Since retiring from the NFL in 2013, Shawne Merriman has focused on building a sportswear company called Lights Out, which was his nickname for the way he used to drop quarterbacks. That endeavor led an unexpected and unrelated business opportunity.

During a fashion show in Los Angeles to promote the Lights Out clothing line, Merriman met Jesse Iwuji, who had played defensive back for the U.S. Naval Academy. Iwuji is now a driver in the NASCAR K&N regional series that serves as a developmental circuit.

The two former football players connected quickly. Merriman, a longtime NASCAR fan, decided to invest in Iwuji's team this season.

Iwuji, whose parents are immigrants from Nigeria, grew up in Dallas. He is in his final year of active duty for the Navy, but he received permission to get a head start on his racing career in 2016.

Merriman waved the green flag to signal the start of the 2008 NASCAR Auto Club 500 in Fontana, California. (Carl Edwards won the race.)