The National Football League can be a tough place to make a living. Injuries are fairly common, and careers can be altered, or even ended, in an instant. Moreover, the threat of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (better known as CTE), a degenerative condition that’s caused by absorbing too many blows to the head, has become a major concern for many players in recent years.
Despite the risks involved with playing, many athletes are able to have very successful careers in professional football. There have been several men who have gone on to receive a great deal of fame and notoriety while making millions in the process.
However, fame can be fleeting, and money can disappear rather quickly if an athlete isn’t fiscally responsible. That being said, if a retired competitor uses his or her finances wisely, in many cases, they can go on to have a great deal of success after their time in the spotlight has ended.
The list you are about to read features 15 former NFL stars who were at the top of their game at one point or another. Unfortunately, many of these names have been forgotten by all but the most die-hard fans.
Some of these men have gone on to have a great deal of success after leaving the NFL behind, while others haven’t been so fortunate.
15 Larry Johnson
Former Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson was a two-time Pro Bowler in 2005 and 2006. By the time 2007 rolled around, the star back threatened to sit out for all of training camp if he wasn’t offered a new contract. The Chiefs responded with the largest deal in the franchise’s history at the time and shelled out $45 million to retain Johnson’s services for the next six seasons. Johnson would go on to suffer a season-ending foot injury the very same year, and despite playing on until 2011, he would never again rise to prominence in the league.
Since the NFL, Johnson has done a number of things, including becoming a DJ. Unfortunately, Johnson has had his share of trouble with the law since (and before) retiring from professional football. He was arrested in 2012 for being involved in a domestic dispute and again in 2014 for punching a man in a nightclub. Johnson has been arrested six times since 2003.
14 Brian Bosworth
Brian Bosworth is a former linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks, who became a star in the league due in large part to his wild hair styles and outspoken personality. In truth, his play on the field didn’t seem to warrant the hype surrounding him. Bosworth is probably best remembered for being run over by Raiders running back Bo Jackson on his way to the end zone. After only two mediocre seasons in the league, The Boz was forced to retire due to a shoulder injury. Bosworth serves as an excellent example of hype over substance in professional sports.
Following his retirement, The Boz went on to star in several low budget films. He also served as a commentator for the XFL, back in 2001. These days, the former linebacker is still acting in films and also does the occasional television commercial.
13 Carnell “Cadillac” Williams
Carnell “Cadillac” Williams was a talented running back out of Auburn. After an outstanding college career, he was drafted 5th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Williams had a breakout season during his rookie campaign and rushed for 1,178 yards in 14 games. His outstanding debut even led to him being named the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, following the 2005 season. Unfortunately, Williams would wind up being somewhat of a one-season wonder. Due mostly to various injuries, he would never again come close to reaching 1,000 yards rushing and was out of the league entirely following the 2011 season.
Since leaving the NFL, Williams has gone on to become a football coach. In 2016 he was the offensive graduate assistant at the University of West Georgia and is currently the running backs coach at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
12 Brad Culpepper
Brad Culpepper was a defensive tackle in the NFL who played for the Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Chicago Bears. The University of Flordia alumni started 83 games and was able to record 34 sacks over the course of his career.
Following his NFL run, the former defensive standout lost 100 pounds and began a career as an attorney in Florida. However, he arguably became more famous than he had been in his playing days when the ex-football star became a contestant on the CBS reality show Survivor. Culpepper has appeared on the show twice thus far. He was eliminated from the competition very early on, during his first Survivor appearance in 2013. He returned to the island to give it another go in 2017, and went on to become that season’s runner-up, falling just short of winning the million dollar prize money.
11 Quinn Ojinnaka
Quinn Ojinnaka is a 6-foot-5 offensive tackle who weighed over 300 pounds during his NFL career. He was drafted in the 5th round of the 2006 draft by the Atlanta Falcons. While the big man spent the majority of his career with the Falcons, he also played for the New England Patriots, the St. Louis Rams, and the Indianapolis Colts.
Once his NFL career had ended, following the 2012 season, Ojinnaka decided to become a professional wrestler. These days he is known by his ring name, Moose. He competed in the wrestling promotion Ring of Honor from 2014-2016. From there, Moose became a member of the Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling roster, where he would go to capture the Impact Grand Championship. Ojinnaka would appear to be having just as much (if not more) success in wrestling, as he did as a player in the NFL.
10 Aaron Brooks
Before Drew Brees became the man in New Orleans, it was Virginia native Aaron Brooks who served as the Saint’s primary quarterback from 2000 to 2005. Brooks had a solid career under center in the Big Easy and was even inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame in 2014. According to Football Nation, Aaron Brooks is the 88th best quarterback since the NFL-AFL merger of 1970.
After his football career had ended, Brooks opted to go into property development. In 2008 he decided to invest a redevelopment project in his hometown of Newport News, Virginia. His action even prompted the Vice Mayor of the city to tell dailypress.com that it was "significant that one of our own has taken his resources and other resources to show us that we can do it. It's a good day.” The project stalled in 2010, but Brooks was able to get things back on track.
9 Ty Law
Ty Law is best remembered for his stint with the New England Patriots from 1995 to 2004. The hard-hitting cornerback won three Super Bowl titles in New England. Law also led the NFL in interceptions in both 1998 and again in 2005. His outstanding play on the field prompted the Patriots to induct him into their team Hall of Fame in August of 2014.
Following his impressive NFL career, Ty Law went on to become an entrepreneur. He founded Launch Trampoline Park, which is now a franchise of parks located in several locations throughout the New England area. In fact, rumor has it, that the retired cornerback has been known to show up at one of the locations in Rhode Island and play some trampoline dodge ball with the customers from time to time.
8 Simeon Rice
Simeon Rice played defensive end in the National Football League for 12 seasons. The three-time Pro Bowler played for several different teams throughout the course of his career. However, he is probably best remembered for his stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. During his time in Tampa Bay, Rice helped lead his team to Super Bowl XXXVII, were they captured thier first ever Lombardi Trophy.
After finally leaving the sport for good in 2009, Rice began to focus on a career in the entertainment industry. He founded his own record label known as “Lucid Dream Entertainment” He also directed a short film called When I Was King, back in 2011. The former NFL star also directed the feature length film, Unsullied, which was released on August 28, 2015.
7 Jimmy Smith
Jimmy Smith had an outstanding career as a wide receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 1995 to 2005. He was consistently among the best receivers in the league during his time in Jacksonville. However, he wasn’t always recognized as being a top wideout, being that he played the majority of his career on a small-market team with virtually no national following. Smith finished his career with 12,287 yards receiving and 67 touchdowns.
Unfortunately, things haven’t gone so well for Jimmy Smith since he left the NFL. The former Jaguar was arrested on drug-related charges in April of 2009. In 2013 he was scheduled to serve six years for drug and firearm related charges. While his scheduled release date was originally supposed to be November 8, 2018, Smith was able to go home in July of 2013 and serve his time under house arrest.
6 Dante Hall
Though technically a wide receiver, former Kansas City Chief Dante Hall was primarily known as a kick return specialist. His exciting kick returns even resulted in him being nicknamed “The Human Joystick.” On a show entitled "NFL Top 10 Return Aces", which aired on the NFL Network, the speedy wide out was named the 10th greatest return specialist in the league’s history.
Following his stint in the NFL, Hall worked for Houston (CBS Houston) SportsRadio 610. The show announced that they would be adding Hall to their lineup in May of 2016. However, the former return specialist’s stay at SportsRadio 6010 would end up being a brief one. Hall would go on to resign from the show in October of 2016, after being on the air less than five months.
5 William "The Refrigerator" Perry
William Perry was a defensive tackle and a member of the legendary 1985 Bears team that won Super Bowl XX. Due to his impressive 350-pound frame, Parry was nicknamed “The Refrigerator,” though he was often simply referred to as “The Fridge.” Fans may also remember Perry from the 1985 Bears' hit rap song “The Super Bowl Shuffle.” Due to his massive size and power, the Bears would occasionally use him as a fullback on offense, in goal line situations.
The Fridge has fallen on hard times since leaving the NFL. In 2008 he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which is a disorder that includes chronic inflammation of the peripheral nerves. In 2015 the struggling former Bear auctioned off his 1985 Super Bowl ring to an unknown bidder. These days, he resides in an assisted living townhouse and lives off of social security disability checks.
4 Byron Leftwich
Washington, D.C. native Byron Leftwich was drafted 7th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars back in 2003. Despite being a highly touted prospect, the quarterback suffered multiple injuries during his time in Jacksonville and eventually lost his starting job to teammate David Garrard in 2007. However, Leftwich would go to play for the Steelers in 2008. He filled in admirably for Ben Roethlisberger, who missed 5 games that season and helped the Steelers make it to Super Bowl XLIII, a game they would go on to win.
Since retiring as a player in 2012, Leftwich has set his sights on a career in coaching. In 2016 the former 1st round draft pick was hired as a coaching intern by the Arizona Cardinals. In January of 2017, it was announced that Leftwich would become the team's quarterbacks coach.
3 Tommy Maddox
Quarterback Tommy Maddox was one of the few success stories to come out of Vince McMahon’s ill-fated XFL. As a member of XFL’s Los Angles Extreme, Maddox was named the league’s first (and only) MVP in 2001. His outstanding play that year earned him another shot in the NFL as a backup Quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He would eventually go on to replace Kordell Stewart as the team’s starter until a guy by the name of Ben Roethlisberger eventually took his gig.
After Maddox decided to call it a career, he would go on to become a high school baseball coach. In fact, his team won the 5A Texas UIL State Championship with Grapevine High in 2016, with Maddox serving as an assistant coach. He is currently the head coach of the Decatur High School baseball team.
2 Scott Norwood
Former Pro Bowl kicker Scott Norwood had a solid career in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills from 1985 to 1991. Despite being a Pro Bowl-caliber kicker, Norwood is best remembered for missing the game winning kick against the New York Giants during Super Bowl XXV. The Bills would go on to appear in three more Super Bowls following Norwood’s missed field goal, but would lose all three games decisively.
After being waived from the Bills, he maintained a low profile for a period. The former kicker would go on to sell insurance throughout most of the 1990s. In the early 2000s, Norwood decided to return to Buffalo where he became a real estate agent. He currently resides with his wife and three children in Centerville, Virginia.
1 David Tyree
The New York Giants former wide out became an instant star at Super Bowl XLII when he made his iconic “Helmet Catch.” With 1:15 remaining in the game, David Tyree made a miraculous catch on third down that helped the Giants preserve the drive and ultimately win the Super Bowl, against a previously undefeated New England Patriots team. Despite securing a place in New York Giant’s history, he was released by the team in September of 2009. He would go on to be signed by the Baltimore Ravens but never recorded a catch during his time with the Ravens, thus making the “Helmet Catch” the final reception of his career.
Tyree signed a one-day contract with Giants and retired in 2010. These days he serves as the team’s Director of Player Development.