The fifth quarter: What NFL players do after football
Players work their entire lives to reach the NFL. But what do they do when they have to retire? How do they stay busy? Some go into business, others get into trouble. Here are some of the most interesting and unexpected ventures retired NFL players got into after football.
The Manning family is one of America’s most successful and active, on and off the field, in America. Patriarch of the family, Archie, was the second pick in 1971 and led a successful career as the quarterback for the Saints. But his greatest contribution to football may be the kids he produced, Peyton and Eli Manning, both of whom are two-time Super Bowl Champions and No.1 overall picks.
Archie, to his credit, wasn’t content in retirement sitting idly watching his kids play, so he decided to get into the restaurant business, opening up a sports bar in New Orleans. The restaurant, aptly called Mannings, features Southern cooking and sports memorabilia from all three Mannings.
Brett Favre is best known for his improbable 297-game start streak and being a true gunslinger. The interception-prone quarterback was as tough as anybody and one of the true greats in Green Bay history. In 1998, still in the prime of his career, Favre and the owner of the Colorado Rockies, Dick Monfort, opened up Brett Favre’s Steakhouse, which re-branded as Hall of Fame Chophouse in 2017.
David Gundt, a restaurant patron, had this to say about Favre’s eatery: “Can’t go wrong here. All the menu items are great. The food is prepared perfectly.” In 2016, Brett Favre was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Widely considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Dan Marino revolutionized the position from a passing standpoint and was one of the only bright spots for Miami since their heyday in the ’70s. In 1999, Marino, long exhausted from playing under the hot Florida sun, retired.
One year prior to retirement, Marino founded and co-owned a NASCAR Winston Cup Series team with driver Bill Elliott. Elliott-Marino Motorsports was a fruitless endeavor, unlike Marino’s restaurant chain, Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, which has 67 locations around the country. And based on Marino’s success in the restaurant industry, the Dolphins should consider hiring him to run their struggling franchise.
One of only a few players to catch a touchdown in a Super Bowl for different teams, Muhsin Muhammad was a leader on and off the field during his playing days for Carolina and Chicago. The man endearingly referred to as “Moose” retired in 2009 and decided to take his hard work and leadership skills into the business world.
Muhammad founded Axum Capital Partners, a private equity firm that has acquired Wild Wing Cafe, a major Southern-chain restaurant specializing in wings, bar food, and live music. Muhammad’s 85-yard touchdown against the Patriots in the Super Bowl remains the longest touchdown grab in Super Bowl history.
Bernie Kosar 5
Super Bowl Champion (as a backup in Dallas) Bernie Kosar was not the soundest man with his money. Despite earning many millions of dollars playing football through two decades, Bernie Kosar went broke and had to declare bankruptcy. The reason?
Poor investments, like moving the AFL’s Las Vegas Gladiators to Cleveland. One solid investment of his, however, was having a 6 percent ownership stake in the Florida Panthers, which, at the time of his bankruptcy hearing, was valued at over $14 million. In 2013, Kosar lent his name to a restaurant, Kosar’s Wood-fired Grill, at the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park, located outside of Cleveland.
Two-time Super Bowl champion safety Malcolm Jenkins is one of the hardest hitters in football. He’s also one of the league’s most charitable figures. When Jenkins isn’t slamming people to the turf, he’s focused on bettering the lives of thousands of youth in areas like New Orleans, Philadelphia, and New Jersey through his foundation, The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation.
Jenkins’ foundation works hard to provide children with new, exciting opportunities, both in the classroom and on the field. Some initiatives of his foundation include summer football camps, STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) programs, and food drives. In Super Bowl 52, Jenkin’s anchored the Eagles defense tasked with slowing down Tom Brady and the explosive Patriots offense.
A country boy through and through, Jordy Nelson is all about putting in work. For 10 years, that work came on the football field where Nelson was one of Aaron Rodgers’ favorite targets. After one year in Oakland, Nelson retired (Oakland will do that to you) and went back home to Kansas where his family farm awaited him.
On the farm, Nelson works 12 hours per day driving a combine, maintaining equipment, and tending to the 1,000-cow herd. Although Nelson made upwards of $50 million during his career, farming and the hard work that comes with it still has a place in his heart.
A.J. Francis was never really a household name in the NFL. That being said, he made a lot more money than the average American. However, compared to his teammates, like Ndamukong Suh, Francis was making chump change. Rather than sitting back in the offseason and spend from his savings, Francis decided to sign up and drive for Uber.
Thinking about the future, Francis told the Associated Press that he wasn’t “putting all my eggs in one basket. Where I’m from, when you have a job, where are you when that job is over?” In a Washington Post article, Francis said he works shift ranging from “four to five hours at the rate of $40-$50 per hour.”
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Former Green Bay safety Ha Ha Clinton Dix was an anchor in an otherwise shaky Packers defense. Drafted 21st overall in 2014, Clinton-Dix made the Pro Bowl in 2016, one year before accepting a one-month internship with the Brown County (Wisconsin) Courthouse. Working directly with judge Donald R. Zuidmulder, Clinton-Dix, who studied criminal justice at Alabama, became immersed in all aspects of the judicial system as he took an unpaid internship in addition to returning to Alabama to finish his degree.
Reflecting on the unique experience, Clinton-Dix said, “I learned the importance of making the right decisions. Judges have a hard job. It’s not just putting someone in jail or slapping someone on the wrist and giving them a punishment, but it’s protecting society as a whole.”
Brandon Copeland 10
When you’re a University of Pennsylvania graduate with a degree in economics and an NFL player, the world is pretty much your oyster. On Sundays Brandon Copeland suits up for the New York Jets where the undrafted linebacker out of the Ivy League university hopes to bolster a spotty defense. When spring rolls around, Copeland sheds his football uniform and throws on some slacks and a jacket.
That’s because Copeland is teaching a class at UPenn dubbed “Life 101,” which teaches students about being financially responsible, budgeting, how to lease a car, and a litany of other topics schools fail to teach our youth. Copeland has alto internet at UBS and worked for Wall Street firm Weiss Multi-Strategy Advisers.
Brian Orakpo was a force to be reckoned with on the field. The former 13th pick was a four-time Pro Bowler and an offensive line’s worst nightmare. There was nothing sweet or soft about his game, unlike the business he opened up in 2018 after retiring from football. Orakpo, along with former teammate and friend Michael Griffin, opened up a franchise of Gigi’s Cupcakes near Austin, Texas. Orakpo, a man who has come to love the confectionary business, said he sometimes has to “tone that Rak [as in Orakpo] down. I’ve been more Brian these days.”
Business partner Michael Griffin, speaking about the intensive process of managing a small business, said, “Being professional athletes, we’re kind of spoiled. These are things we never worried about because there were large amounts of money coming in every year. It was definitely an awakening.”
The aforementioned Gigi’s Cupcakes is one part Brian Orakpo and one part Michael Griffin, a two-time Pro Bowler and 19th overall pick. Griffin, like Orakpo, was a member of the defense, and hitting was his specialty. But today, the former safety has transitioned from dishing out big hits to dishing out perfectly-decorated, decadent, and deluxe cupcakes.
Griffin, along with his friend Brian Orakpo, opened up a franchise of Gigi’s Cupcakes in 2018. Learning how to run the franchise, which has about 100 locations spread across America, was “harder than playing football,” Griffin said. “This was like a completely foreign language.”
Bernard Reedy’s NFL career has been anything but a smooth ride. Despite, being cut by numerous teams and only tallying two career receptions, Reedy is determined to keep his spirits high and offer other people a smooth ride. When Reedy isn’t playing football, he’s working an $11-per-hour job for Car Ride, a transportation company for people who are unable to drive. Reedy took the job in 2015 after the Falcons cut him.
While the job may not bring in as much money as football, it’s more purposeful and keeps Reedy grounded through the undulations of his uncertain football career. “What about the people on life support?” Reedy asks. “What about the people who can’t walk that want to walk again? That stuff’s way more serious than running around and playing football.”
Ty Law needed to have a lot of bounce during his playing days. As the Patriots No.1 corner, Law lined up against the opposing team’s best receiver and was tasked with shutting him down. To a large extent, it worked; Law won three Super Bowls with the Pats and made five Pro Bowls. After retiring from football, Law took his bouncing abilities to new heights when, in 2012, he opened up Launch, a trampoline franchise.
With 34 locations spread out over the country and over 1,000 employees, Launch is the newest dynasty Law has been a part of. And it’s not just Law getting in on the action. Former Philadelphia receiver Jason Avant owns three top-performing franchises.
Hard-hitting safety Matt Elam did not fill the void left at safety after legendary Ravens safety Ed Reed retired, but to be fair, who could? Elam was taken with the 32nd pick in 2013 and was expected to do big things, but some off-field issues and injuries slowly and eventually halted his progress. Luckily for Elam, he has a backup plan.
In the offseason early in his career, Elam took a part-time job at Finish Line, a shoe store similar to FootLocker. Elam was never in it for the money and was all about gaining experience from the ground up. Elam started as a salesman on the floor, stocking merchandise and selling shoes and hoped to work his way to the top in order to learn the necessary skills to one day run a similar business himself.
That’s Dr. Rolle to you. Dr. Myron Rolle was destined for greatness, he just didn’t know in which field. Was the former Florida State star and Rhodes Scholar destined for the NFL? Or was he destined to become a neurosurgeon? The answer is yes, to both. After Florida State, Rolle enrolled at Oxford where he earned his Master’s in medical anthropology. Advanced degree in hand, Rolle then opted to try his luck in the NFL where he suited up for the Tenessee Titans.
However, the NFL wasn’t his true calling, medicine was. Rolle enrolled at FSU’s medical school and graduated in 2017. Post-graduation, Rolle became a neurosurgeon resident at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. What does all that mean? He’s one of the smartest athletes ever.
It may have been a limited career, but Goldberg made it. After graduating from Georgia, Goldberg was taken in the 11th round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. Following a brief stint there, he bounced around the CFL before landing with the Atlanta Falcons, playing there from 1992 to 1994. That would be the last of his football days;
a severe abdominal injury forced his early retirement from the sport. Luckily for him, there was wrestling. Goldberg started in the WCW and earned his way to the WWE where he became a fan favorite. His love of wrestling then transformed into an interest in mixed martial arts. Today, Goldberg runs an MMA gym in California.
Former Jet legend Wayne Chrebet was the prototype for today’s small slot receiver that dominates the NFL landscape (Julian Edelman, Wes Welker, etc). Often times, Chrebet was one of the only bright spots on the otherwise dismal Jets teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s (not that the trend has really died down).
In 2005, Chrebet hung up his cleats and decided to take his talents elsewhere. His first stop? Opening a restaurant, Social Sports Kitchen. And when the kitchen got too hot, Chrebet moved onto Wall Street, joining Stifel Financial Corporation, a subset of Barclays. Seems like Wayne is doing everything he can to forget the Jets.
Unfortunately, Dermontti Dawson’s financial world is turned upside down. The former seven-time Pro Bowl center and Pittsburgh Steelers great retired from football and fully submerged himself in real estate, rather than taking a more cautious approach. That approach landed Dawson in some serious financial trouble that culminated with the Kentucky native filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Dawson declared assets totaling $1.4 million and liabilities totaling $69.6 million. In 2012, Dawson was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and his number, although not officially retired, has not been issued by Pittsburgh since his retirement. He’ll be known for his prowess on the field rather than his property investments.
Nicknamed “Peanut,” longtime NFL cornerback Charles Tillman was one of the best in the business when it came to stripping ball carries of the ball. Tillman — and his signature “Peanut punch” — was a two-time Pro Bowler and the 2013 Walter Peyton Man of the Year winner. Clearly, Tillman was focused on and dedicated to community.
After retiring from football, Tillman began training to become an FBI agent, a new career path that perfectly aligned with his criminal justice degree and commitment to community. For the next two years, Tillman will be on the FBI’s probationary period where he learns the rigors of his job and where he’ll be placed for work. Hopefully, no one tries to run away from Tillman, unless, of course, they are willing to receive a peanut punch to the dome.
The former first overall pick led a solid career primarily with the Patriots and was a big reason behind the franchise’s resurgence. In the 2001 AFC Championship Game, Bledsoe made an emergency appearance to relieve an injured Tom Brady, and he did enough to help New England preserve its lead en route to the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory.
One year after retiring from the game, Bledsoe launched a winery based out of his hometown of Walla Walla, Washington, Doubleback Winery. In 2014, seven years after opening, the winery became profitable, which fell within Bledsoe’s initial timeline to reach profitability.
Two-time Super Bowl champion Kareem McKenzie was (mainly) tasked with one thing during his NFL career: protect the quarterback. Eli Manning was about as mobile as a statue, and it was McKenzie’s job to keep the statue upright. After football, McKenzie found another job designed to support and lift people up, counseling.
McKenzie earned his Master’s in professional counseling from William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., just a stone’s throw away from where he spent his entire professional career. McKenzie plans on working with people suffering from PTSD, knowing first hand himself the dangers and negative effects of trauma, specifically the kind associated with head and brain injuries.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is in a class of his own for doing two things not many people have done before him. The first distinction Duvernay-Tardif has is making it to the NFL out of McGill University in Montreal, Canada. His second and even crazier distinction is the title before his name. It’s Doctor Duvernay-Tardif.
Yep, Duvernay-Tardif is the NFL’s only active MD, having earned his degree while preparing for the NFL. In 2017, Dr. Duvernay-Tardif, a sixth-round pick, signed a five-year, $42.36 million contract. So when the time comes for Duvernay-Tardif to retire from football, his next choice in careers should be pretty clear.
What hasn’t the former Heisman winner and Pro Bowl running back done since retirement? Eddie George is a self-proclaimed renaissance man, and rightfully so. In 2009, George received his MBA from the prestigious Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. After receiving his MBA, George launched a wealth management firm, which opened up a variety of new doors and ventures to pursue, one of them that landed George back Ohio State, his alma mater.
At Ohio State, George taught a class titled “Leveraging Athletics for Business and Personal Success.” All the while, George was learning how to act, and in 2015, he landed a role of Billy Flynn on the Broadway production of “Chicago.”
A tight end for 11 seasons, Tony McGee had a healthy NFL career, but when football ended, the former Michigan standout needed to occupy his time somehow. So he tried a slew of different ventures from roofing, to radio talk show personality, to real estate, but none of them, for a variety of reasons, stuck. Then McGee was introduced to the shipping industry;
it was love at first site. In 2011, McGee founded HNM Global Logistics, a massive operation out of Orlando that seamlessly integrates companies that move freight with clients who need their freight moved. The pretty straight-forward idea is now earning McGee over eight figures in revenue per year.
Ricardo Silva’s NFL career was short lived. Silva suited up for the Lions for two years and recorded 43 tackles in his professional career. When it was clear that his football career was over, Silva didn’t pout, mope around, or hang his head in defeat. No, he found a higher purpose, one he has found infinitely more rewarding than football ever was. In 2014, Silva signed a two-year contract with Teach for America to teach geometry at Ballou High School in Washington D.C.
Instead of earning $500,000 per year, Silva is making $50,000, but the staggering decrease is totally fine with him. “Anyone can be an NFL player and coach football,” Silva told CNN. “How many NFL players are going back into the classroom to get [kids] to college? It’s more than football to me, it’s life.”
Vince Young has, sadly, made countless wrong turns at seemingly every point in his career. At the NFL, Young was inconsistent for most of his tenure and his effort was often questioned by the media and other players around him. Then there were (are) his financial woes. Despite massive earnings through contracts and endorsements, Young found himself in troubled waters and declared for bankruptcy in 2014, the same year he took a job at the University of Texas.
Needing some income, his alma mater offered Young a position as a development officer for alumni relations. Essentially, Young was tasked with raising money for programs designed to alleviate the financial burden of college for first-generation and low-income students. Three years later, Young was fired by Texas for his failure to communicate with his supervisors and repeatedly showing up late.
Steve DeOssie isn’t the biggest name in the game, but his accomplishments on and off the field are notable. As a linebacker, DeOssie won one Super Bowl and revolutionized the long snapper position. He, just like his son Zach, was a special teams standout who made a living doing the dirty work others wouldn’t or couldn’t do.
When his football career concluded in 1995, DeOssie entered the restaurant business, opening up Fred and Steve’s Steakhouse with former teammate Fred Smerlas. On Trip Advisor, DeOssie’s restaurant has a four-out-of-five-star rating and is voted as one of the top spots to grab a quality steak in Lincoln, Rhode Island.
A Broncos legend, receiver Rod Smith helped Denver win two Super Bowls and made it to three Pro Bowls during his illustrious but markedly blue-collar career. Smith rose to the top of pro football after going undrafted in 1994 and has not relinquished his view from the top since. In 2007, Smith retired from football due to the serious and lingering effects of multiple hip injuries.
Still wanting to stay busy, Smith dabbled in a handful of business, none of which he was fully sold on. Then Organo Gold came knocking, a health-conscious coffee brand that has Smith, and millions of others, hooked. Smith is now a representative for the brand and is earning six figures selling the newest craze in coffee.
Super Bowl champion and Pro Bowl linebacker Jonathan Vilma was a standout on defense. Vilma played for the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints, captaining both squads. A University of Miami product, Vilma entered the league as a hot prospect and exceeded every expectation that comes with being the 12th overall pick.
The only major black mark against him was his involvement with the 2012 Bounty Gate scandal that rocked the NFL. For his involvement, the NFL suspended Vilma for five games. After football, Vilma and four former Hurricane teammates opened up Brother Jimmy’s BBQ joint in Miami. The best part about Brother Jimmy’s? They refuse to serve Roger Goodell.