Former San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders cornerback Shawntae Spencer is teaming up with Wingstop to bring 15 restaurants to his hometown of Pittsburgh.
Spencer retired from the NFL earlier this year, but started contemplating his future beyond football while he was still playing.
“As I transitioned out of the game, I was already thinking about what I wanted to do next,” Spencer says. “My business partners and I attended franchise conferences and did research on a few restaurant concepts. It happened that Wingstop was something I ate and loved, and there were none in Pittsburgh, so it was a great fit.”
Spencer, whose favorite Wingstop flavor is Lemon Pepper, was first introduced to the wing chain while playing for the Raiders.
“It’s a funny story,” he says. “It’s tradition on travel days that the rookies have to pick up food for the team on the flight. We always got Wingstop. It was like a locker room craze. If we weren’t happy with the food we were eating, we’d just send a rookie to Wingstop for wings. Then I found one near my house and started making late-night runs.”
Spencer says he’s ready to get back to his hometown. He attended Woodland Hills High School in Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh before being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 2004, where he played for eight seasons. He retired with the Oakland Raiders in 2013.
“I’m excited about getting into the restaurant business and introducing my hometown to the best wings around,” he says. “Wingstop fans are everywhere. Pittsburgh is a huge sports town, and wings and sports go hand-in-hand. It’s going to be great.”
Spencer hopes to open his first location next spring and is reviewing sites throughout Pittsburgh with his business partners, Rob Wilson, Allen Robinson, and Roderick Danley.
He joins a growing team of athletes turned Wingstop operators. Former NFL athletes Ron Stone and Willie McGinest operate locations in California; NBA forward Drew Gooden owns a Wingstop in Orlando, Florida; and former NBA player Voshon Lenard owns several locations in Detroit.
The chain’s spokesperson is Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman.
With a sole focus on made-to-order chicken, the Wingstop menu features classic and boneless wings and Glider sandwiches, all sauced and tossed in 10 proprietary flavors. Homemade side dishes include fresh-cut seasoned fries, made daily from Idaho potatoes, baked beans, potato salad, and house-made ranch and blue cheese dips.