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Next Chapter: Will Witherspoon takes football lessons into business ventures


CHARLOTTE – Will Witherspoon enjoys a challenge.

The former Panther linebacker's 12-year NFL career prepared him for anything, and these days, he spends time wearing various hats as an entrepreneur.

"I'm a very wild west kind of guy," Witherspoon said. "And I have no fear of trying to go out and do new (things)."

Witherspoon heads up a low-voltage business in Atlanta, focused on fiber, audio, and telephone connections; he's working on development projects with former teammates. He's involved with an aluminum can company, which he said is on track to produce 600 million cans in its second full year of operation, and he's laying out the plan for a procurement company in the future. He said his most important title is father to six children, ranging in age from 18 to 4 years old.

"What I'm working on now is really a culmination of the things that I love to do," Witherspoon said. "I like to connect people. I like to figure out how to solve problems, especially in business identities, and it only makes it entertaining for me. Like, I get excited talking about how I can help somebody solve an issue, grow their business, or develop something. If I can figure out who to talk to, what to do, or how to talk to somebody, that's great."

On top of the ventures he continues to add, Witherspoon said his "place of respite" has been his sustainable cattle farm, Shire Gate Farm, located near Owensville, Mo., about 70 miles outside of where he's based in St. Louis.

Shire Gate started with Witherspoon buying 185 acres so he could house his two Shire horses, and it grew into a 700-acre cattle production operation when he started to consider the best way to use the land efficiently. The efforts focus on producing "humanely raised, antibiotic and hormone-free, natural grass-fed beef," according to Shire Gate's company website.

"(Purchasing cattle) led me down a path of understanding how our cattle are produced, why they're produced the way they are, how they can be produced … and then what we can do that's more sustainable and actually allows us to produce the animals in a capacity that's more appropriate for not only our environment, but our health," Witherspoon said. "That's what's led me to that, and that's one piece of what I love."

Witherspoon said his professional football journey prepared him for the ventures he's involved with today. He started his career with the Panthers as a third-round selection in the 2002 NFL Draft after a four-year playing stint at Georgia.

Once he got to Carolina, Witherspoon got his first opportunity in place of an injured Dan Morgan. He became a consistent starter alongside Morgan through the 2005 season, and today, he still calls Morgan (current assistant general manager at Carolina) one of his best friends. He said it's consistent with the "WitherMorgans" nickname they adopted when they first developed their close bond.

Will Witherspoon, Dan Morgan

"To be honest, there's not a lot of people that get thrown into high-pressure situations where you have to have an immediate response, right?" Witherspoon said. "And that's one of the key characteristics of playing in high-caliber sports, as well as participating in athletics in general. You have to perform; you're asked to perform. You have to put yourself out there and know you've got to give for the benefit of others. …

"It is a two-minute drill at all times."

When he isn't coordinating new ideas and working on his business opportunities, Witherspoon juggles dad duties and supports his children in their athletic endeavors. His oldest daughter is attending EIU for volleyball next year, as his three oldest are all heavily involved in volleyball and traveling for games. He joked that he often feels like "a soccer mom," cheering for his kids at any event he can go to across the country.

And on top of the busy nature that comes with a big sports family, Witherspoon is thankful his children get to enjoy his place of respite – their farm in Missouri.

"I give zero (care) about anything else except enjoying what my kids get to do and watching them grow up, making the choices they want to make," Witherspoon said. "The fact that my kids love the farm, love getting out there and having their time, and just knowing they get their own freedom. They know the rules, but they get to be who they want to be and enjoy themselves and have a good time."