Shawne Merriman, the legendary three-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection NFL player, made his mark in the world of football. A former first-round draft pick, he was dubbed “Lights Out” by his opponents. Recently named a celebrity ambassador for Bellator MMA, Merriman is also the entrepreneur behind a booming new apparel company, Lights Out, named after his moniker. I caught up with the star to gush over the line (truly, I love it), to talk game and what’s next.
What did your eight seasons in the NFL teach you about yourself as a man?
I try to tell people that football is like life. The injuries we have in the game are like adversities to come back from in life. You have to have the dedication to get up in the morning and get to the gym and to practice just like you have to be dedicated to finding what you’re passionate about. For me, passion drives so much. If you don’t have the passion, it will show in your work.
I’ve been looking at your clothes and I need to get one of everything. it’s all so great. Where did this love of design come from?
I got my nickname, “Lights Out,” my sophomore year in high school. I knocked out four guys in one game and afterward, people were coming up to me telling me I knocked those guys’ lights out. That nickname stayed with me through college and into the pros. I decided to start a line of clothes with that name and people loved what the brand stood for. Over time, I started to understand the industry and with my passion for fashionable workout clothes, I opened it up to the athleisure market in 2012. That became a big deal for me. I like staying as innovative as possible. If there’s a new fabric out there that’s going to give people better results, I will get a hold of it and use it in the clothes.
How much a part of the design process are you?
I have final approval of everything. I give my designers the concept and direction and they come back to me with a handful of things to look through. I’m not a designer. I don’t believe anyone should do anything they aren’t great at. If I’m working with someone, I want to know it’s their passion. It’s important to have designers who are moving in the same direction as you.
What’s your hope with Lights Out?
I hope that in the next two or three years, it becomes a brand that’s not just a household name, but can compete with the biggest brands out there. I have a real love and passion for this. It’s one of the reasons I was okay with being done with football. I was ready to walk this path. It’s about more than just clothes, it’s about a brand. It’s a brand you feel confident wearing.
Retiring from one career at such a young age, you’ve been given a chance to conquer new dreams. What else do you want to dive into?
Right now, I have a bunch of great partnerships with the brand and that’s what gets me up in the morning. I’m at the gym by 7:00 a.m. and Lights Out is what gets me up and going.
After it’s all said and done, what do you want your “story” to be?
I grew up in a tough upbringing. We didn’t have much and I’ve been homeless more than a few times. I want people to know it’s possible. When I went to college, no one from my high school had played Division 1 football in college. People thought it was impossible to be drafted so high in the draft. It wasn’t impossible. You can do anything you want to do, whether that’s playing in the NFL, building a brand or whatever. It doesn’t matter where you come from. I’ve had plenty of naysayers tell me it was impossible and I proved it was not.