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.
Culpepper was a big guy, weighing in at 280 pounds during his NFL days. He’s since slimmed down considerably, losing 100 pounds post-NFL; the bulky muscle has gone and he now has a lean and ripped, but still muscular physique. He’s spoken out about his distaste of the mass monsters in the NFL, and how being leaner and fitter is the way to go in terms of health and longevity. He’s no longer in the NFL, but has earned the look and the body he’s been touting.
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?
Although he was involved in law enforcement, Keith was also in trouble with the law plenty of times. One of the world’s most feared defensive players ended up a shadow of his former self – not in terms of weight! – broke and suffering. He’s had tons of health problems, became addicted to cocaine and painkillers.
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.
Carrying around 295 pounds, even if it’s muscle, can put a real strain on the body; it can be a real effort and not a pleasant one if you’re carrying around all that weight for no reason – no longer using it to your advantage in the NFL. Jeff seemed to realize this because in a matter of months after his retirement, he had lost about 60 pounds. He looks totally different, but definitely looks fitter and is a healthier size.
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.
Matthews was a big and burly guy when he was playing. He weighed over 300 pounds and was a huge presence on the football field. He had the physicality, but also had good footballing nous – causing the Titans to seek his coaching services once he had retired from playing. He was hired as an offensive line coach, and this is when he started getting bigger and bigger. He’s probably not anywhere near 300 pounds, but that muscle has been replaced by rolls of fat and that belly’s just continued to grow.
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.
Following his time in the NFL and all the accolades that came his way – the majority of which came when he was with the Denver Broncos – he signed up with CBS Sports where he began his life as a commentator. He's since gone on to co-host Undisputed on Fox Sports with Skip Bayless. But sitting in that commentator’s chair didn’t mean Sharpe stopped chiseling his body to perfection. One of his other roles, post-NFL, is as a columnist and spokesperson for FitnessRX For Men magazine. He’s even appeared on the cover and at the age of 48 is probably one of the fittest guys in the U.S.
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.
Post-NFL, he had a stint on TV and as a radio commentator, but then got into management and became the general manager of the Detroit Lions. After seven seasons with the Lions, the franchise was in shambles – this period was the worst in their history, and one of the worst records in NFL history for that matter. His career’s also been littered with controversy; all of this combined has probably made Millen turn to food as a source of comfort, and it certainly shows.
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.
At 6-foot-4 and weighing in at over 310 pounds, Birk has swapped this bulk for a leaner, more toned physique. The bulky muscle is gone; he’s lost over 75 pounds and a remarkable 10 inches from his midriff. Why is he doing all of this? He tried to win a modelling contest, but lost the weight mainly to just be healthier. As a 40-year-old father of six, it just doesn’t make sense to weigh in excess of 300 pounds, so he’s done something about it and looks incredible because of his efforts.
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.
Although he was a well-known figure in footballing circles, he became known to the world in the '90s in a very publicized murder trial. He also had numerous other legal troubles and is currently serving time in jail as a convicted felon. It’s therefore unsurprising, with him being cooped up within the same four walls for the majority of his day, that he’s ballooned in weight. It’s safe to say that he hasn’t been partaking in any prison workouts; it seems as if he’s doubled in size, and some sources are saying that because of his weight, health problems are mounting and is affecting his quality of life.
8 GREAT: Nate Newton
Former American football guard Nate Newton used to be one of the biggest guys on the football field during his days with the Redskins, Tampa Bay Bandits (of the USFL), Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers in the NFL. The dominant offensive lineman spent 15 seasons in the NFL, weighing in at a staggering 335 pounds – not 335 pounds of muscle. So, when he called it quits in 1999, he decided to do something about all that excess weight. It was actually in 2010 when he realized that being that heavy was putting his life at risk; he was diagnosed as being obese, and this sparked his motivation to do something about it. After his weight-loss surgery, Newton drastically altered his diet, changed his entire sedentary lifestyle around, and he now looks amazing – he’s nearly 200 pounds lighter.
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.
Kosar was in decent enough shape during his NFL days. He wasn’t bulky by any means – just your average looking guy; see him on the street and you wouldn’t have realized that he was a pro athlete. But when he stepped away from pro football in 1996, the weight began to increase. He’s in his 50s now and his body resembles that of an average middle-aged man. He has had to contend with a number of legal issues and has health concerns brought about by concussions. But the main reason for his weight gain is probably the restaurant he owns.
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.
Nalen spent the majority of his NFL career weighing in at about 290 pounds. He was a chunky 290 too, without being visibly super overweight. But post-NFL, he’s been keeping active, and has shed a lot of weight. After his retirement in 2009, Nalen did the usual thing – a bit of commentary, was an analyst, etc. None of this was remarkable, but his weight loss certainly is. He’s lost about 80 pounds, is lean, and looks fit, healthy and looks better than he’s ever looked before.
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.
At 6-f0ot-5 and weighing 320 pounds, Roaf was a beast. He had awesome upper body strength and physical power, which when combined with his level of athleticism, made for an amazing combination. But when he walked away from the NFL, he piled on the pounds; his training suddenly became non-existent. Consequently, Roaf ballooned in weight; all that muscle’s become softer and he really doesn’t look to be in great shape.
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.
Post-NFL, Davis briefly owned a restaurant. But if you think 330 pounds was big, get ready to be blown away. At one point, Davis’ weight almost touched 500 pounds, and for the first time in his life, he decided to make a real effort to do something about it. He was a contestant on The Biggest Loser and ended up shedding a remarkable 202 pounds. Since the show’s ended, his weight loss journey has continued, and he’s now also giving back, helping others.
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.
At the moment, the weight’s slowly coming off; he seems to be on the right track and is staying positive. He still isn’t giving up hope of an NFL recall despite having been inactive for seven years.
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.
One thing that seems to have always been important to Scott is his health. Other aspects of his life may not have been ideal, but his own body is something over which he has complete control. He looks good post-NFL; he actually looks the same as he did when he was playing, which is a testimony to the man’s work ethic and love for all things fitness.
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.