A Toledo, Ohio native, DeShone Kizer (DK) grew up playing football, baseball, and basketball at the all-state level; where his sports journey led him to God Country, Notre Dame to play quarterback and study at the Mendoza College of Business. After a few successful seasons on the Gridiron at Notre Dame, the business-minded QB was selected in the second round of the NFL draft to the Cleveland Browns and became the youngest starting QB, leading them in 15 games that season. A true entrepreneur at heart, DK left the stadium lights for a spot in the NFT space after completing his 5th successful year in the NFL, where he chose to explore his entrepreneurial dream with the idea that is at the forefront of all technology. As a free agent in 2021, DeShone dove deep into the Crypto/NFT world networking and learning from some of the biggest investors and builders in the NFT space; which led him to trade the stadium lights for a spot in the NFT space by full-time quarterbacking the One of None team.
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
I grew up in West Toledo a few miles from downtown. To those who I do business with now, the hood I grew up in would be considered the ghetto – but to me, my friends, and most of my teammates we had it made. This is simply a testament to my amazing parents who worked their tails off to ensure that my siblings and I had everything we could ever need to excel on the field and in the classroom and stay out of the streets surrounding us. Being that they both work in law enforcement, I grew up in a relatively strict household and knew from a young age that my way out of the city was going to be on an athletic scholarship. My Momma and Pops went to college to play sports and taught me from day one that the only way to get that scholarship was to earn good grades in school and PRACTICE. So most of the freedoms of my childhood came at the cost of finishing next week’s homework early or waking up early on the weekends to get some training in at the YMCA before my Pops started playing pick-up basketball with players half his age.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
My entrepreneurial journey started in high school. After receiving a scholarship to play sports at a private catholic high school, I was exposed to what I called then “Country Club Money”. My new classmates were kids of lawyers, financiers, and business owners – and after spending some time at their homes and getting a little taste of what it was like to ride a golf cart over to the pool for a snack that could be purchased by a magical member number, I knew exactly what I was destined for… business! So when it came down to making a choice on what school to attend for college, it was a no-brainer to head to the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame. I knew it would give me the best chances to network and learn everything I needed to know to one day start my own business and, of course, get myself one of those magical country club member numbers.
What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
Believe in yourself. Coming from a former professional athlete who has been through hell and back at training camps, starting a business is single-handedly the hardest thing I have ever done. But similar to athletes, the entrepreneurs who separate themselves from the pack during those tough times and achieve greatness are those who ask great questions, ignore the noise, and find a way to integrate the unique experiences that only they have had into what they do. If you believe in yourself and apply the knowledge that only you have to your business then the competition you are open against will never stand a chance.