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The Next Generation of You: John Offerdahl

Apr. 1, 2019 Professional Athletes Foundation

by Jim Gehman

The linebacker showed those qualities and more in the 1986 Senior Bowl.

“I was a last-second call-in and got coached by (then-Denver Broncos’) Dan Reeves and was the Outstanding Defensive Player of the game because I stopped (Auburn’s Heisman Trophy winner) Bo Jackson all over the field.  That moment gave me the belief and the faith that I could play with the best of the players,” Offerdahl said.

“All the preparation in college with great coaches and then the opportunity to play with the elite collegiate football players where I had the opportunity to stand out because I had the blessing of just a miraculous day at the right time.”

Offerdahl’s stellar performance at Western Michigan where he played every defensive snap of every game for four years, and became the MAC Conference all-time leader in tackles as a junior, left him well-prepared for the NFL. He was chosen by the Miami Dolphins in the second round of the 1986 Draft.

Named as a starter and a captain even before his first game in the league, Offerdahl was named as the NFL Rookie of the Year and earned his first of five consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl.

In 1989, his fourth season with Miami, Offerdahl was reminded that the NFL is a business and was a holdout for the entire training camp and first six games of the regular season. 

“I had come into the league with a three-year contract and an option. But back then, there was no free agency. So, if your contract ended, they would have the ability to serve you the option,” Offerdahl said. “I was the 28th highest-paid player on our team. There were linebackers that were making more money that never played a down the year before. I knew that (owner) Joe Robbie and the Dolphin organization needed to pony up after my three-year contract was up. And they didn’t. I prepared myself at that moment to never play football again.”

In case that became a reality, Offerdahl and his wife, Lynn, wanted to be ready for what came next, and founded Offerdahl’s Bagel Gourmet. “My wife and I knew we had to get a career going because football was not inevitably my long-term career,” he said. “So, we took a hairbrained idea, put a business plan together, launched it, and we hit the nail on the head. We got so lucky because bagels, breakfast, coffee, sandwiches, it was an unmet demand in the marketplace. 

“And when we opened with the football marketing awareness that I got, how can you beat being called the ‘Bagelmeister’ on NFL Monday Night Football. You can’t buy that kind of marketing.” 

After selling Bagel Gourmet in 1995, Offerdahl and his wife returned to the food business five years later when they founded Offerdahl’s Off-The-Grill Restaurant. 

“I wanted to get back into it, but this time I wanted to mature and be the grill guy, not the bagel boy,” said the grill guy formerly known as the bagel boy. “It’s an unbelievable business. Why do I love it? Because it reminds me of the football gameday. You make fumbles, you recover them. Ultimately, you want your fans to leave with an experience that makes them feel great.”

Offerdahl’s Off-The-Grill Restaurant recently opened its seventh South Florida location at the Fort Lauderdale Airport.

Away from the grill, Offerdahl, who played eight seasons with the Dolphins, 1986-93, heads the Hand-Off Foundation. A public charity, its mission is feeding the needs of those in crisis. 

“Since I’m in the food business it makes sense to feed people, but we feed them more than just physical food,” Offerdahl said. “That’s the public umbrella. And under that we have two subsidiaries. One is a fundraising food, wine and music festival called the Gridiron Grill-Off. We’re in our 10th year and we had about 20,000 people last year.

“We gave $50,000 through scholarships to Broward College, and the purpose of that is to support our second subsidiary, a program called Home Team Advantage Restorative Housing.”

It provides supportive housing for vulnerable families seeking relationship restoration, self-sufficiency and homeownership victory!  

“I absolutely love what I do and that keeps me going,” Offerdahl said. “I really love feeding people. Not just physical food, but being with them. If they’re a fan from a customer standpoint or a tenant in my Home Team Advantage Restorative Housing, I just really enjoy being part of improving and giving an opportunity to people.”

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