Derrick McCray’s dream was to play in the NFL and make it to the Super Bowl. Although he was unable to realize his dream of becoming an NFL player, he was able to reach the Super Bowl through his family’s 89-year-old BBQ restaurant, which he now manages.
When a West Palm Beach employee recommended his food truck to the NFL host committee, his Backyard BBQ & Seafood got their notice, and he was invited to Super Bowl XLI in 2007.
Since then, he has been the preferred chef for a number of NFL Super Bowl events, including the Player’s Networking Event (PNE), which assists active and past athletes in maximizing chances over Super Bowl weekend. According to Forbes, he has also attracted top celebrities including as Serena and Venus Williams, Justin Timberlake, and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Joe Biden.
McCray has been with the company for over 15 years. His father and uncle left him the business. The McCray family established McCray’s Backyard Bar-B-Q & Seafood in 1977. The company’s first location was on Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach, but it now calls Mangonia Park home.
When his father asked him to head the family business, McCray was initially hesitant. It was during this time that he aspired to be an NFL player. McCray moved to Los Angeles after playing for Florida A&M University and found himself homeless. He also grew addicted to cocaine and had multiple near-death experiences. He then returned to South Florida in the 2000s, where he was recovered at a sober house before returning to live with his parents.
“I borrowed $100 from my mother and a grill from my dad, who wanted me to stay healthy,” McCray told Sun-Sentinel. “I started with a small grill but I’ve never been afraid to go after the big stuff.”