From Owning a Shoe Company to Football Fame, Santia Deck is Busy Making History

Gabe Zaldivar

At the end of any workout it’s good to enjoy a cooldown period, let the mind and body relax after exertion.

Santia Deck doesn’t do cooldowns, at least not when it comes to her ventures off the field.

The 28-year-old is doing what she can in pandemic isolation. She’s training for an upcoming season, launching a sneaker company and maintaining a social media empire that includes an Instagram account with 629,000 followers.

“I mean, honestly, I live my life with no regrets,” Deck tells En Fuego. “I believe in trying whatever you want to try while you can. I want to be able to tell my kids, grandkids, I did everything. So that's kind of how I live my life. And, you know, I'm only 28 years old. And like I always tell myself, I wanted to be retired by 30.”

I’m taken aback by this, especially considering how much Deck has done so far in her life and the enthusiasm with which she puts into each and every one of her ventures.

“I know that's pushing it,” Deck said. “But I feel like you're supposed to work as hard as you can in your 20s so that you can just chill like the rest of your life.”

Deck forgot that she doesn’t have that chill mode the rest of us mortals have, content to kick up our feet and get cozy on those laurels of ours.

For Deck, there is history to be made and worlds to conquer.

Earlier this year, she became the first woman to sign a multimillion-dollar contract to play professional tackle football.

Deck will be the face of the Women’s Football League Association (WFLA) and the star of its Los Angeles Fames organization when the league starts in 2021.

She also now holds the distinction of being the first female athlete to own her own sneaker company. Not beholden to anyone but herself, there is a liberty to rocking your very own shoe—not from your own line, but your very own brand.

On Sunday, she dropped the first sneaker from her shoe company Tronus. Just as she’s done with each and every project, Deck is taking ownership. She’s driving down the field with the ball. She has this and won’t stop until it’s finished.

Finding Football

For Deck, success has been like reaching that next 50 meters, finding another gear and surprising yourself and those around you.

From track star, to rugby player to flag football standout, Deck has been on a journey to do it all but to do it with passion and heart.

Born in Greenville, S.C., but raised in Houston, Texas, football is something of a birthright for Deck. With an older sister and three brothers, Deck’s formative years were spent doing exactly what the boys were doing.

“I was out there playing street football, street basketball, hopping fences,” Deck said of her childhood. “I grew up with boys. I was always out playing in dirt. You know, whatever they were doing.”

What they were doing was playing football relentlessly. And despite being extremely good at it, she was pulled from Pee Wee football by her mom after taking a huge hit.

Tackle football, for the moment, would have to wait.

“Football, coming from Texas, being in Texas, all my brothers play football,” Deck said. “They all were running backs. They all were really, really good. And I didn't think anything of it. I just was like, this is just part of being a Texan; your life is football. Every Sunday, you're going to be in front of the TV.”

Running track from six years old, Deck is most at home there. At Texas A&M University – Kingsville she would run the 100, 200 and 4x100-meter events.

After college, she dominated the ranks of the Atlanta Women’s Flag Football League and later stepped into the world of rugby with the Women’s Eagles Sevens’ Rugby.

Her rugby life would be short-lived thanks to that one thing that manages to deter so many great careers.

“And unfortunately I got injured,” she said. “So that kind of ended my 2019 Olympic hopeful career. And I was just kind of, you know, a little depressed. To be honest, I was in a pretty bad depression. I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t sleeping. And I don't think people understand how traumatizing that is for an athlete when you get injured.”

She credits her family, especially her mother—that special person who is a best friend and manager—for getting her out of that depression.

Really, getting back emotionally and mentally was also about volition, moving forward. Finding that next challenge and not just meeting it but savoring every last bit of its process.

Making Shoe History

Sleek. Form-fitting. Tronus shoes represent an effort two years in the making. They’re a sock-top shoe that could best be described as putting a Lamborghini on your feet. They look like something The Flash would put on just moments before sprinting around the world.

In a word, these shoes look fast. Well, as fast as an inanimate object can look. But then again, Deck and her designer, Jamien Sills, have worked tirelessly to make these come to life.

“I told him what I wanted and he literally got it the first time,” Deck said of Sills’ design. “He may have had to change (a few) things, but he got the whole design of the shoe. Like, what was in my head down pat.”

First out the gate are the 2020 Os—originally slated to commemorate the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, pushed to 2021 due to COVID-19—and the Blackout editions.

They are speed condensed down to its simplest form, a shoe that hugs your foot and dares to tell you that this is designed for the human experience. The shoe is unisex, almost hearkening back to Deck’s upbringing: What’s good for the boys is good for the girls.

As she’s proved so early in her career, Deck is not about to be deterred by convention. Sure, she could have launched a signature line with a known brand.

But it makes perfect sense for a pioneer to instead launch her own shoe and feel empowered by the freedom and flexibility from that decision.

“I love fashion, but I've always been this type of person where I believe in ownership, I want my own, you know,” Deck said. “I want to be able to pass stuff down to my future children, things like that.”

A Social Media Queen

Any empire is built one stone at a time. Deck has carved out her own slice of the American culture with a very modern strategy.

She has nearly 630,000 followers on Instagram, over half-a-million eyeballs on every post she puts up. That’s a powerful thing when so much of what is relevant these days is driven by social media.

For her, it’s about putting positivity out there and reaping the returns on hope and aspiration and, really, just being authentic.

“You can attract so much if you know what you're doing on social media,” Deck said. “If you have a clean brain. If you're doing something positive and putting positive energy out and, you know, just taking care of yourself and your brain, the opportunities are endless.”

Getting onto Instagram started out as a friendly competition. More comfortable on Facebook, Deck’s friend urged her to flip to another outlet. All it took was for this friend to bet that she could get more followers.

It was on: “And then eventually I started posting like track and field college workouts and people started to share them and they're like, ‘oh, your abs are so defined for a girl.’”

Her posts became more physical, more athletic in tone as she concentrated on training regimens and showing her workouts.

The Queen of Abs, a moniker her mother helped craft, was born. “And that's kind of how I started getting traction because bigger pages started sharing my posts.”

She attributes all of what has happened to the hard work she has poured into her social media, which is an enterprise unto itself.

She’s played professional rugby, nearly had a shot at the Olympics through that sport and has had one opportunity after another that she can trace back to the fact that she shares her life with others.

“(With) rugby, the Olympic journey and into the combine, going to the Super Bowl and all these things I've gotten have come from social media,” she said. “So I tell athletes, just people in general who want to be influencers, it’s a job. And this is like your baby. It's almost like your own company. You have to protect it. So that's how it all came from social media. Somebody saw me, believed in me, and now we're here.”

She is now here, on the cusp of the WFLA’s inaugural season, days after a historic launch of her shoe line.

And she's still very much the dominant force of nature barreling down the field, accomplishing whatever new dream pops into her periphery.

Eventually, our discussion meanders back to her statement about retiring at 30. In all of her dreams that she’s accomplished, this is the most far-fetched.

She’s much too driven and passionate. She has no chill when it comes to resisting the next great opportunity.

“There's literally like so many things that I have in my mind that we're working on that I know; I'll just be getting started at 30. I mean, I can't sit still, and I want to have so many different opportunities to do whatever.”

Deck contemplates and smiles, “So, I don't think I'm ever gonna stop.”

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