Stephen Tulloch may have been a former football player, but his actions have always proved he is much more than an athlete.

Understanding the bigger picture: Tulloch knew the corners of the field would only take him so far. So, he made sure to take advantage of the resources afforded to players.

When he was drafted to the Tennessee Titans in 2006, he was soon greeted by David Thornton, the Colts’ director of player engagement, who gave him an ultimatum that cemented how he chose to conduct himself on and off the field.

The wakeup call: “I walked through the locker room, he said ‘Look, there are one or two ways you can go. You can follow that guy over there, have all the jewelry, get all the girls, and live the lifestyle. Or, you stand over here and you conduct yourself as a pro. You take care of your body as an entity, you get back in the charity community, and you find a way to have longevity in your career,'” Tulloch told AfroTech in an exclusive interview.

NFL Business Combine: That message never left Tulloch’s radar.

During the off-season, Tulloch joined the NFL Business Combine, which brings together 30 professional players, premiere organizations, and business leaders to ensure athletes will gain new skills, build an established network, and strengthen their business interests, according to the NFL’s official website.

Life After NFL

Tulloch’s time here served as the breeding ground for what he would pursue post-football such as entrepreneurship, real estate, and the Stephen Tulloch Foundation.

What’s more, Tulloch found a way to combine his areas of interest into one through a three-story coffee shop that resides in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Giving back to the community: “When you leave the game, you don’t have that passion anymore cause you don’t play the game,” Tulloch said. “So, you gotta find something that moves you. What moves me is my foundation. I love giving back and helping people. What better way to attach my foundation to a coffee shop where people drink it every day, right? It’s a part of their life, so I tie my mission to my business, which our mission statement is Circle House Coffee’s philanthropic vision and [the] goal is to give back to the local community. That’s our why. It’s easy to pivot from playing football with my foundation and tie it to my business ’cause this is what I’ve always been.”

Tully Arm

Circle House Coffee’s efforts to give back also translated into how they treat their employees. Two years after the launch of the business, the pandemic hit. However, the coffee shop not only stayed afloat but the staff saw a 140 percent increase in employee tips. This was made possible by the “Tully Arm.”

According to information provided to AfroTech, the invention is described as a “safe, patented, no-touch point of purchase system that makes staff and customers feel at ease when visiting the drive-thru or walk-up window at his restaurant.”

Tully Arm allows employees and customers to remain more cautious with the use of an automatic hand sanitizing station. In addition, the system allows customers to leave a tip of their choice for the service and relies on contactless payments, including Apple Pay.

“What we do now so everyone wins, is we keep our base pay at a certain rate,” Tulloch explained. “Employees make more money per check, our speed of service is much faster, and the customers feel safe because their credit card or cell phone never leaves their hand. It’s been a great model for my business, especially times like this where the economy is kind of crazy, but we’re able to keep our employees happy, they’re making money, and we never have problems with employees asking for pay raises because the tips hit every pay period.”

Empowering Athletes

The Tully Arm is just one of the numerous ways Tulloch is improving lives in the community. He’s also aiming to empower athletes and provide them with a similar awakening toward their calling. This is why — over the last four years — he has partnered with the Miami Dolphins to invite nearly 40 players to his shop through an entrepreneurship program.

“I am able to change the narrative of what NFL players are like and what they do. We’re more than athletes and it is humbling to me because over the last four years I’ve been working with the Miami Dolphins. Every year they bring about 40 players during February for a day or two for the entrepreneurship program. At my coffee shop, I talk to guys about transitioning how you play as a football player, what to take care of, and how you transition outside the league. So, I think that’s my most inspiring, humbling moment,” Tulloch expressed.