More than 165 million Americans, about 70 percent of the population, claim they follow sports. Each year, they pack stadiums and tune in to networks to watch their favorite teams. With a plethora of college teams and professional clubs from the five major sports, it’s no surprise Dallas is considered one of the best sports cities in the country. The games are an integral part of the sports industry, but they’re just a small part of the booming business. Professional athletes, sports marketers, agents and philanthropists from our neighborhood share what it’s really like to work in the industry worth $700 billion globally.

It’s hard to miss the 6-foot-6, 300-pound man shopping at the local grocery store. Although he might look familiar, you probably won’t recognize him. And that’s the way former offensive lineman Luke Joeckel prefers it. Joeckel received plenty of camera time as the No. 2 overall pick out of Texas A&M University in the 2013 NFL draft. But during his four seasons with Jacksonville and one with Seattle, he preferred to stay out of the media spotlight. “If my name wasn’t talked about in the media, the better I was playing,” Joeckel says. After retiring from football in 2018, Joeckel and his family moved to Lakewood. Neighbors might see him around town organizing student camps, speaking at his alma mater, Arlington High School, or volunteering at Woodrow football practices. “I really love Lakewood and how inclusive it is,” he says. “Sports are all about bringing people together — working hard and helping each other out — and Lakewood embraces that.”

What he’s doing now: I finished my undergrad, and I walked the stage in August. It was a beating to finish school six years after I got drafted. I was a grown-up for six years, and then I was back taking undergrad classes. I changed my major from marketing to university studies-business to do everything remotely. I’m in the “figuring-it-out” stage. I did a six-month internship with a commercial real estate group here in Dallas and looked at getting an MBA and getting more education in Dallas.

On life after football: I miss the locker room, the relationships, the bonds. You’re all working your tail off and getting beat up together, but I don’t miss the getting beat up part. I had three surgeries in five years and decided to call it. The transition has been a little tougher than I thought it would be. I still wake up early, and all I had to do was a couple school assignments. It’s definitely different than when you’re playing in the NFL. Every second in season is scheduled for you. It’s about constant growth and getting stronger. Not having that goal every single day is a tough transition.

What it was like on draft day: You’re in the green room with all the families of 25 different players. You’re sitting in silence. You can hear a pin drop because people don’t know where they’re moving or if they’re going to a good team or a bad team. Everyone is kind of nervous. When you get called, it’s such a relief, such a surreal moment. I was just excited to be playing and accomplishing my dream. I didn’t care which team I got drafted to. It’s a whirlwind after that until you get to OTAs. You have to do an hour plus of media interviews, answering the same question a hundred times. Then I got on a plane first thing in the morning to Jacksonville for more press conferences.

Biggest misconception about playing in the NFL: The NFL life does not live up to the Hollywood world. I never bought into that whole lifestyle. I was an offensive lineman. I liked being in the background. I liked playing the game and playing football and living a normal life.

On being recognized in public: Being an offensive lineman, your face is never really out there. I didn’t get much camera time, so I don’t get recognized a lot. I like to think part of it is I’ve lost about 40 pounds since I stopped playing. I’m hoping that’s another reason.

Hometown: Arlington, Texas

Job title: Student

Alma mater: Texas A&M

Sports hero: Anthony Munoz

Position: Left tackle for Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks

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