First he co-founded Fire & Flower. Now this ex-footballer is part of the war against COVID-19

Vaughn Martin, seen in this 2015 file photo, is the co-founder of Fire & Flower. (Andrew Carpenean/The St. Joseph News-Press via AP)

By Dan Ralph

Canadian Press

Life after football has been anything but dull for Vaughn Martin.

After finishing his pro career in 2016 with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, Martin entered the business world, co-founding Fire & Flower Cannabis Co. In January, the six-foot-four, 297-pound former defensive lineman joined the board of BeMotion Inc., a digital marketing and m-commerce company that’s producing the DUO400 Intelligent Human Thermal Scanner.

The non-contact unit tracks human temperature variances with an accuracy of 0.3 C. It can be used to detect the earliest symptom of the novel coronavirus as well as other viral or bacterial pathogens.

“Football was an exciting thing, cannabis was an exciting thing and this is obviously unprecedented as well,” Martin said. “To have a role in helping people get back to doing what they want to do as well is also another blessing.

“Life is unpredictable, it’s always been a riot and I’ve always enjoyed it. I never thought I’d be a football player — if you asked me 20 years ago I probably would’ve said I was going to the NHL — I never thought I’d get into cannabis either but then it parlayed into this as well. I’ve always been open to everything.”

Martin, now based in Toronto, became involved in BeMotion Inc. after meeting chairman/co-founder Hussein Abu Hassan, who is a double-lung transplant recipient.

“This pandemic is something we couldn’t have predicted, obviously,” Martin said. “But as soon as the need emerged, we tried to figure out what we could do to help.”

Martin, 34, was born in Jamaica but grew up in Toronto and London, Ont. Martin attended the University of Western Ontario before being taken in the fourth round of the ‘09 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers.

That made Martin the first Canadian university player to be drafted as an underclassman. Two years later, he was taken by Montreal in the CFL draft.

Martin spent seven seasons in the NFL with San Diego (2009-12), Miami (2013), Detroit (2014) and Kansas City (2015) before finishing up with Montreal (2016). And when Martin walked away from football, he did so with no regrets.

“You literally could not pay me to go back and play,” Martin said. “I think I was done mentally before physically.

“Any athlete with an ego will tell you, ‘I think with three months of training I could go back and play,’ but it’s just not there. And I’m really enjoying what I’m doing now.”

There’s plenty about football Martin doesn’t miss, most notably the impact it has on a player’s body.

“It just beat up my body,” Martin said. “In the last year, and not to get too sappy, I’ve had some spinal issues.

“A year ago I was in hospital and could hardly walk. The toll it takes on you physically, it’s just a lot of stress. You end up playing for more years than you realize and only get paid for the last 15, 20 per cent no matter how long your career goes.”

But what Martin misses most is the camaraderie.

“I definitely miss the guys,” he said. “My last year in Montreal we didn’t have much success on the field (7-11 record) but the most fun I had was with those guys.

“John Bowman, Alan-Michael Cash, Gabriel Knapton, those boys on the defence and the guys on offence, I miss that stuff but not anything else. Now I like watching them run around, let’s hope we can all watch them soon.”

The ‘20 CFL season remains on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has said the earliest an abbreviated campaign would start is September but he’s also stated no football also remains an option.

Martin said initially transitioning to the business world was tough. But he found some of the skills he perfected on the field were very useful off it.

“You always kind of say you want to identify the attitude that helps you thrive rather than survive,” he said. “I did my best to thrive in the game of football … I was always willing, I was always positive, I was always willing to take on any challenge and I brought that over to the business world.

“I’m not an expert in anything but I’ve always been willing to learn. I’ve always met interesting and willing individuals to kind of mentor me and offer me that opportunity. That’s all you really need in life.”

Martin found some of the relationships he established while with Fire & Flower ultimately led him to BeMotion Inc. And now, relationships he established as a player have carried over to his current venture.

“I’ve contacted all of the teams I played for personally … and so we’re in talks with them,” Martin said. “A few of the executives who were with the Chargers when I was there are on (NFL) health and safety committee so that was a great opportunity to get the product out to the decision-makers.”

Martin is also keeping tabs on the CFL.

“Mr. Ambrosie has quite the job to do in terms of figuring out those things as well,” he said. “But they’re on the radar.

“Everyone and anyone who could benefit and keep their customers safe are definitely on our radar.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 18, 2020.