For the long haul: Panthers vet building future as trucking company CEO

CHARLOTTE — Shaq Thompson has spent much of his life as part of a team.

The veteran linebacker is coming off his ninth professional season, all with the Carolina Panthers, after being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in 2015.

But it’s the team Thompson is building now with trucking company Good Run Logistics, which he hopes will sustain his family well beyond his playing career.

Thompson is the CEO of Good Run Logistics.

“Everybody says, ‘Oh, athletes go broke when they’re done with football,’” he said. “I didn’t want to be one of those guys who ends up going broke trying to live a lifestyle that I can’t keep up anymore.”

Thompson’s Good Run Logistics is an over-the-road trucking company with runs spanning 48 states. He said his initial interest in the industry was inspired by former teammates Kyle Love and Woodrow Hamilton.

The three would often speak on the phone with Love and Hamilton sharing what they learned as they were getting their start in the trucking industry.

Within a year, Thompson said he was ready to establish his own company and team after being introduced to eventual business partners -- Shaquille Dixon and Samuel Murphy -- both of whom had previous experience running a heavy-haul trucking company.

Ironically, their initial conversation had nothing to do with the industry.

“We were in the same gym and had the same personal trainer,” said Shaquille Dixon, the Good Run general manager. “We didn’t talk about trucks at all for a while. We just built a relationship, got on the phone every now and then whether it was once a month. It turned into once a week, then into every other day. Then one day, he just came out and said, ‘What are you really doing with the trucks?’”

The Good Run team has since expanded its reach to include a partnership with TransTech, one of the largest commercial driving schools in North Carolina.

The two share a goal of creating a pipeline to help graduates find long-term employment with Good Run as a potential employer.

“Good Run went as far as to say we want to be a part of that training process, as well,” said Tyrel Sulzer, co-owner of TransTech. “Not just when they come out (of the program), but to start having a conversation even before then.”

Dixon and Murphy described a side of the NFL linebacker most don’t see dating back to what they observed on their first road trip.

“It’s funny. When we got our first truck down in Texas, and we had a driver driving it back up to North Carolina from Dallas … Shaq, literally, went and bought a bed to put in the truck,” Dixon said.

Murphy said it was the first meeting with Thompson in person when he was greeted by the sight of him lugging a bed on the top of his head, headed into the cabin.

“I’m like, who is this guy?” Murphy asked. “One the strength to carry a bed on top of his head with no struggle, whatsoever, but just his heart.”

“Shaq is a big linebacker on the field, but he has a really soft heart. He doesn’t like to see people struggle,” Dixon continued. I think with the (trucking) industry, he was really able to show his heart and say hey, let’s fill this void.”

Thompson said of his latest venture, it’s also the start of securing his family for the long haul.

“I want to be a billionaire,” he said.

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