Sixteen years ago former Razorback Tony Bua headed to the NFL as a 5th round draft choice of the Dolphins. He fully believed that he was going to have a career in pro football and he was going to make good money doing it. Preseason camp went great but injuries ruined his rookie season raising questions with Bua about his football future.
“My father and my mother told me,” Bua recalled, “there’s a lot of different ways to make money if football doesn’t work out. I just remember thinking to myself, football’s gonna work out. That’s the only option that I have.”
But that option soon vanished. Miami waived him the following season and Bua lasted only briefly as a free agent for the Cowboys and Bengals. Using his degree in communications he kicked around in a few sales jobs before answering an ad that suggested good money could be made working for a roofing contractor. Essentially he had to convince homeowners that he was the guy to get them a quality new roof at no cost by working with their insurance companies.
“I had no customers,” Bua said with a laugh. “I could not get anybody to even let me check their roof for wear or damage. I was about to get fired when my boss said to me, ‘I want to see you up on a roof. Any roof. Let’s go.'”
“So he takes me out to a house,” Bua continued, “and I said to the homeowner, ‘Just let me look at your roof. I don’t want to lose my job.’ And he let me check it and we ended up replacing his roof.”
Bua saved his job but he quickly realized that he wasn’t getting much of the profit off of each roof job that he sold. So he quit and started his own company. It was then that he realized his parents had been correct. There was good money to be made for him besides playing pro football.
Bua was successful enough to end up neighbors with Houston Nutt, his college coach and these days he is able to say that pleasing customers is a lot like pleasing football fans. In Northwest Arkansas this summer subcontracting for a local roofing company Bua told me at a job site, “To take a homeowner from the beginning to the end, to be able to work with an insurance company and put a new product on a home at no cost to the homeowner, that’s what I live for now.”
The homeowner he was working with last Monday just happened to be a huge Razorback football fan, a man who has his own business manufacturing custom made tailgate trailers for Hog football fans. An easy sell for Bua, right?
“I was a little skeptical,” Mike Griffino admitted, “because I watched him play football. I just didn’t put football with a roofing contractor so I did my research just like everyone else and he has a really good rating. Does really good work. So it’s just an added bonus, somebody you watched play football his whole career gets to do your roof. “
On the job site with Bua was Houston Nutt III who first met the former Hog linebacker/safety back in junior high school when Bua was playing for the Razorbacks. Bua is teaching Nutt the roofing business.
“I feel a bit of influence from my dad in Tony, Nutt admitted, “and how he manages and how he works so that’s helpful. To see someone have success in something and be able to teach you something and you actually see his success. That’s been a huge thing for me and I think for all of his guys.”
And what is the number one lesson Bua passes along to his employees? Something he learned playing football.
“Everybody’s always trying to convince you there’s an easy way to make it,” Bua said while shaking his head. “It’s all over the Internet. Try this. Try that. Well let me tell you there is no magic pill. You get out there. You work. You meet people. You work through your connections and that’s how it’s done.”
The former Hog linebacker/safety says he hurts for today’s players. He wants them to have the same pride in being a Hog that he experienced. So when fans start talking the good ole days with Bua he says, “We need new guys. We need new leaders. We need new names. We don’t need to remember Tony Bua. If we sit around talking about guys from the past we don’t give proper recognition to today’s good players.”
Bua figures that he’s a good example of a guy who found out that it’s not what you planned to do in life that’s important. It’s what you do when those plans don’t work out. Still, if you ask him what he would have thought sixteen years ago if someone had told him that he would end up owning a roofing company he says, “I’d say they were crazy.”