busy when you have all these opportunities that align with what you’re trying to accomplish. You’re trying to manage and juggle working towards something positive and something fulfilling in your life. I think that’s an important difference to note. It matters because if you’re working towards something that you want, ultimately, that’ll drive you to achieve in that space or towards that goal. It’s something that’s energizing. When you’re not doing that, it’s draining. It’s not sustainable.
I know exactly what you are saying. If I were to go out and drink and I have to work the next day to get the alcohol off, I feel awful. The only reason I’m here is I wasn’t drunk. I go out now and then, but I can take one sip every day, I’m good with it. I’ll wake up and I’ve got 1,000 emails and I can’t function. I don’t like stuff like that. Sorry, we are talking about drinking, but I like to go out here now and then.
Drinking is okay. It’s all about moderation. You’ve got to keep your sanity. I indulge myself, it’s a matter of the time and place. I’m not going to go out and have a cocktail hour before a night game, but after the game, why not hang out a little bit and chill and vibe and do all that cool stuff? That’s all we had to talk about. Do you have any questions, thoughts or anything you’d like to leave with the audience? What you’re up to? What to expect from Buster?
What do you think about critics? When do people start criticizing you because it’s brand new like, “What is he doing?” what are you going to say?
I’m doing me. If you don’t like it, then you don’t have to watch it. You don’t have to be a part of it. I have a vision for my goals and my dreams and I’m working to achieve that. It’s a work in progress. I’m going to make mistakes. I’m going to learn from those mistakes, but I’m always going to move forward so you’re not going to care.
That’s what I want to close it out with because I don’t care what anybody thinks at the end of the day. I could be completely wrong, but not on purpose be wrong. Who cares?
I care if it’s constructive criticism. If it’s a troll online, let’s call it shaming me for dressing a certain way or looking fat, I’m not going to respect the troll. If you have something positive to say to me or negative but it’s constructive and I can build on that advice, then I’ll consider that for sure. In terms of putting me down for the sake of putting me down because you’re hating, I’m not going to pay that any mind.
If they got a Greenway jersey on, I’d take that off. They get mad when you do stuff out for you.
I’ve had comments on my Instagram. I’m trying to make the most of my time. I can sit on the couch all day and then someone said, “What are you doing? We need you on the field. Why are you doing all this stuff?” There’s only so much you can do. I’m not going to lift weights eight hours a day. You’ve got to watch films all day. It’s like, “I’m not playing. My season is over.” Wake up and watch films, lift the weights. Why are you eating that? It’s like, “I’m playing on Sunday. You’re watching on TV from the couch. Let me handle it.” It’s all about perspective and where that person is coming from. If they know what they’re talking about and they have some valid insight to provide value to you, I’m going to take a listen.
I think nowadays, people care too much about what people think. That’s the point I was trying to get across. You shouldn’t care about what anybody thinks unless it’s somebody you respect. That’s why the world is going crazy because people care about what people think with social media and all types of stuff.
There’s a lot to impact there. People in power that do think a certain way that negatively influences lives through what they think, it’s important to be critical of those people, but I don’t think that’s necessarily what you’re talking about. Instagram trolls, you’ve been warned. You’ve been served. I am glad to have Buster on the show. You’ve been a great teammate, a great locker neighbor. I’m excited to see what you’re up to next. I’m going to serve you. I’ll stay connected for sure. Hopefully, we get an opportunity to do some cool stuff together in the future. I appreciate you.
About Buster Skrine
Darryl Frank “Buster” Skrine Jr. is an American football cornerback for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League. He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
He played college football for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.