A few days after Lance Moore signed a two-year contract to join the Pittsburgh Steelers, he reached out to Bruce Gradkowski, his former teammate and roommate at the University of Toledo.
Moore needed directions around the city, advice on joining a different NFL team … and a place to live in Pittsburgh.
The former UT quarterback offered Moore a room in his house in the city’s south suburbs. Again, they were teammates and roommates. Soon after Moore moved in, Gradkowski noticed something that had always stood out about his roommate: Moore was meticulous about everything. He laundered his own clothes and folded them, even arranged them by specific colors and shades. The downstairs room that Moore occupied in Gradkowski’s house was always tidy. After dinner, Moore even helped Gradkowski’s wife, Miranda, wash dishes while Gradkowski spent time with his daughter, Lily.
Moore and Gradkowski will be on the same football team for the first time since 2004, their final year at Toledo, when the Steelers’ players report Friday for training camp in Latrobe, Pa. Gradkowski’s hunch told him that Moore’s diligence would also benefit his business interests as a budding restaurateur.
Gradkowski offered Moore a chance to work with him, and last month, Moore became an investor and a part-owner in Social Gastropub in Perrysburg, one of two area restaurants that Gradkowski owns, along with Gradkowski’s at Gateway at Dorr Street and Secor Road.
“When I walked into Social, I thought, ‘wow, everything here is first-class,’ ” said Moore, who joins Gradkowski and co-owner Mike Graber in overseeing Social. “Being a teammate is one thing, but being a business partner is another thing.”
An undrafted wide receiver out of Toledo, Moore, 30, won a Super Bowl with the Saints four years ago and had 4,281 receiving yards in eight seasons, including 1,041 in 2012. The Saints cut Moore at the beginning of March in a move to make more room under the current NFL salary cap, but Moore’s career wasn’t over. The Steelers signed him two weeks later.
Yet Moore has seen what has happened to some of his former teammates who did not prepare accordingly for life, post-NFL.
“It’s almost like a bomb dropped when the money wasn’t coming in anymore,” said Moore, who earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and professional sales from Toledo. “We can’t play football forever. The money we make in football is something that we may not see again, and we have to position ourselves in a way that we’re not struggling once football is over.”
That could mean retaining a financial planner at the start of one’s career, taking advantage of the NFL’s career-transition programs, or seeking out other ventures such as real estate or investments during the course of a playing career.
“Going to school with Lance and other guys at Toledo and being roommates with Lance, we knew that someday we’d use our degree for something other than football,” said Gradkowski, who begins his ninth NFL season and second with the Steelers. “You want to be prepared for what happens after football. For a lot of guys, football is 24/7. Once it stops, some guys even ask, what do I do now?”
When it comes to business, Gradkowski sees the same qualities that have helped Moore forge an NFL career: his discipline, his work ethic, and his attention to detail.
“Any time you can team up with the right kind of people, it helps you,” said Gradkowski, who earned a business and marketing degree from UT. “Lance knew what Social would be like, but when he walked in, he loved the atmosphere. But any time you can team up with a guy that’s dedicated to helping you and understands the team concept, that always helps.”