- Sam Alipour
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For the next six days, linebacker Terrell Suggs and tackle Bryant McKinnie of the Super Bowl-bound Baltimore Ravens will focus squarely on their Super Bowl showdown with the San Francisco 49ers.
Come Feb. 4, though, the teammates and friends will begin to shift their attention to their increasingly successful side gigs. And both men seem to have found their off-the-field callings in showbiz.
We’ll start with Suggs, the five-time Pro Bowler and fledgling movie producer and screenwriter who’ll see his first full-length feature film hit Blu-ray and DVD on Feb. 5. From Suggs’ production company, Team Sizzle Worldwide, “The Coalition” is a relationship dramedy (think: an edgier version of “The First Wives Club”) about a group of ladies who band together to exact revenge on their naughty mates, including a pro athlete.
Suggs, an executive producer on the film, co-wrote the script with the film’s director, Monica Mingo. Since the movie is billed as being “inspired by actual events,” might we assume that T-Sizzle borrowed from his own experiences as an NFL player?
“I’m going to plead the Fifth on that one,” Suggs says after a hearty laugh. “We do say at the beginning of the film that it’s based on actual events, but you’ll have to figure out which events are true.”
For Suggs, filmmaking is no mere hobby. The 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year cut his teeth by producing a number of short films, beginning with “Sisters.” The talky drama premiered at the American Black Film Festival in 2010. At that same festival, Suggs attended a filmmaking class taught by Spike Lee and later picked the brains of Hollywood veterans like John Singleton and Robert Townsend before going on to produce three more short films, co-writing one, “When Beautiful People Do Ugly Things,” which screened at Cannes in 2011.
“The shorts were a practice round to see if I can actually do this,” Suggs says. “You have to be careful what you put on film. The audience isn’t very forgiving of first-timers. They want quality product. But when we knocked the shorts out the park, I felt we were ready for a feature.”
A hands-on producer when he’s not a hands-on-the-QB nightmare, Suggs was involved in all aspects of production on “The Coalition,” from costumes (“I’m very particular about how the actors should look and dress”) to soundtrack.
“The process of getting music into your film is a headache,” he says. “Anybody who’s somebody costs an arm, leg and kidney to get their music into a film.”
Among the gatekeepers to potential somebodies: Suggs’ fellow Raven Bryant McKinnie, owner and CEO of music label B Major Music Group.
Like Suggs, the 11-year veteran at tackle is a do-it-all boss.
“I help my artists come up with concepts, I’ve written, I’ve arranged -- I’m more hands-on than other athletes who do music,” McKinnie says. “I don’t think most of them have a good ear.”
The former Pro Bowler with the Minnesota Vikings, who first created beats on his Casio piano at the age of 4 and later played the drums for his high school band, is currently working with three artists: Young Lace, an L.A.-based rapper he discovered on Twitter; Fly Guys, a rap duo he met through former Vikings teammate and current Seattle Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice; and TyRell, an R&B artist from Jacksonville, Fla., who, McKinnie says, “has it all -- a great image, he can play the guitar, he has a great live voice and he records well, too.”
As proof of the last, McKinnie offers TyRell’s “Sexy, Grown,” from the artist’s 2012 mixtape, “Ready for the World.” (You can listen to and download the track below.)
Says McKinnie: “It’s an uplifting song for women, making them feel good and sexy.” It’s also a how-to for men. “You gotta take the ladies out, get their nails done and treat them right.”
Sounds like “Sexy, Grown” and Suggs’ “The Coalition” are a match made in indie heaven. Have the two men considered partnering up?
“All the time,” Suggs says. “I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, man, let me know if you have an artist you’d like to get out there -- for free.’”
Suggs typically loses McKinnie at the “free” talk.
“He always laughs it off and goes, ‘OK, we’ll talk, man. We’ll talk,’” says Suggs.
Like scores of savvy Super Bowl participants before them, Suggs and McKinnie are seizing on the bright spotlight to promote their side projects. But make no mistake: Both men know they’ll have their hands full on Feb 3.
Does anything in particular about the 49ers’ offense scare Suggs?
“Yeah, a lot of things,” he says. “They have a very talented kid at quarterback. They have a very nice running back. Vernon Davis is a freak of nature -- you can’t just go by his numbers this year. They have speed on the outside, with No. 15, Michael Crabtree, and you always have to account for 'Downtown' Randy Moss. There’s an actual play named after him, which everybody knows – it’s called, ‘Rannddddyyy!’”
The compliments don’t stop there. Suggs also gives props to Colin Kaepernick for his recent move to trademark “Kaepernicking,” the quarterback’s biceps-kissing celebration. Suggs, of course, has trademarked his own moniker, "T-Sizzle," which he says has earned him “some” revenue.
“I think it’s awesome,” he says of Kaepernick’s trademark. “You got to own your thing before somebody else does.”
Spoken like a true Hollywood producer.