To be a pro footballer in the NFL, you have to be prepared to go through some grueling training regimes and punishing schedules to make your way to the top. Just being an NFL prospect, you have to spend countless hours in an effort to make your body a machine. It’s not just about who has the most muscle; functionality, speed, skill all come into making a great NFL player. It’s a mental and physical grind – some players can’t hack it and fall away and disintegrate, while others rise to fame and become prominent names in the sport.
Because of the rigorous training that NFL teams demand, many pro footballers have impressive physiques – even once all that protective gear is stripped away. Some love the training aspect of the sport, bulking up, and looking big while being fit and healthy. For these guys, training’s second nature, and so it’s not hard for them to incorporate working-out into their daily schedules post-NFL. Consequently many of these ex- NFLers look great, even though they no longer take to the football field. Others go the opposite way – eat, pile on the pounds, and shun all types of training.
These are eight players who are in great shape even though their playing days are over, and eight who gained weight and let themselves go.
16 GREAT: Brad Culpepper
Brad Culpepper was a defensive tackle in the NFL from 1992 to 2000. His nine seasons in the NFL included stints with the Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Chicago Bears, with whom he ended his career. He became a consistent starter after being drafted in 1992, and at the end of this career, he had recorded 34 quarterback sacks, one safety and 316 tackles.
15 GO: Keith McCants
Keith McCants was a pretty big and muscular guy during his six seasons in the NFL. He played as a linebacker between 1990 and 1995, but as soon as he stepped away from the sport, he began to pile on the pounds.
Post-NFL he became the first black marine police officer in Alabama, and pretty soon, could be seen waddling about in his uniform – wonder if coffee and doughnuts became his staple diet?
14 GREAT: Jeff Saturday
Weighing in at 295 pounds, Jeff Saturday played as a center for 14 seasons in the NFL. He was a colossal figure for the Indianapolis Colts, with whom he spent 13 seasons. He retired with the Packers in 2013, and has since been keeping himself busy with his role in the National Football League Players' Association.
13 GO: Bruce Matthews
Former offensive lineman Bruce Matthews is a veteran of 19 seasons of NFL action. He played for the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise for his entire career, starting 292 games and won numerous accolades, one of which included helping his side to Super Bowl XXXIV.
12 GREAT: Shannon Sharpe
Shannon Sharpe embodies health and fitness. For Sharpe, a former tight end, building a formidable physique wasn’t just to help him in his efforts to make waves on the football field. Working out is a way of life for Sharpe.
11 GO: Matt Millen
Matt Millen didn’t set the world alight as a player or during his time in management. He was pretty average and both his playing and coaching credentials aren’t anything noteworthy.
During his 12-year NFL career, Millen played as a linebacker, but wasn’t a very good one. He finished his career with 11 sacks, which is a pretty dire statistic.
10 GREAT: Matt Birk
Former center Matt Birk, began his pro football career in 1998 when he was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings. He spent a decade with the Vikings, playing 210 games, during which he definitely made an impact – he was named Man of the Year for the Vikings for six consecutive seasons. He closed out his NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens before calling it a day and starting his new job as the NFL director of football development.
9 GO: OJ Simpson
Former running back OJ Simpson had a long and illustrious career in the NFL. After being drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1969, he then went on to play for the San Francisco 49ers for his final season in the NFL. He broke records and gained a number of accolades over the course of his career -- a deserved inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his FOOTBALL accomplishments.
8 GREAT: Nate Newton
7 GO: Bernie Kosar
Bernie Kosar didn’t set the world alight during his time in the NFL. He played for three different franchises in 11 seasons – his major achievement was becoming a Super Bowl champion after his team, Dallas Cowboys, prevailed in Super Bowl XXVIII.
6 GREAT: Tom Nalen
Tom Nalen was a permanent fixture at the Denver Broncos; he stayed with the Broncos for 14 seasons and had a decent level of success too. He was part of a great offensive line corp, which contributed to the Broncos winning two Super Bowl titles.
5 GO: Willie Roaf
Willie Roaf was a sheer mass monster during his time in the NFL. He played as offensive tackle for the New Orleans Saints and the Kansas City Chiefs during his 12-year career and won a stack load of accolades, titles and accomplishments. With all the success that came his way, being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was a given, and the honor was bestowed upon him in 2012.
4 GREAT: Antone Davis
The trend with ex-NFL players tends to be that the big guys get even bigger. Davis is someone who’s bucked the trend; he’s had a remarkable weight loss journey himself, and is now imparting his wisdom to other retired NFLers, helping former players stay in shape and live life at a healthy weight.
Davis weighed about 330 pounds during his seven seasons in the NFL, but Davis was always a bug guy. Even as a teenager, he weighed over 300 pounds. His weight issues caused him plenty of problems initially when he was embarking on a pro football career. He was finally drafted and went on to play 97 games in the NFL.
3 GO: JaMarcus Russell
It’s remarkable that at the age of 31, JaMarcus Russel makes this list. At 31, most football players are in their prime. That’s certainly not the case for Russel.
In 2007, Russell was drafted to the Oakland Raiders, but in 2010, his career hit a rocky patch. He became an unrestricted free agent, and hasn’t been picked up by a team since, despite a considerable amount of effort.
Russell’s fall from grace stems from his weight problems. His weight was constantly yo-yoing during his NFL days. He once weighed in excess of 320 pounds, which is a bad idea for a quarterback. He’s also gotten into trouble with the law, and all of this seems to have hampered any chances he had of getting back into the mix.
2 GREAT: Bart Scott
Former linebacker Bart Scott played in the NFL for 11 seasons between 2002 and 2012. He had a decent time of it and was a solid acquisition for the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Jets.
Scott wasn’t one of your 300-pound guys. He was lean and had a ripped, muscular physique, standing in at 240 pounds. After stepping away from pro football, he embarked on a broadcasting career with CBS, which raised plenty of eyebrows since Scott had numerous altercations with the media in the past. This can likely be attributed to his childhood; he grew up in poverty in a violence-filled neighborhood in Detroit.
1 GO: Warren Sapp
Former NFL defensive tackle Warren Sapp was big when he was playing, but seems to have blown up post-NFL.
Sapp is a well-deserved Hall of Famer, having tasted a great deal of success with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders. He won numerous accolades; the stats will show that, but his career was also somewhat controversial. He played the game hard and had a hard-hitting style of play that drew plenty of criticism. Sapp was also prone to speaking his mind, and his verbal outbursts got him in a lot of hot water over the years.
Post-NFL, Sapp’s done the usual stuff -- broadcasting, commentating, etc... It’s no secret that Sapp loves his food; he was big during his playing days, but there are now far more rolls under his shirt since he’s frequenting broadcasting studios. He’s no longer with the NFL Network, but is keeping himself busy, making appearances here and there, including as a judge on the BBQ Pitmasters show.
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