It was a cold, blustery day in mid-February when I sat down with Vinny Testaverde at a coffee shop in the Upper West Side. I had obviously seen video of Testaverde before; I grew up a fan of the New York Jets and watched him on television every Sunday. Even still, I was shocked by his size. At 6 foot 5, 230 pounds, he looked like he could still brush off a pass rusher and deliver a strike down the field. He asked to meet me because he had some big news, and he liked what my writing here at GangGreenNation (which, coincidentally, makes him my only fan). Of course I agreed to meet.
"I grew up pretty hefty," he started, "and it was because I was so obsessed with eating donuts. I actually started playing football so I could lose some weight from my donut obsession. Plus, it was a perfect sport for a portly kid; I blended in." Testaverde said that he would use his allowance, and later, the booster money he received at the University of Miami, to fuel his passion. "Oh yeah. It didn't matter what kind of donuts they were. Glazed, powdered, red velvet was a favorite of mine. Jelly center, cruller, sprinkles. I could go on. I just really love donuts," he muffled out while eating a chocolate glazed donut.
He did his best to hide his addiction, but soon, he could be found on the sideline sneaking in a quick Krispy Kreme. He imported Tim Hortons from Canada, taped to the body of his mule through security. He found that other players were obsessed too. "The coaches couldn't control us, although they tried. They tried banning them in the locker room, afraid our weight would spiral out of control. It actually created a big black market. It was unspoken knowledge that everyone did it." In fact, Jumbo Elliot, Testaverde's teammate, was the Dunkin' Donuts 2001 Customer of the Year. Elliott started a Donut of the Month Club in the locker room, where players meet to try new donut flavors and discuss them. Jared Lorenzen would tele-conference in. In conjunction, Testaverde created an entire rating system to judge their favorites, but he says he has a few more modifications to make before he releases it to the public.
Soon after retirement, however, things turned south. Testaverde no longer had football to keep his weight down from his donut obsession. His weekly pickup game of basketball with Masi Oka, Jon Hamm, and John C. Reilly helped, but it really couldn't stem the tide. Testaverde's weight soon ballooned up to 350 pounds. Obesity became a real issue, and at one point, he was strongly considering getting an electric wheelchair to move around. He was diagnosed with diabetes, and his doctor told him that "one more flake of powdered sugar could kill [Testaverde]." At that point, Testaverde realized things had to change. "I'm a father. I wanted to see my kids grow up and get married. I love donuts, but it took me that meeting with the doctor to realize that I love my kids more."
As a result, he started to cut back on his donut intake. He cut down to just two donuts per day, down from a peak of twelve. He quickly started losing weight, and started to evaluate his options. He had a standing offer from Brashton Satele to work at his pizza shop, but that wasn't it. Testaverde realized that he wanted to start a donut shop, so he could share his passion in a fiscally responsible way. As he lost weight, he got investors, and came up with a name:
Vinny Bag O' Donuts.
He contacted the Jets and told them of his idea. He knew where he wanted it located, and needed their help. "I want my shop to be located in MetLife Stadium," he said. "Although it's a new stadium, it's a reminder of where I accomplished so much, like the Monday Night Miracle and making it to the AFC Championship." The shop, he told me, would be located on the ground level near the Pepsi entrance, and would be open before the game and at halftime. "The prices will be reasonable. I blew my entire rookie signing bonus on sprinkled donuts, and I don't want that to happen to anyone else," he claimed.
I wanted more information, but Testaverde was coy on the details. He said a lot has to be worked out, especially when it comes to the menu. He did say, however, that coming up with new donut ideas was surprisingly difficult. He said that he tried to create a batch in honor of Chad Pennington, but unfortunately, it kept crumbling when touched.
Testaverde said that the line dedicated to Stephen Hill was supposed to be a honey glaze, but it was just impossible for people to hold onto without dropping. He tried to create one for Bill Belichick, but it ended up being too slimy, and people kept choking on the Tony Romo. He had other ideas as well. The Jamarcus Russell would contain 6,000 calories and the Michael Irvin came with extra powdered sugar. He has an arrangement with Rex Ryan, who promised he'd take care of any leftovers at the end of each day.
You could tell how excited he was, just talking about it. It was easy to see that this really was a lifelong passion of his, and he finally found a productive way to channel it. He's shed the nickname Two Ton Vinny, and it was plainly evident from our meeting that he has this dangerous vice under control. He's no longer freebasing powdered sugar, and he isn't taking anymore midnight trips to Krispy Kreme.
Make sure you check out Vinny Bag O' Donuts at MetLife Stadium this fall.
Have a great April 1st everybody.