Like with bands and politicians, it's perfectly normal for athletes to enjoy one round of high-profile success before returning to being average. In the NFL, where the average career is so short, this is especially true. And yes, Derek Anederson, we're talking about you - though we're looking forward to watching you replace Cam Newton this year...
Back in August, The Sportster looked at 15 players who had fluke NFL seasons whether it was because of over-performing, injuries that took away their best traits, or because they were part of the 2007 Cleveland Browns.Today, we're going to do something similar by looking at players who did have fluke or one-year wonder seasons, but also examine where they are now?
I know I've asked this before, but what happens when one in the sports world retires? Do they stick close to the sports world they’ve spent so much of their life in and around? Do they go pursue other careers that maybe they didn’t have the time or energy – or even knowledge – of doing and devoting their time to? Do they wind up in prison – well, we’ll do our best not to talk about these guys today.
With players who maybe only have one or two good seasons, are they in the same boat as the Pro Bowlers and Super Bowl MVPs they shared a locker room with? Let's find out.
15 Rex Grossman: Owner of Florida Medical Staffing
Chicago Bears fans are probably already laughing at this selection, but you have to give Rex Grossman credit where it's due for his 2006 season...and by credit, we mean that he was competent enough to finally take the Bears' starting job and throw for a 23-20 TD-INT ratio. Was this season by any means impressive? No, especially not with a 54.6 completion percentage, but the former Florida quarterback did lead his team to Super Bowl XLI.
Now, Grossman and his wife Allison run Florida Medical Staffing, a nurse staffing company in Delray Beach (about an hour north of Miami) which helps nurse who want to travel around Florida or around the country - or, those who want to pick up shifts. Take it from someone who's had their share of experiences with Florida nurses - these women deserve some extra travel.
14 Barry Foster: Gym Teacher
With two Pro Bowl appearances and an All-Pro season on his resume, you may think that Barry Foster was a better running back than we're giving him credit for; and, there were times where he did have flashes of brilliance, finishing with an average of 4.3 yards per rush. But, his 1992 season was something of legend, as the Arkansas product ran for 1,690 yards and 11 touchdowns on a staggering 390 attempts. There's a reason why he ended up making that All-Pro team...
Over 20 years after his final carry, Foster remains close to football, serving as a gym teacher and running back coach at Delay Middle School in Arkansas. Imagine sending your kid to school knowing that they're getting educated in gym and health from a former NFL player? That's a reassuring fact for any parent, especially in the days where there are some awful people who somehow get teaching jobs.
13 Carnell 'Cadillac Williams: Graduate Assistant
Even in the 'old school' days of 2005, drafting a running back with a top five pick was usually frowned upon unless they were a generational talent like Jamal Lewis or LaDainian Tomlinson, so Carnell Lamar 'Cadillac' Williams entered the NFL with major expectations after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took him fifth overall that year. And, to the surprise of many, Williams enjoyed a strong rookie season, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year after rushing for 1,178 yards and six touchdowns on 4.1 yards per carry for the Buccaneers.
Unfortunately, Williams would never rush for more than 823 yards in another season as he battled career-threatening injuries; Williams only again topped 4.0 yards per carry once, doing so in 11 games as a St. Louis Ram in 2011, which was his final season. Most recently, Williams was working as a graduate assistant at the University of West Georgia (Division II) in Carrollton, Georgia.
12 Timmy Smith: Energy Sales Spokesman
At one point, it looked like Smith - who set the Super Bowl rushing record in his first career start with 204 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-10 win over John Elway and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII - wasn't going to have something nice on this list. After his NFL career ended following injuries and struggles with his weight and drugs, Smith helped his brother sell cocaine and was arrested in 2005 for selling it to an undercover officer. Spending two and a half years in prison.
But now, Smith is out and about. As the MMQB's Robert Klemko reported last year, Smith is working as a salesman for an energy services company called CETCO where he'll make trips along Texas and the west coast. That story is well worth checking out, by the way.
11 Tommy Maddox: High School Baseball Coach
Once hailed as the potential successor to John Elway, Maddox earns the rare distinction of playing in the NFL and the XFL...and then returning to the NFL. Of course, it's that post-XFL stint with the Steelers that most people will remember, as Maddox went 15-16-1 with a 58.2 completion percentage and a 42-40 TD-INT ratio; it wasn't anything spectacular and Maddox was replaced by Ben Roethlisberger, but the man made it back after six years out of the league.
Now a high school teacher and baseball coach, Maddox can look back on both careers with pride, as he told Kalyn Kahler of the MMQB earlier this year.
"I coach high school and teach at a high school, so it is funny because everybody kind of knew I played in the XFL, but I think with the 30 for 30 coming out, everybody was like, Wow. These kids I teach were one or two years old when that happened. They knew I played, but actually seeing it, the kids were like, Oh, he really did play."
10 Jordan Cameron: Officially Retired
A fourth-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2011, Cameron didn't do much in his first two years, catching 26 touchdowns for 259 yards and a touchdown in 22 games. In 2013, however, the USC product caught 80 balls for 917 yards and seven touchdowns in 15 games, making his first and only Pro Bowl in the process. Unfortunately for Cameron, concussions would allow him to play only 29 of a potential 48 games the next three seasons with Cleveland and Miami, forcing the tight end to retire earlier this year.
"If I didn't get concussions, I'd probably keep playing," Cameron said in March. "It's one of those things. I can't risk my mental health in the future. I don't have any symptoms now. I'm perfectly fine. But they can't tell me with 100 percent certainty that if I keep playing and I get more concussions, that I'm going to be OK."
9 Sidney Rice: Advocate For Player Health
Speaking of player health, former Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowler Sidney Rice has made that his post-football career. While Rice remains popular in Seattle for his veteran mentorship on the young Seahawks teams from 2011-13, he is best known for a 2009 season that saw him catch 83 balls for 1,312 yards and eight scores for Brett Favre and the NFC runner-up Minnesota Vikings. After that season, Rice would never record more than 50 catches or 748 yards in a season (both in 2012) as a result of several injuries.
Now, Rice wants to speak for those who can't, as he explained in 2015.
"You have these guys that have been going to the same house for 25 years. And all of the sudden they get to a certain point on their way home and they have to call their wives to get the directions home. So that is something that really hit home for me after having experienced so many concussions."
8 Larry Brown: Radio Host
If, after a strong postseason performance that usually winds up with a player winning Super Bowl MVP or being on all of the talk shows, you've heard someone say that they're going to the Raiders, there's a reason for that. Larry Brown, a 12th-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 1991, stepped up in 1995 to pick off six passes and help America's Team to Super Bowl XXX. There, Brown became the first defensive back since 1972 to win Super Bowl MVP, picking off Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell twice in a 27-17 win.
Hoping that season was a sign of things to come, the Oakland Raiders signed Brown to a five-year, 12.5 million dollar deal and cut him after only twelve games. Finishing his playing career with the Cowboys in 1998, Brown dabbled in acting for a bit while also taking a job on the Dallas Cowboys Radio Network.
7 Steve Smith: Owner of Xplode Training Center
Like Rice, Smith seemed ready for stardom after a breakout 2009 season that saw the ex-USC wideout catch 107 balls for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns for the New York Giants. Among some of those games were two separate 134 yard games in week two and four wins over the Dallas Cowboys (ten catches) and Kansas City Chiefs (eleven catches) and a 110 yard performance on six catches in a 31-24 win over the Cowboys in December to momentarily help the Giants' postseason hopes.
Though Smith caught 48 balls for 529 yards and three touchdowns in nine games during the 2010 season, his career would be over by 2012 after stints with the Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams. Now, Smith runs the Xplode Training Center in Chatsworth, serving to help more people properly prepare and train their bodies. Inside the facility is a boxing ring, fitness bicycles, a speed track, and an outdoor sand pit. Anyone want to join me in the ring?
6 Ickey Woods: Owner of the Cincinnati Sizzle
At this point, Ickey Woods' one-season-wonder - 1,066 yards on 203 rushes with 15 touchdowns and 5.3 yards per rush for the Cincinnati Bengals in 1988 - has been beaten to death, especially after his cold cuts commercials for Geico. However, did you know that Woods is the longtime owner and coach of the Cincinnati Sizzle, a member of the Women's Football Alliance? If you've never heard of the Women's Football Alliance, you may be interested to know that it's all-contact, a rarity for an all-women's league.
This season, the Sizzle went 5-3, though Charles Pankey has taken over as head coach from Woods. Woods and the Sizzle will hope to make their first ever WFA Championshp Game, a quest that will begin on June 17 agains the Orlando Anarchy. Good luck, Ickey!
5 Michael Clayton: Radio Analyst
Another ex-Buccaneer, Michael Clayton - not to be confused with former Baltimore Ravens wideout Mark Clayton - was the 15th overall pick in the loaded 2004 NFL Draft and immediately broke out, being named to the All-Rookie Team after catching 80 balls for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns for Jon Gruden and friends. After that, Clayton would only exceed 400 yards in a season once and never catch more than 38 balls in a season despite playing in 68 of a possible 80 games from 2005-09.
Though his career didn't work out on the field the way he would have wanted it to, Clayton has joined up with Tampa Bay station WSTP as a studio host. Station president Elliott Weiser, in a news release from 2016, was thrilled about bring Clayton in.
“In his time with the Bucs, Michael showed that he was all about the team, and in the years since he’s demonstrated the same commitment to our community. We’re excited for him to bring that same passion to Studio 10 Live every morning, and are proud that he’s chosen to join our team.”
4 Steve Slaton: Houston Texans Chef
A third-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2008, Slaton seemed ready for the NFL after a rookie season that saw him average 4.8 yards per rush en route to finishing with 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns. Against teams that wound up making the postseason that year, Slaton rushed for 635 yards on 120 carries, a 5.29 yards per rush mark (though, that number is a bit boosted because Slaton ran for 156 yards on 15 carries in a 33-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on November 16).
Unfortunately, fumbling issues cost Slaton his job in 2009 and he was out of Houston by 2011, though the ex-West Virginia running back remains beloved in the area for his cooking. Returning to culinary school, Slaton momentarily went viral in 2015 for a story in the Houston Chronicle that described him and other chefs preparing food for the Texans. Imagine going from a player to the team's chef. Way to go, Steve!
3 Desmond Howard: ESPN Analyst
Another player that should need no introduction, Desmond Howard remains beloved at Michigan for winning a Heisman Trophy in 1991 and his infamous Heisman pose. In the NFL, Howard Howard showed flashes of that success as a return specialist, especially in the 1996 season when he returned 58 punts for 875 yards and three touchdowns for the eventual Super Bowl champions.
Howard had some other strong seasons, including a 2000 campaign where he made his lone Pro Bowl by recording 1,872 all-purpose yards with the Detroit Lions, but this 1996 season was electrifying and fantastic. Now, Howard is a mainstay on ESPN's college football coverage, working studio during the regular season and even calling bowl games during December. When approached by fans at the 2016 Boca Raton Bowl, Howard took time to pose for pictures.
2 Bob Sanders: Family Man
Is it fair to call Bob Sanders' 2007 season a fluke when it was his second dominant season in the past three years? Maybe not, but no one is going to deny that this was an amazing season by an injury plagued safety who could never stay healthy. Winning the 2007 Defensive Player of the Year, Sanders picked off two passes, recorded 96 tackles, three and a half sacks - the only sacks in his career - and batted six balls down.
After injuries forced Sanders to call it quits following a stint in San Diego for the 2011 season, the ex-Iowa star has kept it lowkey and turned into a family man. Earlier this month, it was announced that Sanders, an All-State high school player, would be inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame this October. Congrats, Bob!
1 Kyle Brady: Attorney At Law
Rounding our list out is a member of the 2007 New England Patriots team that, as one might expect, isn't related to their quarterback. After struggling early in his career with the New York Jets, Brady suddenly broke out in 2000, catching 64 balls for 79 yards and three touchdowns for the Jacksonville Jaguars at age 28. Was that a sign of things to come? Well, considering Brady never again topped more than 43 passes in a season...no.
After dabbling in broadcasting, Brady returned to school to become a lawyer! When talking about his career change in 2013, Brady said the following:
"Law school was mental drudgery, as opposed to the physical drudgery of football. The memorization before each exam is intense. Professors call you out and ask you to analyze a case in class. You got to be on your toes. But in a different way, I had already been down that road with all those [NFL] training camps under some pretty demanding coaches.”
Which of these players do you think has had the most interesting post-football career? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!
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