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CheramieIII 09-11-2004 10:52 AM

The Big Picture.
From the Times Picayune
The Big Picture
Saints tailback Deuce McAllister is planning for his future by getting involved in several business ventures in his home state of Mississippi
Saturday, September 11, 2004
By William Kalec
Staff writer
Vision is what separates Deuce McAllister from his peers, an ability to see what others overlook.

Where locals view vacant buildings as an eyesore to the Jackson, Miss., skyline -- skeletons of what once were signature institutions in the capitol city -- - McAllister pictures an opportunity to resurrect the past, financially zapping life into the structures by giving them a face lift and a new identity.

Physically, McAllister's Nissan dealership doesn't exist. There's no location. No inventory. No customers. No sticker prices to barter about. But he can still see it. In Deuce's eyes, it's destined to be a fully operating example for other dealerships to emulate, rooted in customer service and satisfaction and the first branch of his miniature auto empire.

And to you, it might be just a 30-second television ad, an excuse to change the channel. But look beyond the surface, or screen in this case. To McAllister it's a chance to make his name a business entity (like Jordan, Kobe or Shaq, he says). When endorsement opportunities finally catch up to his statistical production, he'll be recognized and trusted in every living room, not necessarily as a football player, but as a familiar pitchman.

Oh, the fourth-year pro also can pick out a sliver of daylight in the crowded trenches, and is able to spot that blitzing linebacker creeping toward the line of scrimmage. But strangely enough, as McAllister sits in his locker in between August two-a-day sessions, football isn't on his mind this instant. While teammates in adjacent lockers fill notepads and microphones with typical clichéd athlete vernacular, McAllister speaks in a different tone -- talking about dollars, cents and business sense.

"You don't really have to do it," McAllister said of his choice to pursue business endeavors. "You could just be safe with your money. I just happen to play football. I just happen to be blessed with talent. But I'm broader and I have too strong of a mind to limit myself just to be a football player. There's so much more out there in the world that I can be involved in."

At 25 years old, McAllister is involved in or has explored and examined so many business ventures, he's sure he'll forget something if he tries to name them all. There's the car dealership, which is scheduled to open in the summer of 2005, some real estate projects, a couple 18-wheelers he owns. At the same time, McAllister is a fresh off of his best season rushing with the Saints and hopes to be on the verge of supplementing his salary and business earnings with endorsement revenue -- intent on securing his financial future far after football.

"It's something that you plan for when you're growing up," McAllister said. "Especially playing this game and the business we're in, it's not going to last forever. You can make it four, five, six, seven, eight years, then you're done playing."

Business savvy

It was almost impossible to see this coming in Ludlow, Miss.

Because of its remote, rural location, McAllister's hometown created logistical obstacles for any youngster trying to figuratively spread his wings as an entrepreneur.

"Growing up, I didn't mow the yards," McAllister said. "I didn't have a lemonade stand, didn't sell donuts, nothing particular."

What he did have, and probably what proved to be more beneficial in the long-term than serving watered-down drinks for a quarter, is a business blueprint to copy and a ticket to explore the world outside of Ludlow, courtesy of his father Carl, who owned a trucking company and operated one of the vehicles. Despite the unforgiving schedule, Carl did his best to maintain some semblance of family, occasionally taking Deuce on the road when school was out of session -- - an informal education with a curriculum heavy in meeting and dealing with people.

Up close, McAllister experienced the values and the benefits in owning a small business. And coincidentally, the trucking business is how McAllister indirectly became involved in car dealerships.

Through a charity event to benefit Children's Hospital, McAllister met 33-year-old local businessman Matt Bataille, who made his money in car dealerships, and yes, in the trucking business. It was the ideal icebreaker.

"Deuce was curious about the car business," Bataille said. "That started our conversation. From there, we started to talk about the good, the bad, and he became more interested. We then looked at a couple opportunities, the numbers didn't make sense."

Until the Gray Daniels Auto Family recently chose to move one of its two Nissan stores in Jackson to Brandon, a neighboring suburb. The relocation left a dealership available. During the application process, McAllister and Bataille met twice with Nissan representatives in Dallas before being awarded the dealership, beating out a handful of other applicants.

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