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Former NFL linebacker grows his business while earning online MBA


acu online student zaviar gooden and his family
Former NFL linebacker Zaviar Gooden and his wife, Alex, have started a sports and fitness training business in McKinney, Texas, while Zaviar works on his MBA.

Zaviar Gooden, who played college and professional football before starting his sports and fitness training business, learned from his time in the NFL that hard work and dedication are keys to making dreams come true. Now, he’s focused on his next dream of making his business a success.

In partnership with his wife, Alex, a certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist, Zaviar launched CRA-Z Sports and Fitness in McKinney, Texas, in September 2019. “We’re on a steady pace of growth,” he says of the company, where he brings his skills as a certified strength and conditioning specialist to athletes, while Alex specializes in helping “everyday people who are just trying to have a healthy lifestyle.”

“We’re a business that loves to help people,” he said. “Growing up, I didn’t have the opportunity to learn from someone that made it to the top level. I would have loved that. I want to be able to give that to the young athletes in the community, help them accomplish their dreams and be the best they can be.”

No stranger to hard work and self-discipline, Zaviar began ACU Online’s MBA program in August of 2020 while simultaneously growing his business and co-parenting 3-year-old Zaviar Jr. and 1-year-old Zaylon.

From NFL to MBA

His motivation and interest in business is longstanding. “I always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” he said. “I was a business management major as an undergrad at the University of Missouri, so I always kind of had that itch to do it.”

The knowledge he is gaining while completing his MBA is helping him grow his business. “I always look to get better,” he said. “There’s always more to learn. And I know when you’re in business, you can have a great product, but that’s not going to ensure that your business does well. It depends on how you operate it and how you manage it, and in the fine details behind the scenes, the daily decisions. I wanted to gain a little more knowledge … to give us the best chance of having longevity and being as successful as possible.”

Choosing ACU Online

A 100 percent-online graduate program was important for Zaviar, and he valued the prestigious AACSB accreditation ACU’s Master of Business Administration boasts. “I liked the format, too, where you could just take one class at a time,” he said. “I’m trying to run a business, so one class is a lot more doable than taking multiple at a time. I didn’t want to bite off any more than I could chew because I thought that would be counterproductive.”

Zaviar says of ACU, “It checked all the boxes of what I was looking for. And it also helps that it’s a Christian institution. I loved that it was in-state, as well.”

The faith-based curriculum at ACU “definitely met my needs spiritually,” Zaviar said, who attends a Church of Christ in the Dallas area. “I think it’s great how they actually incorporate our faith into a lot of the assignments. We have to talk about the ethical implications of the decisions that we’re analyzing. We also pray before every class we join on Zoom.”

And how is he faring with the coursework? “It’s formatted very well and the instructions are very clear,” he said. “If I ever have any questions, it’s easy to get access to the teacher or tutors online. And they give you an advisor who checks on you every two weeks and makes sure everything’s going well. You pretty much have every resource you need to be successful.” 

Any advice for prospective MBA students?

Zaviar expects to complete his MBA program by August 2022. The man who was a team captain in college with a natural knack for leading and inspiring has a few words of encouragement for those considering an online graduate program.

“I would just tell them ‘Now’s the time.’ I know for me, I actually thought about doing it maybe two years prior. And it was always something – ‘I’m trying to do this as well, so I’ll wait until this is over’ – and then something else popped up. It’s always going to be something standing in your way. There’s always going to be a reason not to do it. So you just got to go ahead and dive into it, jump into it. The sooner you start, the sooner you finish. Because a year from now, you’re going to wish you started today.”

– Robin Saylor

Feb. 25, 2021

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