The majority of athletes will spend their careers focusing solely on their on-field success, and the time they spend off the field is spent making sure they're in top shape to perform come game-time. Obviously, the more popular and marketable athletes will also spend a lot of time doing interviews, going to events and maintaining a public persona. Others may spend time finding another passion that they are grooming themselves to partake in once their careers are over.
Most of the time, for obvious reasons, those passions remain within an athlete's sport, be it coaching, managing or broadcasting, or perhaps in another sport. Another common post-career passion for athletes is food, and that should come as no surprise to anyone, for two reasons: for starters, athletes have to fuel their bodies, so eating right and eating a lot was not part of the job, it was a way of life for whatever amount of years they played professionally. The second reasons is that now that they don't have to worry about having a ridiculously low body fat percentage, so they can gorge on whatever their heart desires.
The passion for food among athletes has often led to retired players using some of their career earnings to open up their own restaurants, as a way to invest in that passion and keep busy in their new lives. The trend is seen across all sports, but at a glance it appears that football players are the most invested in the food business after they hand up their cleats (you can imagine why, considering all the offensive lineman that have gone through the NFL).
Some have failed, whether it was lack of experience or surrounding oneself with the wrong individuals, while others have prospered and become legendary eateries, even for those who've never watched a football game in their lives and just want to go for a good steak.
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15 Andy Nelson Southern BBQ Pit
Andy Nelson isn't a name that will pop off the page as a star NFLer to the average fan. Nelson roamed the Baltimore Colts defensive backfield during the 60's, but today he is better known for his famous Maryland BBQ pit, considered one of the best in the state. The restaurant is full of football memorabilia, creating a real American atmosphere while the ribs, brisket and pulled pork are being passed around the table.
14 Tiffany's - Tony Siragusa
New Jersey native Tony Siragusa never got a chance to play for one of the two New York teams he grew up watching, but he made sure to make an impact back home by getting involved with the now legendary sports bar Tiffany's, a football haven (especially for Jets fans). This is a place where one can not only enjoy a good ol' American ribs, but it also has an Italian touch on the menu - as their "grandma's meatballs" are of award-winning quality.
13 Offerdahl’s Café Grill - John Offerdahl
John Offerdahl made a name for himself as a defensive stalwart with the Miami Dolphins during his playing career, but now he is better known for his chain of Cafe Grill restaurants that he's developed all over South Florida. Offerdahl's offers a quicker, healthier meal option for those who aren't looking to go to a rowdy bar and chow down on steaks and burgers. Although Offerdahl made sure there was a bit of a football touch to his concept, adding "Super Chop Bowls" to his menu.
12 Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza - Dan Marino
Dan Marino made a living as a legendary quarterback, and while now he's been spending most of his time on television, he keeps the rifle arm loose by tossing pizzas instead of footballs. Marino got involved with Anthony's Pizza joints, and before long the chain boasted 34 locations, including in Marino's hometown of Pittsburgh. If you're looking for a classic pizza with a football twist, this is the place for you.
11 Billy Sims BBQ - Billy Sims
Billy Sims has become the "Godfather" of former players owning restaurants, of sorts. He's got his name on a couple of different eateries, but his most famous is by far his self-entitled BBQ, renowned for their pulled pork and potato salad dishes. The former star running back collected plenty of memorabilia of the years to personalize his spots, and the joint is basically a homage to the former Heisman trophy winner - and to good BBQ, of course.
10 Brother Jimmy's - Jonathan Vilma, Jon Beason, D.J. Williams
One of the few partnerships you'll find in the player-restaurateur world, Jonathan Vilma, Jon Beason and DJ Williams teamed together to build a smash-hit of an eatery. The main location is in New York City, giving the Big Apple a little southern flair and creating a Louisiana vibe for those who want some slow-cooked meat to enjoy while watching their favorite teams battle it out on Sundays.
9 Theismann's - Joe Theismann
Most football fans remember Joe Theismann by the gruesome injury that effectively ended his career with the Redskins in 1985 after being hit by Lawrence Taylor. Theismann managed to carve out a new niche in the food industry, opening up his own self-named restaurant in Virginia. It offers a football watching atmosphere but is quaint enough for family dinners that won't burn a hole in your wallet, either.
8 Brett Favre's Steakhouse - Brett Favre
Brett Favre is always going to be remembered first and foremost as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL - and secondly for not being able to make up his mind about retirement - but he'll also be known for his steakhouse located down the street from Lambeau (a brilliant location choice). Favre's is a perfect place to grab a bite pre-game, post-game, or during the game, if you aren't lucky enough to be in the stands on any particular Sunday.
7 Eddie George's Grille 27 - Eddie George
Eddie George dazzled us for years with the Oilers and Titans, and when he's not offering his expertise on College GameDay, he's busy owning his own "Grille", which we'll say is just a fancy word to get people in the door. Once inside, you're in football heaven - high def TV's, any type of beer you can imagine, great food and plenty of football to get you through any Sunday of the year. Even if you don't like football, George's Grille is still recognized as a fun spot to hang out.
6 Jerome Bettis Grille 36 - Jerome Bettis
Similar to George's restaurant, Bettis opened his own "Grille" in Pittsburgh. He conveniently placed it near the stadium in a picturesque part of the city, so it's a great spot for game-day or for a regular night out on the town. As is the trend with these player owned restaurants, they are lined with memorabilia, photos and anything Steelers related you can think of from Bettis' career (it's unclear whether he parked a bus in the restaurant or not).
5 Elway's - John Elway
Elway is a little busier these days running the powerful Denver Broncos organization, so he probably doesn't spend as much time at his restaurant as he might have in the past. It's still a great place to visit in downtown Denver though. You can watch the game on Sundays, of course, but Elway's provides a bit of a more "posh" environment - so if you're looking to take out a girl in Denver and she happens to be a football fan, this might be the perfect spot for you.
4 Manning's - Archie Manning
Of course the Manning's have a restaurant. Of course it's great. Did this really come as a surprise to you? Probably not, as the Manning's are a super family that are seemingly capable of doing everything from throwing touchdowns to releasing rap videos. The restaurant is Archie's baby, and it's got all the football-watching amenities one could possibly need (including a sports desk!) while serving up the finest Louisana-style cooking you'll find in the Big Easy.
3 Vince Young Steakhouse - Vince Young
The story of Vince Young's football career's rise and fall is a sad one, filled with bad decisions that probably haunt the man to this day. One of his better decisions was the steakhouse named after him in Austin, Texas. From mouthwatering steaks to all the best fish in the sea (and even foie gras, if you wish to add it to your meal), VY's restaurant hits the spot every time; and it tastes even better if you're a Longhorns fan, as it's a place to reminisce about the good times.
2 Ditka's - Mike Ditka
When I think of Mike Ditka owning a restaurant, I think of him standing in the kitchen, surrounding by scurrying chefs, while he barks out orders through the smoke coming off the big Cuban cigar in his mouth. I might not be far off, regardless, Ditka's has developed a sterling reputation as a must-visit destination in the heart of Windy City. The place is adorned with football photos and memorabilia that brings back fond memories of the 80's for any Bears fan enjoying a steak at Ditka's.
1 Short's Burger & Shine - Nate Kaeding
It's not everyday you'll see a kicker at the top of a list that includes names like Dan Marino and Brett Favre, but Nate Kaeding found a way. Short's Burger & Shine has received rave reviews from all over the country, specifically for the amazing beef that is used to serve one of the many legendary burgers on their expansive menu. The produce, meat and beer is as fresh as you'll get in a burger joint, as it all comes from within Iowa. Suffice to say, Kaeding did not shank this one!
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