For many athletes going pro is the end of their journey, but not for Step Durham. Durham found a home with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018. He did not stay there for long because he was hindered by injuries.
He suffered a hip injury and never got to play in any of the team’s preseason games. Waived in 2019, he made sure that wasn’t the last time the world would hear about him. He went on to open Imperial Fitness Gym in his hometown Jacksonville, Florida.
The gym is owned by two former professional athletes and it specializes in football and basketball exercises. Durham believes this puts his gym in a good place because they’re experts in these sports.
“We’ve been playing our all our lives, so we pretty much know what we’re talking about,” said Durham.
Imperial Fitness has about 50 people that come in regularly even though the area is small according to Durham. COVID-19 made those numbers drop, but he looks at the pandemic as a blessing.
Being a business owner in America is not easy either, especially when you are black. The former pro looks at this challenge as another reason to uplift the next generation.
“It’s a blessing to be able to give back to the youth and some of the people that come in and I’ve definitely felt some of the support with people coming in trying to support black businesses,” said Durham. “It’s great to see your own people come and support because they can easily go to another business with a lot of more equipment than we have. They can go people that have more experience than we have.”
As of now, the gym is only taking appointments to adhere to social distancing policies. With limited space, the trainers still see a consistent lineup of clientele each week. Also, for those who are unable to make it to the gym in person, they’ll be able to exercise through virtual fitness classes.
The two are also very popular around their hometown, so their client list will just continue to grow along with the gym.
Imperial Fitness only has one location, but there may be another location coming in the future. According to Durham, it would be great to open another gym in Atlanta because he went to school at Georgia Tech.
To grow clientele they usually promote the gym on social media, along with other events they may have like the 7-on-7 tournament, the gym hosted this past June.
“One day we was just in the gym like, we should have a 7-on-7 and get high school guys, college and NFL guys. I think that’s a great opportunity because people look to do stuff in Jacksonville and it’s not many big events,” said Durham. “With a little time, we had a great turnout.”
In his free time, Durham keeps himself in shape just in case he does get another call from the NFL. During his time in college, he was one of the top corners in the Atlantic Coast Conference during the 2017 season. He recorded an interception, a sack, five passes defended, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
Even if he were to go to the league, the gym would be in good hands with the other trainer Brian Burnett, who also has thought about going to play professional football. In Burnett’s case, it would be overseas.
“If I get a call from an NFL team that’s an opportunity I don’t think I could turn down just because of my love for the game and it’s a great opportunity at the end of the day,” said Durham. “And I’m not worried if I do go play football, and we already discussed it, because he’s going overseas to play professional football too. So if he leaves, of course, I’m the business owner, but we have a good relationship to where we can talk it out and figure that stuff out.”
When he tells the story of being in the league, people are quick to ask him if he played with superstars like Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill. He loves being a source of inspiration for kids that look to join the league.
“Just seeing their faces light up to where they recognize that they can make it to that level. I mean, they have somebody to go on for like, I was in the same shoes as you guys,” said Durham. “I’m not gonna say it’s the easiest path, but it’s possible.”
Imperial Fitness is not only a gym, but it serves as an inspirational marker for future generations to come. For those in Jacksonville, Florida wanting to visit the gym, or to participate in upcoming virtual classes you can contact the gym via Instagram @Imperial___Fitness