Ex-NFL tight end builds new life after football

Former player Dan Wilcox finds new way to work with his hands

Former NFL tight end Dan Wilcox (Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) uses his hands now in his renovation-and-design company. At 34, he relies on skills learned at Decatur High School.

My offensive coordinator at Decatur, Steve Powell, also taught me wood shop. I learned to use different saws, and I won art contests. I majored in architecture at Appalachian State, but those classes wouldn’t work with playing football.

In my eight seasons as an NFL tight end, the last thing I wanted to be involved in was getting my hands hurt, like manual labor. Then I bought a new five-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath house in East Atlanta. I thought I would sell it, but with the economy, I decided to renovate it for my family.

I paid guys full price for their labor, but I joined in for the demolition and renovation. We did everything — custom cabinetry, crown molding, custom master bath, hardwood floors with a custom tile inlay, and more. I cut and placed more than 2,000 pieces of tile in my kitchen, breakfast room and fireplace. Later we added a privacy fence, pergola and custom deck.

Each project was like a tattoo, or a Lay’s potato chip — you can’t have just one.

After the 2009 season, I started my own business, Mr. 83 Degreez Renovations & Design (mr83degreez.com).

My jersey number was 83, and when my wife, Shauna, and I honeymooned in Hawaii, every day was 83 degrees. It was perfect. So 83 degrees became my term for perfection.

My business is like a football team. When I work sunrise to sunset on a job, it feels like training camp.

For subcontractors, I don’t use any of those bootleg guys. I research and recruit to find those who specialize and are faithful in their crafts. Everyone has to protect the guy in front of him and not leave a mess. If you can’t, I’ll put someone in the game that can.

I’m like the general manager, president, coach and sometimes a player.

In this business, I don’t know if being an NFL player helps or hurts. Clients can be very excited, but they don’t feel rushed to pay me. So it’s a gift and a curse.

Other veterans like Garrison Hearst and Warrick Dunn own construction companies. We, however, specialize in residential and commercial. The best way to see my work is at Simcolifestyle at 800 Peachtree St., a showroom where we did the design and renovation.

Although I ended up majoring in advertising, we only work by word of mouth. I have not used any of my NFL contacts. I want NFL guys to call me not because we’re friends, but for the quality of my work.

-- Reported by Michelle Hiskey