This article was written by John Frierson for Georgiadogs.com. To view the original article, click here.
When Randall Godfrey left Georgia after being selected in the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft, the All-SEC linebacker didn’t yet have a plan for life after football. But he was already thinking about it.
“I started early,” said Godfrey, who ranks eighth all-time at Georgia with 365 tackles in his career (1992-95). He went on to a 12-year NFL career that featured 841 tackles, 19 forced fumbles and second-team All-Pro honors in 2000.
A native of Valdosta, Ga., a place and a community that has always meant a lot to him, Godfrey looked toward home when it came to business opportunities. In 2005, as his NFL career was winding down, Godfrey worked with his cousin, Rodney Godfrey, a mortician, to open Godfrey Funeral Home.
Along with the chance to “give back to my family,” Godfrey said, opening the funeral home was a chance to provide a needed service to the community that had helped shape him into the man he became.
“It allowed us to give our city something brand new — great customer service, first-class facilities, and all the bells and whistles that you didn’t see in those types of communities,” he said. “We put it right there in the inner city, and it’s paying off.
“I’m just thankful that we’ve been able to be in business now for over 15 years, so that’s a blessing.”
On Saturday, when the top-ranked Georgia football team hosts Missouri at Sanford Stadium, Godfrey will be recognized as one of the four inaugural recipients of the Piedmont Bank Arch Award. Presented by the UGA Athletic Association and Piedmont Bank, the award honors former Bulldogs for their success and contributions as business leaders.
“This award means a lot because the goals I set in college, I was able to accomplish,” Godfrey said. “Just putting time and effort in, getting up every morning and going to class after mat drills, and walking across that stage with my degree from this university was just a blessing to me.”
Drafted in the second round by the Dallas Cowboys, Godfrey didn’t head off to Texas with his degree already in hand. He had to come back later, taking classes when he could, and eventually earned his Housing degree. Thanks to the prodding of numerous athletic association staff members, Godfrey was able to keep a promise that he’d made to his mom, to earn a degree from the University of Georgia.
“There are so many that play an important part in ensuring that former players come back and finish and take care of their unfinished business, and that’s what I love,” he said, “when you can play in the NFL for 12 years and they keep bugging you every offseason: ‘When are you coming back? It’s time for you to get back. You need to be knocking out two classes here and there.’ And that’s what I did.”
Godfrey said one of the things he learned at UGA that helped him prepare for success in business was the need for a proper plan. After he signed his second NFL contract, leaving the Cowboys for the Tennessee Titans, he had the money to start making things happen off the field.
“I wanted to make sure that I have a business plan together at first, and then of course because of what I studied in college I was able to do one and see if there was indeed a need in my area for a funeral home,” he said. “And there was, of course, and it paid off.
“I’ve always been determined to do something big for my community, and want to give back, because I’m just so blessed. Me being from where I come from, and that I stayed on track, I stayed the course, and that’s a compliment to my parents.”
Irene and Arthur Miller, he said, molded him into the hard-working and focused athlete that he was and the businessman that he is today. He’s retired from football, he said, but he’s far from “retired.”
“To this day, I get up and work out every morning. I get up and make calls for my funeral home, just to stay busy, because I don’t call myself ‘retired.’ I strive to get up and do something every day because I just love life and I just love being able to interact with people,” he said.
Unlike owning a car dealership or some fast-food restaurant franchises, owning a funeral home means dealing with families that are going through very difficult times. The past two years, amid the coronavirus pandemic, have been “very challenging,” he said.
“It’s tough, but we’ve managed,” said Godfrey, who lives in the Atlanta area.
Helping people going through the pain of losing a loved one is a responsibility that Godfrey takes very seriously.
“I take my shoulder pads off and you don’t see this hard linebacker here. I can soften up and interact with people, make them feel good,” he said. “Most of it comes from my spiritual background and just understanding God’s plan.”
Along with the funeral home, Godfrey has other business interests. He has his real estate license and owns some land that he will one day begin developing. He credits another Arch Award honoree, former women’s basketball player Brandi Hunter-Lewis, who is very successful in the high-end real estate business in Atlanta, with inspiring him to get into real estate.
“I love Randall,” Hunter-Lewis said. “I’m so proud of what he’s accomplished, just going from being a professional football player to owning a funeral home and now into real estate. To be able to find your way in each of those fields, you have to be pretty exceptional to do that.”
From college to the NFL to business, Godfrey has worked hard, worked smart, and seen those efforts rewarded with success.
“I’m just glad I was able to lock in at the right time and focus at the right time to make sure that I take advantage of this degree,” he said. “And, of course, be able to serve my community and be a difference-maker. And that’s what I’m striving to do.”