"You realize so many people in college -- I was like this at one time -- want to believe your whole life is football. But then you realize there is so much more," Brannon said.
Say hello to Ross Brannon, the entrepreneur. Brannon, 23, who resides in Tallahassee, is in business with former FSU teammate and Dallas Cowboys center Clay Shiver. The two are investors in a pair of skin care products as well as a protein snack stick. That's not all. Both also dabble in real estate and are extremely active in church functions.
Football is a fond, but distant memory for Brannon.
"Obviously, I am okay with that because I love life now. I don't miss football at all," Brannon said.
At 6-foot-8 and 310 pounds during his playing days with the Seminoles, Brannon believed he was born with the gift to play football. Brannon was darn right, too, starting 25 games at FSU over three seasons on the offensive line and earning All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors in 1998 as a sophomore. He was one of just two redshirt freshmen (with Donald Heaven) to start along the line for the Seminoles in 1997.
Along the way, however, Brannon's right knee began to fail, gradually worsening to the point where walking became difficult. By the time Brannon was forced to give up football in 2000, he had underwent six surgeries in a span of four years on his right knee.
In fact, Brannon's last procedure was relatively experimental at the time -- cartilage replacement. Dr. Thomas Branch, of Atlanta, made an incision across the top and the outside of Brannon's knee and added a few new and spare parts -- three screws, staples, bone grafts and a small c-shaped piece of cartilage from a cadaver. Branch had performed 59 similar surgeries before working on Brannon, whose job was to protect Chris Weinke.
Brannon, a former standout at Lassister High School in Marietta, Ga., had hoped to play the 2000 season after appearing in just two games in 1999 -- Louisiana Tech and Georgia Tech. However, Brannon was forced to leave football when his knee couldn't hold up to the rigors of football.
"I don't have any regrets," Brannon said.
"Obviously, I would have liked to finish my career out. I would have liked to have played healthy, fulfill my potential. My freshman year (1997), I probably shouldn't have been on the field but they were short people. I was 285 pounds and getting tossed around like a rag doll. Then my sophomore year, I was basically playing on one leg. I didn't get to finish my junior year. I felt like if I would have been healthy and played my junior or senior year, I could have done pretty well."
Although still plagued by knee discomfort and swelling, Brannon is a daily fixture at a local gymnasium. He continues to mix weight lifting with some cardio work, but every now and then, Brannon will get a wild hair, the competitive juices kick in and. ... well, ouch. Break out the bags of ice.
"My knee is okay for normal life, but anytime I get dumb and try to mess around on the basketball court, it swells up on me like crazy," Brannon said. "At times, it might swell up a little bit just from doing nothing. It's fine for normal life as long as I don't run, play basketball or lift my leg the wrong way."
At this point in his life, Brannon is more concerned about making right decisions away from the gym. He relishes the opportunity to be a role model, and has traveled with fellow church members such as Shiver, former FSU teammate and current Philadelphia Eagle Corey Simon and former FSU hoop standout Ron Miller across the country, as well as across the globe to South Africa, to speak to children.
"We speak about character issues, just to let them kids know there's more to life than the stuff you see on MTV, there's more than money and sports, it's about making the right decisions in life," Brannon said. "It really has impacted my life in a positive way. Honestly, I don't know what I would be doing right now or where I would be without it."
Brannon also wants to take the smart approach in the business world.
Brannon and Shiver became investors/partners last fall in Regency skin creams -- products Brannon says helps clear skin conditions from wrinkles to psoriasis to burns to lesions. The creams are high in omega fatty acids found in Ostrich Oil, which is considered ideal for a person's body.
The two also marketing a protein stick, which packs 10 grams of protein with only two grams of fat. For more on their products, check out http://www.regency-products.com or e-mail Brannon at firstname.lastname@example.org
As you can see, Brannon is surviving life without football just fine.
"Things are starting to move and it's really exciting," Brannon said. "We are keeping busy."