Given concussions, torn ACL, and Roger Goodell slowly killing the league, there's a fairly high chance that some of your favorite running backs will be pursuing new careers within the next five years. Some will go into coaching, some will jump into TV, and others will find unique opportunities that no one ever saw coming.
Today, let's look at some recent ex-NFL running backs - all of whom have played since 2000 - and find out what they're up to. Rather than look at the Emmitt Smiths or Marshall Faulks (it's probably best we leave Faulk alone right now, given his recent suspension amid misconduct allegations), let's think back to running backs you may have forgotten about.
Other than the year requirement, our only other ground rule is that players on this list can't be current broadcasters; players like Michael Turner or Tiki Barber (but who forgot Tiki?) are ineligible, although someone like Brian Westbrook who did TV work but is now in a different career would be eligible. Looking at who is doing broadcasting jobs would be just too easy.
If you're ready to think back to players you probably dominated older Madden games with and yelled at for not scoring enough in fantasy, let's get to work.
15 Rudi Johnson: Miami Dolphins Uniform Inspector
Best remembered for his three straight 1,000 yard seasons from 2004-06 as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals, Johnson totaled 5,979 rushing yards and 49 touchdowns in an eight season career with the Bengals and Detroit Lions. A fourth-round pick of Auburn in 2001, Johnson made the Pro Bowl in 2004 - the Bengals' first year without team legend Corey Dillon - ran for 56 yards on 13 carries in the Bengals' 2005 playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Johnson has mainly kept to the south Florida area in retirement, co-running the Warren Henry Auto Group in Fort Lauderdale. When Johnson isn't selling cars, he's stayed close to the NFL by taking a job as the Miami Dolphins' uniform inspector during home games. Perhaps he was behind the Dolphins' recent upset of the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football...
14 Rashard Mendenhall: TV Writer
While Mendenhall won a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008 and helped them to another two years later, many remember the former first-round pick (Illinois) for his controversial tweets following the 2011 assassination of Osama bin Laden. It's probably not good to say people shouldn't celebrate the death of a terrorist. On the field and away from the craziness, Mendenhall ran for 4,236 yards in six seasons, including a 1,108 yard season in 2009 where he averaged 4.6 yards per carry at 22-years-old. Not bad!
If you ever find yourself enjoying HBO's "Ballers", you should probably thank Mendenhall, who serves as the show's executive story editor. Some of the show's plot points, major and minor alike, have actually come from Mendhall's own experiences in his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals. The more you know...
13 Brian Westbrook: Farm Owner
Why were people so quick to forget about Brian Westbrook once LeSean McCoy came to Philadelphia? One of the league's most dangerous running backs, Westbrook ran for 6,335 yards on 4.6 yards per rush in a nine-season career with the Eagles and 49ers, making the 2007 All-Pro team when he totaled 2,104 yards from scrimmage. After his career ended in 2010, Westbrook - who also dd some TV work in Philadelphia - went on to find a new career...
“And at that point I made the terrible decision to buy a horse farm,” Westbrook told The Baltimore Sun in 2016. “Because I thought it was a good business. And it’s not a great business. It’s fun. It’s enjoyable. Of course you’re not going to make a lot of money doing it, but you’re doing it out of love, and I love doing it. And I love the horses.”
12 Thomas Jones: Actor
If you played Madden with the late 2000s New York Jets, you should have no problem remembering Thomas Jones, who ran for 3,833 yards and 28 touchdowns in his three years with Gang Green. Over a 12-year career that also saw him suit up for the Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Bears, and Kansas City Chiefs, Jones ran for 10,591 yards and 68 touchdowns; with a couple more strong seasons, Jones might have even had a Hall of Fame case when he retired.
Since calling it quits, Jones has gone into the acting and music business, helping run his own record label and appearing in roles in Straight Outta Compton, Luke Cage, Being Mary Jane, and more. Will we see Jones square up with Luke Cage next season?
11 Joseph Addai: Heritage Ranch Christian Children's Home Board of Directors
Will you remember Joseph Addai if we remind you he scored 34 touchdowns in his first four NFL seasons, including 12 as a Pro Bowler for the Indianapolis Colts in 2007? What about his touchdown against the New England Patriots in the 2007 AFC Championship Game? If not, at least learn what he's doing with the Heritage Ranch Christian Children's Home, a Louisiana-based group home.
“Football, basketball, stuff like that is not real life,” Addai said in 2013. “Not everybody can have a career as a pro athlete, you might have two left feet and can’t play football, but if you and I both put in hard work in child education, we could both be teachers. ... It’s not reality to tell every kid he can be a professional football player, so I look beyond that. We need to teach our kids more than sports — that’s my mindset."
10 Steve Slaton, Chef
Every article we do seems to come back to Steve Slaton, doesn't it? A third-round pick of the Houston Texans from West Virginia in 2008, Slaton ran for 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie, but fumbled seven times his sophomore season and was out of the league by 2012. You know this story because it feels like we're always writing about Steve Slaton on The Sportster.
Since retiring, Slaton has found ways to keep busy by entering the culinary business, including cooking meals for the Houston Texans in 2015 and going back to get his degree last year. Slaton, along with other teammates from the 2007 West Virginia team, was recently in town not only for a reunion, but a cooking gig. Not bad!
9 Kevin Smith: Florida Atlantic University Running Backs Coach
A star at the University of Central Florida and the previous Conference USA single-season rushing touchdown holder, Smith was drafted early in the 2008 NFL Draft's third round by the Detroit Lions. and immediately became a fan favorite, rushing for 976 yards and eight touchdowns in a forgettable 0-16 for the Lions. Smith fell to 3.4 yards per rush the next season and was out of the league by 2013, although the former UCF star did run for 4.9 yards per rush on 72 carries for the Wild Card-winning Lions in 2011.
Smith has returned to Florida, but a few hours south of Orlando as he's now coaching running backs at Florida Atlantic University. That C-USA rushing touchdowns mark we mentioned was actually broken this year by Smith's current pupil, FAU sophomore Devin Singletary, who sits at 1,794 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns through 13 games.
8 Travis Henry: Ex-convict
You have to remember Travis Henry, right? A second-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2001 who ran for 6,086 yards and 38 touchdowns in seven seasons? A 2002 Pro Bowler who had three separate seasons of 1,200 or more yards? Remember when Henry and Willis McGahee were expected to be the Bills' 1-2 running back punch of the future?
Well, remember that, because Henry's post-football career hasn't been fun. Not only did Henry go broke shortly after his final game because he birthed 11 children to nine children - the guy had to pay over $170,000 per year in child support! - but he had to serve three years in prison for being the "money guy" in a cocaine ring. We've said not bad for some of these guys, but this was bad.
7 Leon Washington: Leon Washington Foundation
Mainly known for his special teams play, which earned him two Pro Bowl nods and a spot on the 2008 All-Pro team, Washington ran for 2,271 yards and 16 touchdowns in ten seasons with the New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, and Tennessee Titans. From 2007-10, Washington had seven kickoff return for touchdowns with the Jets and Seahawks.
While Washington did run the Leon Washington Foundation during his career, things have really taken off since his final play in 2014 with the Titans. Based in Jacksonville, the Leon Washington Foundation aims to help low-income families and "devote the time and energy necessary to educate our community on living a positive healthy lifestyle." Yet another touchdown for the two-time Pro Bowler and legendary Madden player.
6 Sammy Morris: High School Football Coach
If you remember Sammy Morris, good luck also remembering he somehow played 12 seasons in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, and Dallas Cowboys. Spending all but his final season in the AFC East, Morris ran for 3,053 yards and 26 touchdowns on 736 carries, including a 727 yard, seven touchdown season for the Patriots in 2008.
It didn't take long after Morris' final snap for him to find his next calling, going into high school coaching at Attleboro High School in Massachusetts. Morris served as the team's special teams coordinator and running backs coach this past season for the 5-7 Bombardiers. What even is a bombardier? More importantly, when is Julian Edelman going to challenge their quarterback to a throwing battle?
5 Ron Dayne: University of Wisconsin Advisor
One of the greatest running backs in college football history - we'll see if Kevin Smith's favorite player, Devin Singletary, can pass him soon (thankfully, we're not talking about "Comic Book Men" Kevin Smith) - Dayne was mediocre at best in his seven NFL seasons. The 11th overall pick of the 2000 NFL Draft by the New York Giants and later playing for the Denver Brocnos and Houston Texans, Dayne ran for 3,722 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Though Dayne is not coaching for the Wisconsin Badgers, he's serving as an advisor to the football program and helping AP All-American Jonathan Taylor try to follow in his footsteps. Taylor had a heavily successful 2017 season, but will we see Dayne take a bigger role with the program to ensure the current freshman does even better?
4 Dominic Rhodes: Rhodes To Success
Dominic Rhodes, the Indianapolis Colts' do-it-all guy! Undrafted and picked up by the Colts later, Rhodes carved out a solid career with the Colts (and one solid season under Lane Kiffin's Oakland Raiders), rushing for 3,286 yards and 26 touchdowns in eight years. Rhodes never had more than 650 yards in a season after hitting 1,104 as a 22-year-old in 2001, but he at least won a title with the Colts in 2006.
Now, Rhodes is running his own charity, Rhodes to Success. Before you boo, at least note the charity "provides extracurricular activities for youth, challenges youth in the areas of academics and/or athletics, through camps, classroom instruction, or service projects, and provides financial assistance to youth to further their education or athletic careers.” Great work by Rhodes to make a difference.
3 Earnest Graham, Pro Player Insurance/high school coach
Called by some as the fantasy football savior of the 2007 season (I'm still grateful for you, Earnest!), Graham began his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a seldom-used running back before an 898 yard, ten touchdown season in 2007. Graham finished his career with 2,047 yards and 15 touchdowns in eight seasons with the Buccaneers from 2004-11 - not quite the statistics of others on this list, but not bad numbers with everything considered.
In retirement, Graham has not only sold insurance, but is now coaching at North Fort Myers High School in Lee County, Florida. Graham also works with former teammate Carnell "Cadillac" Williams as the owners of Pro Player Insurance Group, an independent insurance agency obviously based in Florida. That's two running backs for the price of one!
2 Larry Johnson: Fighting CTE
This one is sad, so rather than talk about Johnson's two Pro Bowl seasons and 6,223 yards and 65 touchdowns from 2003-11, I think we should let his recent comments about suicide and CTE to The Washington Post speak for themselves.
“A bittersweet thing: I’m going to be free of everything that’s holding me down. The same way [former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez] thought: I’m going to be gone from this world, but I’m still going to be able to take care of my child, because that’s all I care about. ... When you’re that down deep in it, you don’t want to be talked out of it.”
We hope that Johnson can fight through his CTE and live for himself and his young daughter, also profiled in that story.
1 LaMont Jordan: Running Back University
Like Steve Slaton, LaMont Jordan seems to always wind up on these lists because of his 1,025 yard season for the Oakland Raiders in 2005, but Jordan had a fairly decent career otherwise. Finishing with 3,734 yards and 28 touchdowns for the Raiders, New York Jets, New England Patriots, and Denver Broncos, Jordan averaged 4.2 yards per rush for his career.
A second-round pick of the New York Jets in 2001, Jordan now coaches at Football University, which helps student athletes from grades 6-12 in "unlocking their potentials and eventually playing at the highest levels in college and the NFL." Hopefully, Jordan can teach the kids how to also make $11 million in guaranteed money over five years of a contract. What a job by Jordan.
Which of these players do you think has the most fascinating new career? Let us know in the comment section below!