When we think of the average NFL player, a certain type probably pops into our heads. Whether we lean towards the star quarterback, the flashy receiver or the hard-nosed, gritty linebacker, our mind likely associates the sport with merely a fraction of its employees. No other sport boasts a cast of athletes as varied, versatile and uniquely skilled as football, ranging from small, fleet-footed running backs to plodding, bulky offensive lineman. Unfortunately for some, this varied landscape also applies to its salaries and career spans.
Sure, no one will exactly shed a tear for the likes of Matthew Stafford, who signed a whopping five-year, $135 million contract last summer, a contract complete with a $50 million signing bonus. But not every NFLer is the Detroit Lions’ strong-armed quarterback. The average NFL salary is $1.9 million, with players in the league only sticking around for an average of 3.3 years.
If a significant portion of NFL players have left the league before their 30th birthday, it means they’ve still got a lot of years ahead, not to mention plenty of time left before their pension kicks in. While retirement typically signifies a settling into a slower paced lifestyle, many former NFLers have no choice but to seek another line of work. While some can still find work in football, some switch gears entirely and embrace a new direction. Here are some of the most interesting post-NFL life choices that ex-players have made along the way to working nine to five.
15. Ricardo Silva
The former Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers safety stuck around in the NFL for just 14 games, but has enjoyed a meaningful role off the field in the years since as a high school geometry teacher. A member of Teach for America, Silva now finds himself shaping young minds at Washington’s Ballou High.
Going into the teaching ranks represented a calculated risk for Silva. Just 26 when he was cut by the Panthers, he could have continued to pursue his football dream, either in the NFL or elsewhere. Instead, he made a two-year commitment at Ballou High, choosing textbooks over playbooks. Though Silva has said that teaching is harder than football ever was for him, he has continued down the educational path. Still, it probably feels good to occasionally tell disbelieving teens that he once picked off a pass from Russell Wilson.
14. Tony McGee
As an NFL tight end, Tony McGee is used to pushing his way through barriers. It’s how he spent 11 seasons in the league and how he endured a series of ambitious-but-failed business ventures after his playing days came to an end. Perpetually looking for the next career opportunity, McGee recognized that he had his eggs in too many baskets and narrowed his post-NFL career focus while still continuing to push forward. That’s what directed him towards the shipping industry.
McGee was running a perfectly successful roofing company when a friend told him about the profit potential in shipping. Loathe to waste a shot at financial gains, the long-time Cincinnati Bengal soon went about building and developing his own freight company, HNM Global Logistics. HNM brought in over $1 million in revenue in its first year and hasn’t look back, with McGee maintaining close watch as the company’s CEO.
13. Wayne Chrebet
Undersized and un-drafted, Wayne Chrebet made a career out of overachieving and proving critics wrong. The New York Jets Ring of Honor member might have seen his inspiring career come to a premature end on account of a severe concussion, but the star wide receiver has only continued to thrive after football.
Since retiring back in 2005, Chrebet has remained in New York and worked his way up the ranks in the financial world. Unlike in the NFL, where he would be a lifelong New York Jet, the undrafted walk-on has navigated Wall Street through jobs with major institutions Morgan Stanley and Barclay’s Capital. Most recently, Chrebet became part of a six-person wealth management team armed with $2 billion in assets that joined Stifel Financial Corp.
12. Ed Newman & Tony Nathan
The judge and the bailiff sound like they could be pretty cool nicknames for a particularly fearsome on-field tandem. In the case of long-time Miami Dolphins teammates Ed Newman and Tony Nathan, they actually represent legitimate job titles. For six seasons in Miami, Newman looked to clear a path as a blocker to let Nathan, the team’s running back cruise through the defence. The two men have since taken their partnership to the courtroom.
Now Newman and Nathan find themselves dishing out justice in Courtroom 6-6 of the Miami-Dade county jail. Though Nathan is more of a reluctant celebrity than his boss, both can appreciate the irony and humour in how they’ve once again aligned. In fact, fans – be they courtroom observers, jurors or even alleged criminals – have been known to request photos and autographs from the.
11. Keith Fitzhugh
For a brief moment back in late 2010, Keith Fitzhugh found himself a subject of fascination in the blogosphere for, essentially, turning his back on the NFL. The Mississippi State product had experienced the same frustrations as so many other aspiring pro football players, getting signed and cut from the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets (twice) without getting a sniff of game action. But rather than keep pushing in the face of disheartening rejection, Fitzhugh decided he had better things to do. Railroad work, specifically.
If football was Fitzhugh’s first love, then being a train conductor served as a close second. While financial security was obviously a major influence in staying on the railway, the former safety found himself content on the tracks while producing a steady paycheque. Now a terminal superintendent, Fitzhugh has stuck it out and remains a long-standing employee of Atlanta’s Norfolk Southern Railway.
10. Vince Young
Upon leading the Texas Longhorns to a national title victory over the mighty USC Trojans in an all-time classic 2006 Rose Bowl, Vince Young was on top of the world. Sadly, it wouldn’t last. His incredible college career earned him a runner-up finish in the ’05 Heisman race, but it would mark a fleeting highlight to be followed by a disappointing pro career.
Unfortunately, the bumps in the road didn’t end there for the oft-injured quarterback. Failed attempts to catch on with other NFL teams gave way to a comeback attempt in the CFL that fizzled out. During that time, Young had blown much of his $34 million in career earnings. Things finally got better for the 34-year-old when he returned to his college roots, taking a job as a development officer at the University of Texas’ Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.
9. Eddie George
From Titan to thespian, Eddie George has remained in the spotlight since his retirement, albeit on a far different stage. The four-time Pro Bowl running back and former Heisman winner is currently putting years of acting lessons to good use and has even amassed a solid IMDB page that features credits from the stage and screen.
Performing live on the field was one thing, but acting in front of a live audience was an entirely different challenge for George. Fearlessly, he jumped right into Shakespeare roles in local productions in front of surprised theatre-going Tennesseans who were quite familiar with what he could do on turf. These roles eventually brought the former Ohio State star to the bright lights of Broadway, where he enjoyed a run in the iconic role of Billy Flynn in Chicago.
8. Ty Law
Though he hasn’t suited up for an NFL game in eight years, Ty Law has shown through his second career that he still has some serious hops. The decorated former New England Patriots cornerback has gotten creative in retirement and thrown himself into the founding of the Launch Trampoline Park, a chain of entertainment facilities designed to put some spring into kids’ steps.
As if a 15-year NFL career and three Super Bowl rings isn’t already living the dream, the five-time Pro Bowler now oversees a fun-filled corporation with over 25 locations that boasts a broad client base ranging from young children to active fitness types. Since opening their first park less than six years ago, they certainly have Launch Trampoline Park on the up and up.
7. Kareem McKenzie
Football’s brutal physicality and macho culture don’t often foster an environment of open expressions of feelings. Instead, the mindset of demonstrating toughness through hiding pain looms large. So it was hardly a conventional career path to see Kareem McKenzie move from the gridiron to the psychologist’s chair.
After benefiting from his own counselling sessions as an NFL player, the 11-year outside tackle for the New York Jets and Giants opted to dedicate himself to helping his fellow colleagues in retirement. McKenzie recently earned his Masters of Education in Professional Counselling from William Paterson University’s College of Education and is now working towards his doctorate. In the meantime, he’s found his calling as a sounding board and counsellor to current players.
6. Fred Smerlas & Steve DeOssie
Though five years apart in age, Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie share common Massachusetts roots, are both Boston College alumni and each enjoyed productive, successful NFL careers with stints on the New England Patriots. What was a close friendship in their playing days turned into a lucrative business partnership in retirement, as the duo opened Fred & Steve’s Steakhouse in Rhode Island.
Now a mainstay in the Twin River Casino in Lincoln, RI, the steakhouse is just one successful endeavour enjoyed by the two men, albeit their only collective one. Singularly, Smerlas, a five-time Pro Bowler, penned an autobiography titled By A Nose in 1990 and has since pursued a political career in the Massachusetts area. DeOssie, meanwhile, has remained connected to the NFL as the host of NBC Sports Boston’s The New England Tailgate Show and as a Patriots radio analyst.
5. Drew Bledsoe
An injury to Drew Bledsoe in 2001 paved the way for Tom Brady to take over as New England Patriots quarterback. For as easy as it is to say that the rest is history with Brady becoming an all-time great, the Bledsoe side of the story has turned out pretty well too. After sticking around for five more seasons in Buffalo and Dallas, the Pro Bowler began a lucrative second life back home in Walla Walla, Washington.
After earning a healthy chunk of salary in his playing days that included a then-record 10-year, $103 million contract in 2001, Bledsoe used part of that money to build and develop a winery back home. The Doubleback Winery has become well-known by wine experts in the state of Washington and beyond. In fact, the highly regarded Wine Spectator publication ranked a Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon 53rd on its list of the top 100 wines.
4. Dermontti Dawson
Life on the field was always simple for Pittsburgh Steelers star centre Dermontti Dawson: protect the quarterback. And he did it well, earning trips to seven Pro Bowls and eliciting praise from no less than the likes of coaching legends Bill Cowher and Bill Belichick as the best centre they had ever seen. However, once the Hall of Fame career of the man known to teammates as ‘Dirt’ had come to a close, things got more complicated.
Upon injury-related retirement in 2000, Dawson returned home to Kentucky where he became a real estate developer. Amidst a challenging market, he was forced to declare bankruptcywith over $69 million in liabilities. He landed on his feet, however – first through coaching internships with the Steelers and Bengals. Nowadays, Dawson has shifted into the sales world, where he his based out of San Diego as the vice president of sales at promotional products company Prime Time Plus.
3. Terrell Owens
If any NFL alum was going to pursue a career in modelling, it’s no surprise that it would be Terrell Owens. The narcissistic superstar wide receiver had seen a few endeavours in his post-playing days fizzle out when the LA-based NEXT Management agency came calling back in 2013. The modelling contract has served to ensure that Owens remains in the public eye – although that was hardly much of a concern for the man known as TO.
When Owens hasn’t been showcasing his chiseled abs on billboards, the six-time Pro Bowler has found himself on just about every reality television show under the sun. He has compiled an array of credits that also includes an appearance alongside Cheryl Burke on the 25th season of Dancing with the Stars. For a guy who has never seen a camera he didn’t like, an apparent new focus on modelling seems about right.
2. Bill Goldberg
Now, I’ll admit – Bill Goldberg is far from the first football standout to try his hand at professional wrestling. Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Kevin Greene both appeared in WCW with Goldberg and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson actually played ahead of Warren Sapp at the University of Miami before becoming one of the biggest superstars in WWE history. Heck, even NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor main evented a WrestleMania against Bam Bam Bigelow.
But Goldberg represents the first true case of an NFL alum forging a bona fide career in the squared circle. The former Atlanta Falcon didn’t have to go far to get his big break, finding a job in Atlanta-based WCW. Of course, any pro wrestling fan of the last 20 years can recall his dominant undefeated tear through the Turner-owned federation. As with most top talents, he eventually made his way to WWE for another main event run. The master of the fearsome Jackhammer will soon be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
1. Myron Rolle
Call him Dr. Myron Rolle MD. Indeed, even with just three pre-season games worth of NFL experience to his credit, the former Tennessee Titans safety made his mark on the league for being a little different than most other players. The FSU alum became one of just three players to reach the league after earning a Rhodes scholarship and even postponed his NFL shot to attend Oxford University.
Don’t cry for Rolle for having never appeared in a regular season game, as he did okay for himself after hanging up the cleats. After pursuing a career in a sport notorious for head trauma, he graduated from the FSU School of Medicine last year and has now taken neurosurgery residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard. Officially a neurosurgeon, Rolle doesn’t exactly fit the typical gridiron meathead stereotype.
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