Triangle-based Marques Ogden rose to fame in football — then reimagined himself after a plummet from glory.
by AJ Carr
During his varied career, Marques Ogden has ascended to lofty heights, plummeted to the deepest valley, and risen again.
After a distinguished athletic career at Howard University and five-plus seasons in the National Football League, he founded a construction company in Baltimore, Maryland. The business boomed, then busted five years later and sent him spiraling into bankruptcy.
But with assistance from an NFL trust and a different vision, he eventually regained financial footing and overcame his demons, remaking himself into a trusted speaker and business coach here in the Triangle.
Ogden’s circuitous path began in Washington, D.C., where he grew into a gargantuan 6-6, 342-pound behemoth nicknamed “Little O.” He was built for football, to be an offensive lineman, to battle in the trenches.
He played at St. John’s College High School in Washington, then at Howard University, the only school to offer him a scholarship, and earned selection to the Hula Bowl coached by then University of Texas and current University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill coach Mack Brown.
Ogden flourished at Howard, became a bruising Bison, three-time All-Conference lineman and two-time Black College All-American, which validated his election to the university’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
This honor was doubly gratifying because it made him and his dad, the late Shirrel Ogden, a former two-sport Howard athlete, the only father-son duo among the first 146 inductees.
Picked in the sixth round of the NFL draft by Jacksonville, he embarked on a nomadic journey, playing for four different teams. A highlight came when he joined his brother, pro Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden, on the Baltimore Ravens’ roster.
“I had no plans to play in the NFL,” says Ogden, who earned a bachelor’s degree in finance at Howard. “I wanted to be an investment banker like my dad.”
Instead, Ogden started a construction company in Baltimore in 2008. It quickly prospered, then collapsed. “As the company grew, my ego grew,” Ogden says. “My motivating factors were money, notoriety, glory. I became pompous.
I didn’t know the business. I became my worst nightmare.” He ignored the advice of his colleagues and made poor business decisions. He struggled with addictions to alcohol and painkillers. It all came to a head when a client failed to pay him — he lost $2.5 million in 90 days.
While the company went bust, he managed to stay afloat, just barely. “The NFL saved me through the Gene Upshaw (Players Assistance Fund). They paid my bills for four months,” he says. He moved to Raleigh in 2013 with $400 in his bank account, no credit card, no 401K, no job, no car. He began the work of recovering from addiction.
The path out was not smooth. He got fired twice during the same week in Raleigh — first from Merrill Lynch after a short stay and five days later from a construction job. He wound up working as a custodian on Glenwood Avenue, making $8.25 an hour, a far cry from the seven-figure salary he was earning in the NFL.
He was able to pay a few bills, but it was another short-lived job. “It was an honorable job,’’ Ogden says, but not his dream job. “I hit rock bottom.”
“I said, What the heck have I done with my life?’’ Ogden laments. “There were days when I didn’t want to keep on living. I prayed to God to keep me going. I am a big believer. I remembered my grandmother used to say WWJD — What would Jesus do? He pulled me out of this.”
So Ogden took a course at Penn State’s National Athletic Professional Success Academy. He learned the art of communicating, and started sharing his story with others.
Soon, he found that he had a gift for speaking, and that people would pay to hear him. He started Ogden Ventures LLC, a speaking platform that has evolved into a business coaching brand, to fulfill his desire to help people discover their niche and prosper with integrity.
Today, Ogden is thriving. He’s a nationally and internationally known inspirational speaker whose message is designed to help people avoid mistakes he made, find their purpose and experience success. Since launching his myriad career he has spoken to more than 50 Fortune 500 Brands and over 20 Fortune 100 Brands in the U.S. and Mexico.
Ogden’s subjects range from sobriety to financial accountability to following his “5-V” methodology for staying positive and motivated (among the tips: “Visualize — What you want and go for it with hard work and determination.”) Individuals and small groups, as well as big company audiences, have benefited from his business coaching. “He’s a conversationalist. From the stage he’s not talking at you, he’s having a conversation with you,” says Albert Hardin, Ogden Ventures’ chief marketing officer.
Ogden has written four best-selling books, two as author, two as a co-author. Sleepless Nights and The Success Cycle are among his works. In 2022, he launched a podcast, “Get Authentic with Marques Ogden.”
Renowned chef Robert Irvine; Hilary Phelps, sister of Olympic icon Michael Phelps; Ultimate Fighting Champion and Hall of Famer Rashad “Sugar” Evans; and former New England Patriots tight end and Super Bowl champion Tim Wright are among those who have appeared on the show. He has reached about 50,000 followers on his podcasts.
Determined and focused, Ogden created this brand for himself it despite doubters telling him he wouldn’t succeed. “So many people were against me,” Ogden says, but he remained undaunted. “I knew I could do it. I know when things are hard — when people are in despair — how they are feeling.”
“Marques is very genuine and authentic,” says Doug Stout, owner of Stout Franchise Advisors and Freecoat Nails in Greenville, South Carolina.
“I’m glad to call him a friend and a coach. He takes time to understand where you want to go, is good at making plans and holding you accountable. He’s a very top-notch, quality person.”
Brian Head is another client who has leaned on Ogden’s expertise. They connected when Head wanted to start his own business after 25 years manning a corporate position in San Antonio, Texas, but was reluctant to make the transition.
“Marques got me over the fear of taking that step,” says Head, who now has a successful private equity company. “He gives you tips on how to handle things and keeps you positive. He’s very sincere, genuinely cares about his clients, and tries to build a relationship with you.” Hardin agrees: “Being inside his circle has helped me grow as a person, he’s always a positive person.”
Ogden has collected honors — making CORE Magazine’s top 100 most influential Black leaders list, induction in the Howard University Athletics Hall of Fame and recognition for his contribution to Hall of Fame Health, which provides wellness services for retired NFL players.
And while Ogden travels around the country speaking, coaching and consulting, he is settled in the area, having built his “dream home” in Fuquay-Varina.
“I love it here and never plan to leave,’’ he says. “I know every day is a gift. That’s why I try to help others succeed where I have failed. I want them to understand they have another chance, they can bounce back with hard work, perseverance and never giving up.”
This article originally appeared in the January 2024 issue of WALTER magazine