Saints CB Justin Hardee learns patience as he opens 1st business amid pandemic

Amos Morale III
May 15, 2020 - 12:44 pm

About a year ago, Saints cornerback Justin Hardee began the process of opening his first business — a Papa John's franchise. 

So, naturally, when businesses began to feel the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hardee, whose restaurant is set to open in June, became a little nervous.

"Why'd this happened now," he thought. "...I'm like 'Man! This is the year I'm supposed to be opening my first restaurant.'"

Hardee, however, is remaining positive as his decision to choose this particular business venture, which serves customers mainly through takeout and delivery, could be a blessing in disguise.

He said his store manager told him other franchises are doing well as they are equipped to operate under the restrictions in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, the pandemic created challenges for the fourth-year NFL veteran. Hardee said the coronavirus contributed to the store opening about a month later than planned.

"We're banking on the store being done about this time right now," Hardee said. "Like we were probably going to be selling our first pizzas and stuff (about now)."

Hardee said the restrictions in place slowed preparations.

"Not having as many workers being able to work at a certain amount of time and everything," Hardee described. "This process has been definitely a blessing, but definitely taught me patience."

Hardee described himself as an "impatient guy" and the process of opening his own business was one of the first personal endeavors he's undertaken where his success wasn't completely under his control but felt this was an opportunity he couldn't pass up. 

Hardee's rarely not taken advantage of opportunities in his life.

During his five-year college career at Illinois, he earned three total degrees in addition to catching 72 passes for 841 yards.

As a pro, he switched positions and worked hard to quickly establish himself as a key player in his new role. Hardee joined the Saints in 2017 after being cut by the Houston Texans during the preseason. New Orleans converted the receiver to defensive back and he quickly became a mainstay on the Saints special teams unit. 

Hardee's also maximized the resources he has on the field to help with his endeavors off it. His Saints teammate Malcolm Jenkins owns several Papa John's franchises and offered him guidance and he received valuable insight from his position coach Aaron Glenn.

"(He) gave me a lot of game what to expect," Hardee said. "What I have to do on my behalf, how I've got to, you know, check on my workers and all that type of stuff, food costs, food waste. 
"My coach Aaron Glenn's a very very intelligent guy, someone I look up to. He gave me a lot of game and I definitely planning on talking to him more about it."

Hardee's restaurant is set to open in June and despite the challenges he's excited for it to open soon. 

"I'm just glad I get to do it myself," he said. "It's a blessing."

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