It’s often been said that the network of Buckeyes across the world stretches far and wide. For Bill Leahy, that was never more evident than when he began working with Steve Newton, who attended Ohio State, when they were both executives at Outback Steakhouse.
Leahy and Newton struck up a friendship – no doubt aided by their mutual experience as Buckeyes – that lasted after Newton left Outback to co-found (along with Bill Kraus) Mission BBQ, a national restaurant chain based in Glen Burnie, Maryland. A trip to visit Newton some six years ago formed a partnership that resulted in Leahy becoming a Market Partner for Mission BBQ in the state of Florida.
“We opened our first two locations in Florida five years ago and now we have 16 restaurants throughout the state,” said Leahy, who moved back to Ft. Lauderdale in 2008 after he had lived there following his graduation from Ohio State. “It has been exciting growing a young brand.”
Mission BBQ opened it’s first location September 11, 2011, in Glen Burnie MD. That date was not by accident. 10 years after the world had changed the founders wanted to remind America, in some small way, what was great about it. They believe that it is our Military, Police, Fire Fighters and anyone that raises their right hand and swears to protect, serve or save.
Before Leahy became a successful executive in the restaurant industry, he was a lacrosse player at Ohio State from 1983-86 who earned his degree in restaurant management. A goalie, Leahy led the team in saves as both a sophomore and a junior. During his senior season in 1986, he recorded 30 saves in a game against Clarkson, which still today is the second highest total in single-game history. That season, he was named the team’s John Minnis Defensive Most Valuable Player.
“I loved wearing the Scarlet and Gray,” said Leahy. “I still do. When I was playing in it, I knew it was special.”
Shortly after he arrived on campus, Leahy was indoctrinated into the Ohio State culture the best ways that a Buckeye can be: through football. Specifically, the marching band.
“I had never been to a college game before,” said Leahy, who grew up in Oceanside, New York, which is located on Long Island. “I remember going to the game with a guy who insisted we get in our seats before the band started. I didn’t quite understand his urgency at that moment. When the band took the field and The Horseshoe erupted, I understood why you never miss the band. That was first time I saw Script Ohio. It was incredible!”
The goalkeeper gene was passed down by Bill to his youngest son, Ryan, who was a four-year letterwinner at St. Thomas Aquinas and is a member of the lacrosse team at Washington College in Chestertown, Md.
While at St. Thomas, lacrosse was a family affair for the Leahy’s: Bill was on the coaching staff while his wife, Pam, and daughter, Megan, were in the press box during games handing clock management and public address announcing duties.
“The biggest highlight in those years was St Thomas winning a state championship and Ryan being named MVP of the game,” said Leahy. “I love being around the game. Watching Ryan play at Washington College is great but I am not as big of a fan sitting in the bleachers. I like the sideline better.”
As his professional and personal success has taken him to different parts of the country, Leahy has also remained connected to Ohio State through his work as an advisory board member to the College of Human Ecology for five years (2002-07). Nearly 35 years after his playing days finished, he’s still reminded every day of the lessons he learned playing goalie: be someone that your teammates can trust.
“Your education will be the cornerstone of your professional life,” said Leahy. “Being on any team you learn that everyone has a role fulfill. Sometimes you are called upon to lead and sometimes you need to follow. As you mature in your role you need to be prepare yourself to contribute more to the team.
Help your teammates. They want to know you are working hard and you do your job. Always strive for excellence. This is the same in business. Building teams of capable people who know how to work together to grow a business.”