Santia Deck, a professional athlete, has made history not once, but twice in the sports world before turning 30 years old.
Earlier this year, Deck became the highest-paid female football player when she signed a multi-million dollar contract with the LA Fames of the Women’s Football League Association (WFLA).
The track star turned entrepreneur says lightning struck twice when she also became the first female athlete with her own shoe company— not a collection or collaboration with another brand, but the entire company.
TheGrio caught up with Miss Deck to discuss what fuels her passion, how social media has helped her career, and what it’s like to be a woman in sports.
Deck always knew she’d be an athlete and envisioned herself in a position of ownership. While unsure of what that might look like as a girl, she channeled her energy and ambition into her training with the faith that she’d see the day women athletes are valued the same as men.
She’s had to push back against the idea that she wanted to play with male players.
“I never said that. In most of my interviews, I’ve said I wanted the same opportunity as the NFL players, but I am 5’1” 140 lbs. I’d die if I got hit,” she joked but continued to speak on the pressure she feels.
Deck has also had to overcome misogynistic comments. People have said that she’s “too pretty” to be on the field getting hit and should instead be at home making babies, but her calling is clear to her.
“I feel like I was born to do this. It’s one of my gifts,” Deck said as she recalled growing up in an athletic household.
She remembers crawling and climbing on things around the house with her twin brother before they could walk. By 7 years old, Deck was already running track and developing the habits that would prepare her to make history. She credits her success to the life skills she was taught in childhood.
“Sports has taught me a lot about myself. It’s disciplined me. It’s humbled me. It’s matured me,” Deck said. “I feel like even if a kid isn’t great … they should still be put in some type of organized sport to learn about life.”
In high school, Deck had gained national attention before deciding to attend Texas A&M University where she studied English on a full scholarship to run Track and Field. While still a student, Deck surprised many when she self-published her first book, “The Struggle,” as the spark into entrepreneurship.
“I grew up in an entrepreneurial household,” Deck recalled. “My dad owns a hair salon and my mother owns a production company. She’s also my manager.” Ownership was drilled in her from childhood. “That’s what we were told when we were young, ‘get out there and build generational wealth’,” she said about her upbringing.
Social media allowed Deck to turn up her business acumen by approaching the platforms with strategy and intent.
“I never wanted to be branded as ‘an Instagram girl’ or fitness model,” Deck said. “I always stood out anyway because I am a legit athlete. I used to post my actual Track & Field workouts and people were just intrigued like ‘dang, what is she going to do today?’ I just wanted to separate myself … you have to be different.”
She’s found it important to be clear on who she is and is not. “I’ve had people tell me, ‘oh you could be at a million followers by now if you showed a little more skin or did this kind of photoshoot,’ but I’m an athlete- I’m a child of God, I’m an athlete and I’m a woman,” Deck declared.
In 2018, Deck committed to learning a new sport and spent the entire year of 2019 training with the hopes of making the US Women’s Rugby team for the 2020 Olympics. Unfortunately, her vision was derailed when she did not make the team. This let down led her to a bout with depression.
“I don’t know if people realize how much trauma that is— training for one specific thing for like a whole year. I was just like, ‘So what am I supposed to be doing?’ I just remember getting on my knees and praying to God, “I hand over the reins to my life. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what’s next.”
God answered. Two months later, Deck got a call from the owner of the WFLA, Lupe Rose, who circled back with a second offer to be recruited to the league. Once she accepted, she signed the first multi-million dollar professional football contract as a 28-year-old woman.
To commemorate this historic moment, Deck saw the opportunity to create her own shoes, TRONUS. As a young athlete, Deck used to customize Jordan’s.
“I’m a sneakerhead and I’ve always wanted ownership, so I felt like why not me?!” She and her team began the process to get legal affairs in order to launch the company initially with only one design.
Special Edition TRONUS 2020 O’s officially drop July 19th.
“To be honest, I owe everything— from my shoes to Rugby to stuff with the NFL, I owe it to social media. Every opportunity has come through Instagram for the most part,” Deck said graciously. “You never know who’s watching.”
Deck is a true inspiration and evidence that determination can break barriers. “I want to be able to show little girls ‘hey, I’ve seen someone do what I want to do so I know it’s possible, it’s attainable, it’s real.”
While the sports world is uncertain of how to best move forward after COVID-19, Deck and her teammates expect to hit the field May 2021 for the first season of WFLA games.
Photo Credit: thegrio.com