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'People are the most important thing about businesses': Ndamukong Suh on best investing advice he received from Buffett

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NFL Player and Super Bowl Champion Ndamukong Suh joined Yahoo Finance's Brian Sozzi to discuss investing, real estate, his friendship with Warren Buffett and his new partnership with Amp Human.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: Joining me now on Yahoo Finance is Ndamukong Suh. Ndamukong, it's hard for me not to ask you about your Super Bowl win in football. But in a lot of circles in the NFL, you're known as-- what I found in one story about you-- the NFL's secret finance nerd. So my question to you is, where are you putting money to work right now?

NDAMUKONG SUH: All over. But truthfully, I love real estate. It's one of my pride and joys. I grew up around it and in it with my family, my mother and father, at an early age. And then I've been blessed to have many great mentors, probably most notably Warren Buffett. So I [INAUDIBLE] the stock market as well. And just finding ways to be creative and be a part of those different companies and adding value. So super excited about the opportunities that have been afforded to me and creating more.

BRIAN SOZZI: You know, I recently caught up with Carson Palmer. And he also told me he's investing a good bit of his capital in real estate. Why are you-- why is real estate so attractive to you right now?

NDAMUKONG SUH: Real estate is one of the most powerful vehicles for generational wealth in my opinion. And obviously, just having twin boys with my beautiful wife has been exciting. And I want to be able to have assets that I'm able to pass down to them, but also not allow them to have something that they can just spend. Obviously, you can't-- it's hard to spend a building, as one of my good friends has said many times.

It's something that's exciting as well, and it's transformative. Being able to change communities, being able to advance them, and obviously, get the community involved in things that are bettering-- in betterment for them is exciting as well.

BRIAN SOZZI: Is it single family homes, multifamily homes you're investing in?

NDAMUKONG SUH: Single family homes we're primarily focused on. Mixed use developments. Have a handful of projects in Detroit, as well as here in Portland, Oregon, where I spent a majority of my off season. And so it's exciting for me. And I think we have some game changing aspects that we're working on in and around affordable housing.

I'm not a big fan of affordable housing just because it's always seemed to be subsidized by the cities and states. But I think we've created a model which is more on the private side of things that allows folks to be a part of it from the community, but also having your own ownership in your own particular building and be successful.

BRIAN SOZZI: How do you find time to study all these investing opportunities? Being an NFL player, it's a full-time job in and of itself.

NDAMUKONG SUH: Yeah, for sure. But going into my 12th season right now, I've been lucky enough to master how to train and prepare for each and every single week as we get prepared for the season during the offseason. I've got a great performance director that I work with each and every single day, as well as a great physical therapist and naturopath, and all the different gamuts of my particular team, which then affords me the opportunity to have time in the offseason and even between meetings and in the evenings when I'm not with my kids, just to be able to study read and do different things like that to continue to push my brain and be able to compartmentalize myself.

BRIAN SOZZI: What got you started investing?

NDAMUKONG SUH: I would say really just the curiosity. I was very fortunate when I was in Detroit. I met a great family friend now, a guy named Gary Shiffman that runs and operates a company called Sun Communities, which is actually a publicly traded REE. And I got to sit in his office after going to work for the Lions and being there. And sitting in his office, understanding all the different pieces he's working on.

And then he allowed me to start very small with investing. And so being able to learn those lessons, be very hands on, that's what really intrigued me. And now it's really just having an opportunity to grow that and really having an opportunity to do things on my own now that I've been able to be taught by some of the best in the world.

BRIAN SOZZI: What's your investing philosophy?

NDAMUKONG SUH: My investment philosophy is primarily focused on things that I enjoy being a part of. So not only having the aspects of being able to build things with my own hands and being an engineer, which is obviously what I went to school for at the University of Nebraska. And then being able to change people's life and being able to be a part of products when I'm looking at things from a BC or PE opportunity to say that are going to be able to change other people's lives.

One of the best companies I think that I've been able to invest in is Ember Technology, which is touch control aspects of devices and getting them to a place where people can make it easy for them to enjoy coffee. When you typically go to a Starbucks and it's nice and cold by the time you get to your first or second sip. So being able to be a part of companies like that and help them grow is exciting to me. And I've always enjoyed that.

BRIAN SOZZI: You don't strike me as a crypto investor.

NDAMUKONG SUH: I'm not really big on crypto just yet, just because I haven't had the opportunity to fully understand it. It's very volatile, obviously, not like the stock market where there's kind of Monday through Friday when it's being traded, and it's kind of that finite time throughout the day. Crypto's nonstop. I feel like it's something you have to be on top of every single second of the day, which that isn't afforded in my particular lifestyle and what I have going on.

So I'm still understanding it. I think there's going to be parts and pieces of it where it's going to be very prevalent in our lives as we continue down the road with it. So I definitely respect it and understand where the times may be moving. But I'm going to take my time to fully grasp every aspect of it before I get fully invested.

BRIAN SOZZI: What stocks do you own right now?

NDAMUKONG SUH: As I mentioned, Sun Communities is one of those. Berkshire Hathaway, of course, being an elite group, or elite company from that perspective. I think there's some other amazing ones. That I'm actually a part of a stack called [? SAS, ?] which is an amazing group. And really, I'm excited about the opportunity to work with [INAUDIBLE] and his companies and everything that they have going on. So I've got some pretty good ones in my portfolio.

BRIAN SOZZI: Very few people in the world can call Warren Buffett a friend. You call him a friend. When did you first meet him?

NDAMUKONG SUH: I first met Mr Buffett right when I left college. So we fortunately went to the same university. I met in my senior year. Actually, my senior game, he was honorary captain alongside myself. And after that, I left the season.

On my way preparing for the NFL, asked Doctor-- at that time, our athletic director, Coach Osborne the opportunity to meet with him. He said, I'll put in the ask, but I'm not sure you'll be able to-- that he'll guarantee that you'll be able to meet with him. But luckily enough, I got to do the meeting. And we hit it off, and been friends ever since. So typically try and get a chance to speak with him usually on a quarterly basis, which is very insightful always.

BRIAN SOZZI: Have you have you talked to him recently?

NDAMUKONG SUH: We spoke probably a couple of months ago during the holiday times. So I'm actually due to try to make a trip out there. And I know I got to-- typically would go out to the annual meeting and spend some time with him in and around that. But everything is virtual at this particular point in time.

BRIAN SOZZI: What's the biggest investing lesson you've learned from Warren Buffett?

NDAMUKONG SUH: Probably say the most important one that I learned from him is this focusing on the people. People are what are most important about businesses. And then running and being successful. If you've got good people that are running and operating those companies, which he has a lot of great people running a lot of great companies-- as you see Mr. Able is one of those, pegged to be one of his successors-- is obviously a great thing. And so that's what I look into companies. And as I said previously before about Ember Technologies, Clay Alexander, the CEO of that company is an amazing human being, and one of the reasons why I invest.

BRIAN SOZZI: You are you said you're a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder. Will you continue to be one when, what it looks to be, Greg Able does take over?

NDAMUKONG SUH: Yeah, I definitely plan to. I think it's all about the long-term goals and being patient and being focused. And having been able to interact with all the different people over there, I think there's a stronghold of the folks that will be able to take that company to new heights. God forbid anything happens to Mr. Buffett in the next 100 years.

BRIAN SOZZI: Are you surprised-- he's sitting on a ton of cash. Are you surprised he hasn't made a big deal yet?

NDAMUKONG SUH: I'm not fully surprised. I think he's very calculated and understands where he wants to go. As he calls it, his big whale that he wants to take down. So in due time he will make the right decision, or they will as a collective group, to take down that particular whale and use some of that cash wisely.

BRIAN SOZZI: Switching gears a bit, now you're calling yourself an investor in Amp Human, which I would take as a consumer products company. Why are you putting your name to that? And money?

NDAMUKONG SUH: Yeah, Amp Human is a great organization-- pretty young. But at the same time, it's been a part of my success in professional leagues for many, many years. I owe a lot of credit to them being able to help me get to two Super Bowls, and most recently, winning the one here down in Tampa, which was obviously amazing. And so from my perspective, just the things that they're building towards and the new test cases that they have coming out for different products, for consumer products, I think it's going to be amazing. So I wanted to be a part of that and continue to obviously, leverage the opportunity of what I have been able to create and be part of a great organization.

BRIAN SOZZI: How much longer do you think you're going to be playing?

NDAMUKONG SUH: I joke around with one of my partners, Joel, that I'll probably play another five years, although he doesn't want me to. But I feel really good at this particular point in time in my life. I love being down in Tampa. I look forward to being-- one, hopefully retiring there.

But truthfully, I think the sky's the limit for my myself and seeing how much longer I want to play. I feel great. And like I said before, I've got an amazing team that keeps me in tip-top shape and prepared for each and every single week.

BRIAN SOZZI: What has been Tom Brady's effect on the Bucs?

NDAMUKONG SUH: I think his leadership is some of the biggest things. Tom is a great leader, and he's very humble in the way he carries himself. And I think a lot of the guys pick up on his work ethic as well. So I think just a collective group of leaders that our team is a little bit older from that standpoint. But we've got some great young talent.

We all feed off of that energy of each other being professionals, playing at a high level, and being a perfectionists. And obviously, you can't be perfect in the game. But you can strive for that perfection. And that's something I think he adds to a piece of the puzzle. Because even before he got there, when I was there '19, he had the ability to join a group of guys that were aiming for perfection. And he obviously added some good elements to it.

BRIAN SOZZI: Before I let you go, I know you're using Yahoo Finance to check all your stocks, right?

NDAMUKONG SUH: Of course. I definitely look at it on a daily basis.

BRIAN SOZZI: Fair enough. All right. Ndamukong Suh, good to see you. We'll talk to you soon.

NDAMUKONG SUH: Thank you. I appreciate the time, and I look forward to talking to you soon.

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