While the NFL is now often referred to as the “No Fun League” because of its harsh punishments handed down to players who coordinate their touchdown celebrations or playfully taunt the opposing team, it wasn’t that way in the early 2000s. The 2000s, overall, were some of the most fun and entertaining years the NFL has ever had. The players had bravado and weren’t afraid to show it. The hits were jarring to watch, but would rarely draw a flag. The rivalries were stronger than ever. And some of the greatest Super Bowls occurred (ex: Patriots/Rams, 2002; Patriots/Giants, 2008; Cardinals/ Steelers, 2009). Needless to say, it was a great decade for the NFL.
Some of the brightest stars from that generation still shine bright in the NFL today, like Tom Brady and Larry Fitzgerald to name a few. But most of the superstars from that generation are now well into their respective retirements. While many of the players from that generation remain steadily in the spotlight, there are many that seem to have faded away since their careers came to an end. his list takes a look at 15 NFL players that were household names in the 2000s, but have since been relatively forgotten, and provides a peak at what they are up to now.
So without further ado, kick your feet up, grab a drink, and take a quick stroll down memory lane as you catch-up with these 15 forgotten football stars of the early 2000s.
15. Jake Plummer
One player that is often forgotten when discussing quarterbacks of the 2000s is Jake “the snake” Plummer, but the former Arizona State University standout should be noted as a pioneer for the scrambling quarterbacks that excel in the NFL today. Plummer was athletic and creative enough to escape pressure in the pocket and avoid would-be tacklers, but his big play or bust mentality was a frustratingly beautiful thing to watch. Plummer reached the apex of his career in 2005, when he led the Denver Broncos to the AFC Championship game. He retired abruptly following a trade from the Broncos to Tampa Bay in 2007.
Shortly after his retirement, Plummer used his athletic prowess to quickly rise to relevancy in the sport of handball. Yes, handball. In Plummer’s first professional event, he and his brother placed second in the US Open of Handball. Plummer also runs his own tournaments nowadays and enjoys being just another member of the handball community. More recently, Plummer has stepped back into the spotlight at times as a sports commentator, giving bizarre, yet refreshingly real input on football related issues. Jake the Snake continues to be one of the most interesting stars from his NFL generation.
14. Ahman Green
When you are the all-time leading rusher for a franchise that has been around for nearly 100 years, it’s safe to say you are a great running back. As the all-time leading rusher for the Green Bay Packers, Ahman Green was a great running back. For as great as he was, Green has essentially fallen off the face of the earth since his retirement in 2009 and apparently, that’s fine with him.
Green is a self-proclaimed “nerd” who chose to remain in the small town of Green Bay after his retirement because of it relative seclusion. This nerdy side of Green is apparent in that he schedules at least one hour of video game practice every day and has an affinity for comic books, particularly Batman. In fact, Green scored a role as an extra in the recent “Batman vs. Superman” movie. While Green still remains invested in athletics as the co-owner of D-1 Sports Training in Green Bay, it’s his passion for video games and comics that fills his post-retirement days. (Fun fact: Green’s gamertag is BatmanAG30).
13. Joe Horn
Many only remember Joe Horn for his exuberant touchdown celebrations, like when he used a cell-phone during his touchdown celebration against the New York Giants in 2003. Horn had game and the swagger to back it up. For example, the infamous cell-phone celebration came on a night in which he hauled in four touchdown receptions. Not many people realize that Horn was a rags to riches player and just barely made it to the NFL draft after a year in the CFL.
Since his playing days ended, Horn has been busy with several different business ventures and endorsements deals. He often partners with former players and coaches to hold youth football camps known as “Got Hands University.” He also created his own barbecue sauce business entitled, “Bayou 87” which embodies the Cajun culture and flavors of New Orleans. It would be interesting to see how Horn would fit in today’s No Fun League, but it’s inspiring to see him thriving off the field as well.
12. Zach Thomas
Once one of the most feared inside linebackers in the NFL, Zach Thomas remains a legend in Miami Dolphins lore. The seven-time Pro Bowler and member of the 2000s all decade team walked away from the NFL in 2010 and hasn’t looked back since. Thomas continues to approach post-retirement life with the same tenacity and focus that made him a hero among Dolphins fans.
Thomas was always an astute player who would spend countless hours reviewing game film of upcoming opponents. He now uses that same drive and passion to help him thrive in the business and investment world. Since retiring, Thomas has started several business including “Zach’s Club 54,” a small chain of upscale health facilities in Texas. Thomas also takes great pride in being a father and role model to his three young children, while still continuing to reside in South Florida.
11. Kordell Stewart
Kordell Stewart was one of the most exciting athletes to ever play in the NFL. It’s hard to simply label him as a quarterback because he was able to play numerous positions (QB, WR, RB) at such a high level that it made him the ultimate utility player and earned him the nickname “slash.” His ability to create big plays from anywhere on the field gave opposing defensive coordinators major headaches. Although he hadn’t played since 2005, Slash didn’t officially retire until 2012.
Since his playing days, Stewart has attempted to remain in the spotlight with several different television appearances including commentating for multiple sports broadcast companies and being featured on The Real Housewives of Atlanta with his ex-wife Porsha Williams. He also recently wrote a documentary titled, “The Truth: The Kordell Stewart Story” which was released in 2016. Although he is often forgotten nowadays, it is clear that Stewart is trying to remain in the minds of fans for as long as possible.
10. Mike Alstott
Nobody in their right minds wanted to challenge Mike Alstott head-on in the 2000s. Whether he was running the ball or acting as the lead-blocker, opposing defenders knew that if Alstott was coming their way that it was going to be a major collision. The bruising style of Alstott earned him six Pro Bowl appearances in his 11-year career, which was tragically cut short by a career ending neck injury. He retired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2006.
Now retired, a guy who used to inflict a lot of pain on opposing defenders, is now one of the leading advocates opposing the NFL’s rampant use of pain-killers. He has also dabbled in the restaurant industry (Island Way Grill) and charities (Mike Alstott Family Foundation), but found that his true passion is coaching. He just recently finished his fourth season as head coach of the Northside Christian School football team, where his son is a star player. (Fun fact: Alstott’s son followed his father’s footsteps by committing to his alma mater, Purdue University).
9. Jamal Lewis
For being one of only seven players in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a single season, it’s surprising that Jamal Lewis has become an afterthought until someone mentions, “Hey, remember how good Lewis was on the Ravens?” Once brought to discussion, it’s easy to remember just how awesome Lewis was in his prime. This was especially true in 2003, when Lewis ran for 2,066 yards and also set a single game rushing record of 295 yards (this record was later broken by Adrian Peterson). Lewis retired in 2009 as a member of the Cleveland Browns.
During his career, Lewis’ greatness was always countered by his questionable decision making off the field (he served federal prison time in 2005 as part of a plea bargain for attempting to distribute cocaine). After his playing career, Lewis had financial struggles that required filing for bankruptcy, in which he was forced to sell his 2001 Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl ring. This low-point motivated Lewis however. He subsequently graduated from Harvard Business School and has now turned his attention to starting and nurturing entrepreneurial businesses. He is currently the Vice President for Metro Exhibits and doing rewarding work.
8. Muhsin Muhammad
This former Carolina Panther and Chicago Bears wide-receiver is so forgotten that many of you will have to Google his name to recall who he is. Muhammad was a steady, consistent force in the NFL for 14 years. His best season occurred in 2004 when he led the Panthers with 93 receptions for 1,405 yards and 16 touchdowns. That is incredible production for a wide-receiver, especially with Jake Delhomme at quarterback.
Muhammad was always a very likeable personality during his playing days and would often use this skill as a broadcaster for FOX and Comcast SportsNet during the offseason. Now, Muhammad uses his personality in the business field as a Managing Director for the investment firm, Axum. He also is the President of the M2 Foundation for Kids and performs generous work for the Big Brother Big Sisters Foundation and the Ronald McDonald House charities.
7. Simeon Rice
After being selected #3 overall in the 1996 NFL Draft, Simeon Rice stormed onto the scene by tying a rookie record with 12.5 sacks in his first season. Fittingly, Rice was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Rice would go on to have a 12-year career in which he consistently traumatized opposing quarterbacks. Despite several injuries, Rice would finish his career with 122 sacks, which places him in the top-20 all time.
After retiring in 2007, Rice admittedly struggled with adjusting to his post-football life and began suffering from severe depression. Determined to rediscover himself, Rice attended the New York Film Academy and graduated in 2009 with a new found passion for the film and arts industry. Rice released his first full-length feature film (titled “Unsullied”) in 2015 and looks to continue improving as a writer/director in his post-playing career. (Fun Fact: “Unsullied” has a current 73% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes).
6. Shaun Alexander
This former MVP running back for the Seattle Seahawks always had a quiet personality that was filled with humbleness and care. These characteristics made Alexander a forgettable persona despite the fact that he was one of the best running backs of his generation, if not all-time. His 2005 season was one for the record books as he rushed for over 1,800 yards and 27 touchdowns. His short, yet dominant career came to an uninspiring end in 2008.
Consistent with his on-field demeanor, Alexander has taken a very calculated and cautious view on retirement. Alexander and his wife have eight children (and apparently plan to have more) who they personally home-school every day. Although he enjoys being a dad and teacher, Alexander still had the itch to discuss football so he created the highly popular podcast “Finish the Game.” He also performs motivational speeches all around the country. It’s obvious that Alexander remains one of the nicest men to ever play in the NFL.
5. Keith Bulluck
While it took a few seasons for Keith Bulluck to become a starter for the Tennessee Titans, once he did he never looked back. Once a starter, Bullock would go on to lead the team in tackles in five different seasons. Although he was voted into the Pro Bowl in 2003, his most memorable statistical seasons occurred in 2004 when he led the league in tackles (152) and in 2007 when he recorded five interceptions as a linebacker. Bullock ultimately retired in 2010.
During his playing days, Bulluck was noted for always taking advantage of NFL incentives that allowed players to participate in business workshops at Harvard and Stanford. With the vision of “investing in himself,” Bulluck continued to grow his business acumen and knowledge in retirement by receiving his MBA at the George Washington University School of Business. He has since opened a digital branding and creative agency for athletes called “Transition Sports & Entertainment.” Look for more big things to come from Mr. Bulluck in the future.
4. Adrian Wilson
Adrian Wilson is best remembered for the brutal body-blows that he would deliver on opposing receivers, but Wilson was much more than that. This guy was an ultimate game changer because he was just as dangerous at rushing the quarterback, as he was dropping back into coverage. In fact, Wilson became just the 6th player in NFL history to enter the “25/25 Club” for achieving 25 career interceptions and 25 career sacks. In short, Wilson was a freak of nature and one of the most dominant players of his decade.
Wilson always had an eye for fashion trends in the NFL, so he opened up a high-end sneaker store in Scottsdale, Arizona called “High Point,” which remains a successful operation to this day. His passion for football began to return early in his retirement and Wilson soon found himself back with the Arizona Cardinals organization, this time as a scout instead of a player. Wilson remains a top-scout for the Cardinals, who appear to be grooming him to become a potential general manager candidate in the future. Regardless, Wilson has to be one of the most intimidating, yet influential recruiters on the college circuit right now.
3. T.J. Houshmandzadeh
This former Cincinnati Bengals star is often remembered for his confusing last name more than his on the field presence (cue the fantasy football “Who’s-Your-Mama” commercial), but Houshmandzadeh became a household name in the 2000s for his big game potential. Starting his career as a complimentary option to the team’s superstar Chad
Johnson Ocho-Cinco, Houshmandzadeh came on strong in 2007 when he had 112 receptions for 1,143 yards and 12 touchdowns. He followed it up with several more productive seasons, but his level of play dropped significantly in 2010 and “Housh” finally retired in 2012.
Houshmandzadeh was always considered a smart player on the field and was much more business-minded than his Bengals co-star Chad Ochocinco. Because of this mindset, Houshmandzadeh has been able to seamlessly transition from being a player to being a coach. He started as an intern with the Bengals, but now he is an assistant coach at the national powerhouse Long Beach Poly High School (the head coach is former NFL player Antonio Pierce). In January of 2017, Houshmandzadeh was selected to be the head coach for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl held in Los Angeles. It won’t be long before “Housh” becomes an assistant coach in the NFL.
2. Joey Harrington
Unlike most of the other athletes on this list, Joey Harrington never achieved great success in the NFL. Drafted #3 overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2002 NFL Draft, Harrington was supposed to revive one of the most hapless NFL franchises. Instead, Harrington toiled in mediocrity and finished his career with a touchdown to interception ration of 79:85. But not all the blame should fall on Harrington. The Lions roster was so devoid of talent at that point in time that Joe Montana probably wouldn’t have been able to lead that team to the playoffs.
While he may not have been the greatest quarterback, it turns out that Harrington is actually a kick-ass jazz pianist (a la Ryan Gosling in “La La Land”). Since his playing days ended in 2007, Harrington has performed guest piano work for many major bands such as Third Eye Blind, Jason Mraz, and the Blues Travelers. He also just recently joined a local Oregon news station to be a part-time broadcaster. Lastly, Harrington’s retirement wouldn’t be complete without the typical “athlete opening a restaurant” storyline. His restaurant “Pearl Tavern” opened in December 2016 near downtown Portland.
1. Priest Holmes
As an undrafted free agent for the Baltimore Ravens in 1997, Holmes quickly supplanted himself as a free agent steal by rushing for over 1,000 yards in only his second season. Holmes lost his starting role to the aforementioned Jamal Lewis in 2000 and later signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2001. Holmes proceeded to accumulate an incredible stat line over the next three seasons (6,566 total receiving and rushing yards). In 2002, Holmes was otherworldly with his 1,615 yard rushing, 672 yards receiving, and 24 total touchdowns. Unfortunately, a brutal neck injury forced Holmes to retire in 2007.
Nowadays, Holmes is known much more for his philanthropy than his rushing skills. He started the Priest Holmes Foundation in 2005 and has continued to thrive for educating and enhancing the lives of underprivileged youths. To help facilitate his philanthropic desires, Holmes returned to college (University of Texas) after an 18-year hiatus to complete his bachelors degree in Youth and Community Studies and graduated in 2015. The guy is an all-around great role-model.
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