From football to franchising, Bowie resident wants to be the best -- Gazette.Net







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Whether handling newspapers as a paperboy in Greenbelt, playing as a defensive back for Duquesne University football team or in the National Football League, Leigh Bodden said he wanted to be the best.

So it is no surprise to his family that Bodden plans to take his new fitness center franchise to the top.

“That’s how I approach everything,” said Bodden, 32, of Bowie. “Just wanting to be the best. I would do that paper route and try to imagine other paperboys, if they had a competition, I wanted to be the best at it.”

Bodden, a Washington, D.C., native, grew up in Greenbelt and attended Northwestern High School in Hyattsville.

On Feb. 7, he opened a Retro Fitness center in Lanham, which he said is a big step in one of his goals of becoming a franchise owner.

“Fitness is obviously something I have experience in,” said Bodden, who is a self-described avid exerciser. “I want people to be healthy. It is great to see people transformed.”

Bodden said he got the idea to franchise a fitness center after he retired in 2011 from his nine-year tenure in the NFL — where he played for the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and New England Patriots — and started looking for new work.

He started “Bodden’s Gym” out of his garage where he led workouts with his mother, aunt and two sisters, he said. While working out his family, and meeting Retro Fitness officials at a franchising conference, Bodden put a team together and made the investment to build three stores in the Washington metropolitan area.

Fitness is something Bodden knows, his family said and they are confident in his business decision.

“I wanted to lose some weight,” said Carolie Walker, Bodden’s mother, who lost about 20 pounds working out with her son. “He was a taskmaster. I think he is going to accomplish a whole lot with this gym. He takes challenges. Whenever he gets a challenge he doesn’t stop until he succeeds.”

His new financial endeavors are being financed by the money he earned in the NFL, but unlike many players who leave the league broke, Bodden has amassed enough money to live off the dividends and investment interests, said Allan Boomer, Bodden’s business partner and financial adviser.

“He has a strong belief in himself,” said Boomer, who lives in New Jersey. “He has very good business instincts. I’ve got MBAs from NYU, but you can’t teach instinct.”

Bodden said his business instincts started at an early age when he would take sugar candy from his grandmother’s house and sell the candies at school. He also only bought what he needed throughout his whole life, something he did because he didn’t feel the need to overspend, Bodden said.

“People called me ‘cheap,’ but I wouldn’t call it cheap,” he said. “I spend money on things I want. I don’t make too many impulse buys. I save money for things that I want.”

Now that Bodden has everything in place with the first gym opened, he said plans to open two more in the area.

“I’m going to try and please everybody and be the best,” Bodden said. “People are going to respect what I’m doing in the fitness industry. I want to have a great business and serve customers.”