Saints receiver Marques Colston juggles NFL, indoor franchise

Marques Colston is a Saints receiver known for his long frame, sure hands and black visor, a vital component of the NFL’s top-ranked passing
offense from last season.

When Colston takes his helmet off and flies back to his hometown, his skill set transforms into sales, marketing and gameday operations — whatever grunt work needs to be done.

This summer marks his first full season as majority owner of the Harrisburg (Pa.) Stampede, a minor-league indoor football team. While Colston spent Tuesday through Thursday at Saints minicamp, he was scheduled to travel to Fayetteville, N.C., in time for Saturday night’s American Indoor Football Championship game against the Cape Fear Heroes.

For Colston, the reasoning behind his busy offseason is twofold. He wanted to create a business in his hometown that offered community outreach, especially to youth. Also, as his own catches and yards pile up — this fall marks his eighth NFL season — he is preparing for life after his playing career.

“As I continue to put years into here, there’s some point where you’re going to transition out of it, whether it’s on your own terms or not,” said Colston, who on Wednesday turned 30.

“So when the opportunity presented itself, I felt like it was a pretty good one to take advantage of.”

Colston is a T-shirt-and-sweatpants kind of owner, a hands-on businessman, involved in every aspect of the franchise (except player personnel and coaching).

He walks the local mall with players and staff, soliciting ticket sales. He helps carry portable bleachers into the home arena. Need help installing the indoor playing field? No problem.

“You wouldn’t even know he’s a millionaire and starter in the NFL,” Stampede receiver Scorpio Brown said. “It’s humbling to know he’s so down to earth.”

Such a daunting schedule keeps Colston on the run — on the field and in airports. He’s flown to Pennsylvania to attend Stampede practices and a game, returned to New Orleans and then after a practice or related obligation, left immediately for Harrisburg. During the NFL season, he often spends part of his off day on a conference call with the Stampede front office, coach Bernie Nowotarski said.

“Marques may not be your typical NFL player that seeks out the spotlight,” said Nowotarski, now in his third season coaching the Stampede. “Marques is just a very quiet, laid-back man who really is just trying to do good.”

Colston, who entered this endeavor without marketing and sales experience, called his learning curve, “steep,” but one he’s picked up quickly. He’s had to; his front office is dwarfed in size compared to the Saints.

“For me, the challenge is getting the right personnel,” said Colston, who graduated from Hofstra with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. “You almost have to come from an entrepreneurial background, because it’s not going to be a structured as you’d like it. The budget doesn’t really support the real staff you need.”

On the field, Brown, a 28-year-old receiver from Newport News, Va., is the type of player Colston wants: somebody who has more to offer than his ability on the football field. He wants guys to represent the Stampede in the community. Men who are willing to go into schools and hospitals, ride in parades, all in effort to make the franchise a community-based organization.

“It’s been a pretty good response for it being year one for my group,” Colston said. “The trends look good. We’ve been able to increase attendance as the year’s going on and create a larger footprint. Going into this offseason, it’s an opportunity to increase that even more.”

And add a few catches of his own.