The following article was written by Nathan Dominitz for OnlineAthens.com. To view the original article, click here.
Throughout his football career, Josh Mallard’s focus was on those few yards of real estate between him and the quarterback, and getting past the hulking offensive linemen in his way.
The Savannah native and resident is a big person, but not by NFL standards for a defensive lineman. At 6-foot-2 and a playing weight around 265 pounds, Mallard was rather petite for a nose guard jousting on every play with one or two blockers upward of 100 pounds heavier.
“Still to this day I think I’m the smallest nose guard ever,” Mallard, now 40, said last week from his Savannah business office while reflecting on his former career as a professional athlete.
He got by on his tenacity for tackling ball carriers, on his exceptional speed and strength, and on embracing the physicality and unavoidable pain. He’s a guy who said he would play without shoulder pads and actually meant it.
Mallard became a nationally ranked prospect with a monster senior season in the fall of 1996 at Benedictine (36 sacks – not a typo), then stood out at the University of Georgia. He got to the NFL in part because of his focus off the field. He had a drive to be the best player he could be, and the discipline to follow through.
“From the time I was in eighth grade through 2014 (his last year in pro football), everything that I did was to get to the quarterback faster, or sack the quarterback. Literally everything,” Mallard said, including what he ate, when he slept, his workouts, time with friends and the thoughts in his head.
“I didn’t have a soft drink or any fried food from the time I was 18 to 36,” Mallard said. “I just made it happen, made it work. So, the last four years, I’ve probably had more fried chicken than any 10 people that you know.”
The past six years, since he earned the final credits on a bachelor’s degree at UGA in 2014, have been about more than catching up on the sweeter side of life. Far from it. Mallard’s passion and drive have turned from the sports world to the business world.
“I had to take that mentality and turn somewhere,” he said. “Now everything I do is to grow the business or improve the business or improve customer relations.”
There are several businesses in Mallard’s purview, from credit card processing services to small business loans to a mail-order pharmacy to a new endeavor of delivering medications with perhaps more of a stigma in discreet packaging directly to the customer’s door.
A Savannah story
Brandon Day is the senior vice president of sales and marketing and a managing partner at Data One Merchant Services, an electronic payment processing business based in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Mallard is the regional manager out of Savannah and said he has clients in 12 states.
As a fellow native of Savannah, Day, 39, knew of Mallard’s exploits on the gridiron which would lead to his induction in 2019 into the Greater Savannah Athletic Hall of Fame. Mallard was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 2002 and also spent time with the Browns, Dolphins, Falcons, Broncos and Bengals, as well in NFL Europe, the United Football League and Arena Football League.
Day, who attended St. Andrew’s School on Wilmington Island and Florida State University, didn’t know Mallard until about six years ago when they were in the same business and soon joined forces.
Day, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, said he rests easy knowing that someone with Mallard’s integrity and character is in charge of this market.
“As an employer, athletes make great employees because oftentimes they are self-motivated, they are perseverant, and not just being a self-starter but setting and attaining goals,” Day said in a telephone interview. “The tenacity of an athlete also transitions nicely into the workplace.”
Day said employees need to have the right attitude.
“You can teach someone a skill. You can teach someone a trade. But you cannot teach someone how to own that real estate between their ears,” Day said. “That’s a personal responsibility all of us are tasked with.”
Athletes understand how to how handle victories and defeats, he said.
“When you can turn those losses into lessons, keep it positive, that’s the mark of a winner. It’s certainly something we saw in Josh.”
One of Mallard’s clients in the credit card processing company pulled him aside one day, Mallard recalled, and said, “You made $17 off of me this month. How are you eating?”
The doctor recommended he make a foray into medical sales, which led to another business in Mallard’s portfolio.
About two months ago, Mallard utilized his networking and knowledge of the medical supply chain to help health care facilities find items such as personal protective equipment as the coronavirus grew into a pandemic.
“I started that because I was hearing horror stories of how doctors were paying exorbitant amounts for meds,” Mallard said. “I got together with some partners and realized we could source these products for a lot cheaper than what people were currently in the market sourcing them for.”
Mallard’s connections in China allowed him to find masks, face shields, thermometers and other equipment, and he didn’t need to advertise or promote the new operation as word of mouth drummed up business.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” said Mallard, noting that he suddenly had access to hospital administrators and others who previously would have been hard to reach.
There have been headaches involved in finding and moving supplies from China when timing is critical, not to mention the 12-hour time difference that made his work days and nights merge. So Mallard said he is seeking only domestic suppliers to streamline and improve the process.
“Those products are a little more expensive, but that doesn’t mean I have to charge (clients) more. I just don’t have to make that much,” Mallard said. “Thinner (profit) margin but you’re providing a service.”
His goal is to take what’s left after expenses and donate to hospitals and other health care facilities, particularly in the local area. He said he’s been very lucky and Savannah has been very good to him.
It also follows his philosophy of making sacrifices for the betterment of the business and its customers. Mallard, who is not married and has no children or pets, makes himself available at all hours.
“My business is the most important thing outside of my parents,” said Mallard, an only child who has an “ILOVMOM” license plate.
His only self-indulgence, if one can call it that, is the two fishing poles – one for freshwater, one for saltwater – he carries in the back of his pickup truck for spontaneous opportunities to do some angling.
He has been so busy, he said without a hint of joking, that every shower he’d taken the previous month included a phone call. “I put the speaker on,” he explained. “No, I’m not FaceTiming (video calls).”
Day said Mallard puts customers first.
“Josh cares on a deep level,” Day said. “I think that is his pilot light.”
The wiring was installed early. Mallard’s father, Fred, owned Environmental Plumbing Services, which did water purification.
“My parents were hard workers. My dad worked 18-hour days. My mom (Mary) basically worked in the business,” Mallard said. “I learned at an early age from my dad how to keep customers happy. He would go through crazy things just to go do the smallest gesture for a customer. They’re still like that (in retirement). They reach out to their customers.”
Mallard has been coached not only in sports but in business, soaking up lessons from his father as well as residents of their Wilmington Island neighborhood. His friend Hunter Davis’ older brother, J.R. Davis, was one of his role models. For example, Davis showed him the value of extra practice as an individual to prepare for team sports, and later mentored him as Davis went from Savannah Country Day to study at Princeton and Harvard and become a partner in a private equity firm.
Mallard craves and consumes books on motivation and business. He enjoys researching the daily routines of successful people. He wants to know what the CEO of Google has for breakfast, and he’s curious about the sleep habits of the titans of industry.
He’s a student of the game. And there are more games on his schedule.
“I know in order to keep growing, you have to put one foot ahead of yourself,” Mallard said, adding that he loves to start a new business and provide a service better than is being offered. “The year’s still early, and I’m sure I’ll start a couple of businesses before the year’s over.”