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7 Former Star Athletes In DC Commercial Real Estate

Commercial real estate is a competitive industry, and some of the top players in the DC market have backgrounds in high-level sports that set them up for high-stakes dealing. We found seven people in DC commercial real estate who have had careers either in professional sports or for a U.S. national team. 

1. AJ Wood, Cushman & Wakefield

Cushman & Wakefield AJ Wood Loudoun Rural Economic Development Council Alta Jones, Reston Limousine Kristina Bouweiri
Cushman & Wakefield's AJ Wood at a recent Bisnow event with Loudoun Rural Economic Development Council's Alta Jones and Reston Limousine's Kristina Bouweiri

Cushman & Wakefield director AJ Wood won four consecutive men's soccer national championships during his time at the University of Virginia from 1991 to 1994. After graduating, he joined the U.S. national team and participated in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. He then joined Major League Soccer in 1996, its inaugural season.

He played in New York and Columbus before joining DC United in 1998. He helped DC win the MLS Cup in 1999. During his time at UVA, with the Olympics team and with DC United, Wood played for Bruce Arena, who is now the head coach of the U.S. men's national team for the second time.

Wood started his commercial real estate career in 2004 working for Trammell Crow. He has been working as a tenant rep in Cushman & Wakefield's Tysons office since 2010. He said skills like preparation, determination, competitiveness and teamwork have helped him close real estate deals.

But no matter how large a deal is, Wood said it is tough to match the excitement that comes with scoring a big goal on the field. 

"It is a different emotion scoring a goal in a national championship game or scoring for DCU or playing in the Olympics," Wood said. "Those things are fantastic, but success in our industry is success in terms of dollars and cents, savings and working on behalf of tenants. Being a small part of that is very fulfilling and something, as a team, you all look back on and collectively, we share together."

2. Pete Larson, Transwestern

Gilbane Phil Leach and Robert Gilbane, Transwestern Pete Larson
Transwestern's Pete Larson (right) with Gilbane's Phil Leach and Robert Gilbane in 2013

Transwestern executive vice president Pete Larson played two years for the Washington football team in 1967 and 1968 after being drafted out of Cornell. During his two seasons, he rushed for 216 yards and two touchdowns and caught 146 yards and one receiving TD, according to Pro Football Reference

Larson played for Otto Graham, who became a head coach after winning three MVP awards in the '50s as a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. In 1969, Vince Lombardi became the Washington head coach and cut Larson at the end of training camp, instead choosing to hand the ball off to Larry Brown, who would become a top back in the league and also now works in DC commercial real estate (more on that below).

After ending his short football career, Larson began his journey in CRE at Shannon & Luchs, where he spent about a decade before co-founding his own firm, Larson Ball & Gould. Early on, he said people were suspicious about a pro football player joining the firm, expecting him to want everything handed to him. But he soon proved his worth and found many of the skills from playing football were transferable to commercial real estate.

“It’s very much like an athletic contest,” Larson said of real estate. “You’ve got to be in shape and ready to go, but you’re not always going to win.”  

3. Larry Brown, NAI Michael

Berenzweig Leonard July 2015 Larry Brown
Redskins legend turned broker Larry Brown at a Corporate Huddle event in 2015

Larry Brown played as a running back for the Washington football from 1969 to 1976. Brown won the Most Valuable Player award in 1972 and was selected to the Pro Bowl four times. He scored 35 touchdowns and rushed for 5,875 yards in his career and was honored in 2002 as one of the 70 greatest Washington pro football players.  

Brown is now a vice president at NAI Michael in Lanham, Maryland, where he works in investment sales and office leasing. Before joining commercial real estate he worked for Xerox Corp., E.F. Hutton & Co. and the DC Department of Human Resources. 

4. Jair Lynch

Jair Lynch Jason Bonnett Forest City

Before Jair Lynch was one of DC's top developers, he participated in two Olympics as part of the U.S. men's gymnastics team. He won the Silver medal for the parallel bars in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. (We found a video of his medal-winning routine.)

In 1998, he founded Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners, which has now developed more than 4.2M SF of properties. The developer recently delivered a 307-unit apartment building on H Street and is developing a mixed-use building in Capitol Riverfront, converting a Howard University dorm into apartments and is part of the McMillan Sand Filtration Site development team. In a 2006 interview with Bisnow, he discussed what gymnastics taught him that he has applied to development. 

"My overall gymnastics experience taught me to attack every task and every goal with tenacity and no fear," Lynch said at the time. "Talent is only part of the battle. It’s hard work every day that gets you closer to your goal. I was fortunate to learn the dualism of competing as a team and as an individual. As a company, we’ve put teams together so that you can work together and protect each other, but we also let people work as individuals to grow and shine."

5. Ryan Wade, MRP Realty

MRP Realty's Ryan Wade, Lincoln Property Co.'s Merrill Turnbull, Tishman Speyer's Brooks Brown, Cushman & Wakefield's Jude Collins, and MRP Realty's Zach Wade
MRP Realty's Ryan Wade, Lincoln Property's Merrill Turnbull, Tishman Speyer's Brooks Brown, Cushman & Wakefield's Jude Collins and MRP Realty's Zach Wade

MRP Realty founding principal Ryan Wade won two world titles with the U.S. lacrosse team in 1994 and 1998, and he was named MVP the second time. From 1991 to 1994 he was a midfielder at North Carolina, where he won four ACC championships and was two-time ACC Player of the Year.

Four of his teammates at UNC would also go on to join the DC CRE industry: his brother Zach Wade, also at MRP, Lincoln Property's Merrill Turnbull, Tishman Speyer's Brooks Brown and Cushman & Wakefield's Jude Collins. 

Wade co-founded MRP in 2005 with Bob Murphy after they worked together at Trammell Crow. He now oversees its acquisitions and finance group. Some of the firm's recent acquisitions include a 532K SF Dulles office park for $97M and a 210K SF Tysons office building for $54M. 

6. Kedric Golston

Kedric Golston Christal Golston
Washington Redskins defensive end Kedric Golston with his wife, Christal, founded Golston Real Estate in 2006.

Washington football defense end Kedric Golston, currently a free agent, has played with the team since 2006. He was drafted in the sixth round out of the University of Georgia. He has 224 tackles and seven sacks in his career. This past season, he suffered a hamstring injury in September and was put on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. 

Golston started a real estate company in 2006 with his wife, Christal, who is the principal broker and manages 40 agents throughout the DC area. The company is mainly focused on single-family deals, but also works in commercial real estate. The couple has plans to continue to grow the company and use the success to help fund their nonprofit, which aims to address child malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa.  

7. Dexter Manley, Gali Service Industries

Dexter Manley
Gali Service Industries' Dexter Manley, a two-time Super Bowl champion

Nicknamed the “Secretary of Defense,” Dexter Manley won two Super Bowls during his 10-year NFL career. He was drafted in the fifth round in 1981 by Washington, where he played until 1989. A Pro Bowl defensive end, Manley played with Washington during its Super Bowl victories in 1982 and 1987. He recorded 97 sacks, grabbed two interceptions and had one touchdown.

He now works as director of public relations for Gali Service Industries, which provides cleaning and maintenance services to commercial office properties, convention centers, stadiums, schools and universities. A regular Bisnow event attendee, Manley previously worked at Zalco Realty.