Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman may have hung up his football helmet, but he's ready to take the field in a new game — retail real estate.

Following in the footsteps of another famous Cowboy, Roger Staubach (see below), Aikman, 39, became an investment partner and principal in May in Dallas-based Direct Development. The group is building the 450,000-square-foot Robertson's Creek, a retail project anchored by Belk and JCPenney in Flower Mound, Texas.

Aikman had already invested in a Texas car dealership, and has another post-pro ball gig as a lead announcer for Fox during the football season.

David Watson, managing principal of Direct Development, met Aikman during a Texas National Golf Club tournament last year. They were on opposing teams. But outside the competition, they became friends and things progressed from there, Watson says.

“It happened out of the blue,” he says of the Aikman partnership. “Troy knows what it means to compete and succeed and that's an aptitude that translates across all industries.”

Direct Development, formed by Watson and partner Syd Hurley in November 1997, has developed or acquired 33 shopping centers with over 3 million square feet since its inception. It has about 1.7 million square feet in the pipeline set to open during the next two years.