By Cate Lecuyer
BEVERLY — David Givens looks just as comfortable hunched over a cooler taking drink inventories as he did scoring touchdowns for the Patriots.
After a career-ending knee injury two years ago, he turned from football to all-natural fruit smoothies, and opened Euphoria Lifestyle Cafe in the 100 building at the Cummings Center.
"The concept was to have a relaxing, laid-back environment, but at the same time you're in an office park," Givens said.
From the hand-painted, Venetian marble pillars to the plush, black leather seating and bamboo fixtures, the design of the cafe is a testament to Givens' industrial design degree from Notre Dame, where he was captain of the football team before being drafted by the New England Patriots in 2002.
In 2006, he signed with the Tennessee Titans but stopped playing in Week 10 after he tore a ligament in his knee. The Titans released him in 2008, and he sued the NFL saying the injury could have been prevented if doctors had divulged the true condition of his knee.
The lawsuit is still pending, but Givens, 29, is focusing on other interests. While playing for the Patriots, the former wide receiver wound up at fast-food drive-throughs more often than he would have liked.
"Everything out here was Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's and Wendy's," he said.
Not quite the diet the ballplayer was looking for. So after leaving the field, Givens took matters into his own hands — literally.
For the past few months, he's been doing all the painting and designing of the cafe, from about 7 p.m to 5 a.m.
"I would work overnight so I could get stuff accomplished," he said. "Because everyone wants to talk about football."
Not that he really minds.
The cafe opened Tuesday, and there was a steady stream of patrons interested in getting an autograph just as much as a Banana Berry Breeze. Givens happily signed photographs and showed off his Super Bowl championship rings.
But the smoothies are more than just a healthy snack, he said.
"Each smoothie includes at least three full servings of fruit," he said. They're all-natural, lactose- and gluten-free, and can serve as a substitute for a meal, he said. There's also a list of "power smoothies" designed for different purposes, including the "Breakfast Smoothie" and the "Iron Man" for a pre-workout beverage before hitting the gym.
With all the additives and options, "we cater to everybody," Givens said.
Euphoria Lifestyle Cafe is a popular Canadian franchise, with only a few U.S. shops mainly in New York and California.
But smoothie shops are nothing new — although they're much less popular in New England than other parts of the country.
In Arizona and Texas, where Givens grew up, "There's a smoothie shop like this on every corner," he said.
In fact, opening such a place has been a bit of dream.
"When I was 12 and living in Texas, my concept to my parents was to open a frozen custard shop," he said. "At the time, we all laughed it off."
But a few years later, someone else did just that, and he went home from college to see a line down the street.
Through Euphoria Lifestyle Cafe, Givens received the rights to own multiple franchises and has creative license on the design. So he can make them fit in with, say, a football stadium.
"I'm definitely going to speak to the Patriots and see if we can integrate this all-natural food to the team," he said. He has visions of seeing the smoothie shops in most NFL stadiums.