Seneca Wallace is the former NFL player who graduated from Iowa State University, Ames, IA. While playing college football he was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks; which he has a successful career with them for 7 years. After playing for the Seahawks he went to the Cleveland Brown; which most people know that as the “last stop to nowhere”. He then signed with the Green Bay Packers where he was the first Africa American quarterback to start a game with the Green Bay Packers, which was huge thing. Although Seneca is not originally from Iowa he decided to open the very first WINGSTOP restaurant in his college town Ames, IA. Seneca felt the warmth and love from Iowa State Fans and students; which helped to solidify his decision on the placement of WINGSTOP. Since then Seneca has opened several other WINGSTOP’s in the Des Moines Metro Area.
Urban City Magazine had the liberty to interview Seneca Wallace and his Director of Operations Phil Holmes to discover their vision for WINGSTOP in Iowa.
Q: How did you get started and what inspired you to open a WINGSTOP and get into the food and beverage industry?
I had to figure out what I wanted to do after pro football. As athletes we’ve been successful on the football field so we want to figure out what can translate and what can we do after our career is over with and what can keep our interest. And a lot of that is kind of challenging in the food & beverage industry, but I think you have to find the right franchise to do that, and WINGSTOP provided that opportunity for me. I spent a lot of my life in Texas where WINGSTOP started, it started in 1994. Being around the brand and the culture that they build down in Dallas I understood what it was about. The product was there they created a very warming environment for the guest and there is a lot good reports, it moved quickly and that intrigued me. Once I stated branching out figuring out what franchise I wanted to do to. It just made sense for me to build in “Iowa” due to my name and brand being here, and there was not another wing place that I believe could compete with the brand. That is how it started for me.
Q: How was the transition from living the NFL life to becoming a business owner?
The transition wasn’t difficult but more of a tedious transition on understanding all the different things that go into franchise development especially with myself not having a background in franchise development you have to do your research. I would always hear people speak about location being a huge part of that I had to do a lot of research in coming to Iowa an understanding what demographics suites WINGSTOP in Des Moines. When you don’t have an understanding of all of the things to do and what it takes to open a franchise the transition was challenging for me especially coming from being an athlete because as competitors we are always trying to figure out ways to keep competitive, intrigued and dialed-in and doing franchise development and transitioning after coming from the NFL into placing a nice WINGTSOP polo shirt on intrigued me a lot.
Q: What is your position and thought process on the Black Lives Matter movement?
Black lives Matter movement is something very dear to me and I think it is something I will continue to support. I think it is critical for me being a successful black man here in Des Moines, IA and throughout the country who’s had success on the football field and in corporate America. Having been through a lot of different experiences in my lifetime where I have been discriminated against on and off the field. I go back to a time era where black quarterback wasn’t treated the same as white quarterbacks if you were more athletic in a sense they felt they should switch up the positions on you and make you a runner back or place you in some other position because they felt certain positions was only for the whites. They felt that black people didn’t retain information in the same way whites understood information. That’s just one piece of it. If you fast forward to things off the football field there are things we have to deal with on a day to day basis. There was something that happened here at the store where a couple of my windows got smashed out, I have to support change! Change has to happen so if I have to replace a few windows I can do that, but we can’t replace all those lives that was lost. We have to make sure we keep the narrative of change for the black lives. I get looked at differently because I’m an ex-athlete some sort of celebrity but that doesn’t change for the person living in the inner city of Des Moines that might need some sort of help. We have to keep the narrative of change!
Q: What is your take on professional athletes taking a political stands in height of everything going on? And why do you feel that way?
I think professional athletes need to take a political stands because their voices matter. Obviously there was someone who said something interesting at this point where we are now really the streets are talking. I believe it was Dave Chapelle and they don’t want to hear from Kevin Hart or celebrities. The streets are talking right now they are woke cause there are things that have been suppressing us that we have to deal with for so long that I think now the celebrities we are taking a back seat to this, but an extra added support system in a sense where to now the streets are talking and every other athlete from hockey NasCar basketball football everyone is standing up. I think that’s what’s going to get change when we have very race supporting the movement and not creating a narrative saying its “All lives matters or Blue lives matter”. Everybody need to have an understanding about what it means when they say Black Lives Matter. If you think about it you are just saying, black lives matter? We Matter? It doesn’t sound right or make sense that we even have to create that narrative. There are so many things that we have been through in our history, so there is something that definitely needs to be changed, and I support. Every athlete must come to the forefront and lead in this change.
You are walking a fine line, definitely for the sport all sports for that matter. You got to handle the situation accordingly and obviously we are talking about a lot of people’s lively hood as well. But I think everyone must be on the same accord, everyone has to be able to say, “hey this is what we are going to do”. We must do it together, because even when you go back to Kolin Kapernick he did not have everyone supporting the whole kneeling thing. You had other individuals creating a narrative on what kneeling was about, and that was not the blacks. The blacks understood exactly what he was taking a knee for, but you had some white people saying “you are disrespecting the flag and our country.” Yet at the same time Kolin Kapernick got this information from someone who was in the military, who said I’d take a knee if you want to create an environment and create change by saying our country is the land of the free and home of the brave. In reality that’s not what is happening you have black folks being murdered left and right for nothing, so we are not free, so people need to stop trying to change the narrative. I think everybody collectively are at the point now where the world is like, hey this is what we need to do, and I think there is no better time than now.
Q: Since Kolin Kapernick started bringing attention to this whole matter and sacrificed his career standing up for people that was being abused by the police by taking a knee. How do you feel about the way Kolin Kapernick was treated by the NFL?
Kolin Kapernick 100% sacrificed his career for the better good of our country and it opened up other avenues for him. It’s unfortunate that things had to happen in the NFL where he pretty much got black balled from getting back into the National Football League. People were still on the fence of being like I want to support this but man… Now that you have brown, whites, and everyone supporting this movement, now folks looking at Kolin Kapernick like he was a genius. There wasn’t people speaking out on it, but Kolin used his platform that he had to create this and voice these issues. You have people that still have a platform like Steve Harvey, but he still has someone controlling his narrative and what he speaks on, but when you have an athlete who takes a knee on one of the biggest stages there is in sports people will witness that and go for the good or the bad.
I don’t think the NFL should have to do anything for Kolin Kapernick in a sense. Would Kolin accept an apology at this point? It’s like water under the bridge on something he took stands on 3 or so years ago. Now suddenly thing’s have been heightened, now you want to say oh let’s give Kolin a chance or sign him now. That would be wrong because, they could have signed him years ago. but now that there is a movement, you want to do it. Black Lives Matter is now a whole movement throughout the world and for them to want to sign him would be wrong. I think when you ask do, they owe him an apology or do something for him I’d say no. I think they should do something for all black players and different demographics in each city. That would take more of a filling for Kolin Kapernick to say, now every team has the support, and every city that has a NFL team they should donate and do something like have more of a presence. I think that would do something more for Kolin Kapernick to see something like that happen instead of and apology.
Q: How do you give back to the black community and how have you promoted change in the community?
It’s always tough for me being in Dallas, its funny my wife was just talking about me being one of the minority quarterbacks who played at a high level, but being able to give back and offer my services to young black athletes that are trying to navigate through and make it to college. That is something she wants me to do a lot more of. On the business side of it create opportunities for these young African American males and women that are looking to become a franchise owner or someone who wants to develop, and we have a great leader in Phil Holmes. He helps mold and create and environment. I don’t want anyone to work for me that is not looking to succeed and strive to be somebody great and better. Just use this as a platform stepping stone for what you ultimately want to be.
Interviewed By: Thressy Jones
Watch Full Interview here: https://youtu.be/cwHFLhXrbTg