From Forefront to Forgotten: NFL Stars After Football
At one point, these players were household names and fixtures on our tv screens every Sunday and Monday. Today, with the glory days long in the rear-view mirror, these former NFL stars are just like the rest of us. Let’s take a look at how retirement is treating these former players. Some took up coaching, others started rapping, and some even found second homes in prison cells.
During the early to mid-2000s, Priest Homes was as dominant as anyone. Holmes started his career with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Texas, but made his name in Kansas City. While wearing red and yellow, Holmes took the NFL by storm and led the league in touchdowns. He also set the record, which has since been surpassed, for total touchdowns in a season with 27.
Injuries, however, would cut Holmes’ career short. A neck injury forced him to miss the entire 2006 season and in 2007, after re-injuring it, Holmes retired from football. Since retirement, Holmes has dealt with the repercussions of playing football and the numerous injuries he suffered. “It’s 10 years later and I’m actually still feeling my injuries and the results of all the collisions that I had taken over those 11 years,” Holmes told KSAT.
Priest Holmes Today
But not everything in his retirement is negative. Holmes has used the time off to endearingly reflect on his career and started collecting stamps and art. His big new focus, however, is running the Priest Holmes Foundation and improving the lives of the underprivileged in San Antonio, the city he now calls home.
The foundation provides scholarship funds for college and helps upgrade the facilities in local public schools. Holmes also travels around the country with the NFL’s Play 60 movement encouraging kids to get 60 minutes of exercise every day. For those of you who are wondering, Holmes, despite winning a Super Bowl with the Ravens, is a Chiefs fan at heart and roots them on to this day.
Remember how horrible the Jacksonville Jaguars were for so many years? How they couldn’t fill up their stadium because they couldn’t win games? Those were the good ol’ days before Jalen Ramsey and their obnoxious yet talented defense took the field. During that time of doldrums, the Jaguars had one thing to cheer for, and that was Maurice Jones-Drew.
For his efforts, MJD was named to three Pro Bowls and led the NFL in rushing in 2011. Like many other depleted players who suffered at the hands of the Jaguars’ ineptitude, Jones-Drew eventually had enough and signed a one-year deal with the Raiders. As a Raider, Jones-Drew hardly saw the field and retired from football at the age of 29.
Maurice Jones-Drew Today
Post-retirement, Jones-Drew dove head first into broadcasting. Since launching his second career, Jones-Drew has landed gigs with the NFL Network and Sirius XM Radio. As a player, MJD knew it would be beneficial to learn how to use his knowledge of football on radio and television, and that foresight proved to be true.
Besides broadcasting, Jones-Drew decided to fulfill a promise made to his grandmother that he’d finish his degree. With that in mind, MJD headed back to his old stomping grounds, UCLA, to finish what he started.
Lastly, Jones-Drew has even gotten involved in investing. He’s not trying to be the next Warren Buffet, but MJD did put some of his hard earn bucks into a virtual reality (VR) startup in California.
Arian Foster, an undrafted free agent from Tennessee, burst onto the scene like a bat out of hell. In just his second year, Foster put the NFL on notice. He rushed for 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns to go along with 600 yards receiving and an additional two touchdowns.
During the 2012 season, Foster became the third fastest player in NFL history to reach 5,000 yards from scrimmage. But injuries and a lack of playoff success would mark the end of Foster’s tenure in Houston. After a dismal few games playing for Miami in 2016, Foster hung up the cleats and retired from football.
Arian Foster Today
When Arian did retire, he, like many others, went to the booth. But not the booth most of you are thinking of. Foster became a rapper. Foster performs under the rap name “Bobby Feeno,” and in 2018, the former star running back released his first album, “Flamingo and Koval.” But Foster has an uphill battle to be deemed a successful rapper.
He has to fight the stigma that comes with other athletes who attempted to crossover into music. He has to fight the idea that he already has a large following and platform to promote his work. To him, all of it is worth it, because, as he has stated before, music was his first passion. Before football. Before the glory of scoring touchdowns.
He was one of the biggest surprises in the 2008 NFL Draft. Originally, Chris Johnson was projected to be a third-round pick, but after an explosive combine where he set the fastest 40 time in combine history, Johnson’s stock skyrocketed, and with that the Titans selected him 24th overall. Johnson’s NFL career got of to a blazing-fast start and he finished his rookie season with over 1,200 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.
His sophomore year would be even more impressive. Johnson, after a slow start, left everything in his wake en route to a 2,006-yard season, becoming one of only seven players in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season. For his efforts, Johnson was awarded his second Pro Bowl and a pretty sweet nickname, CJ2K.
Chris Johnson Today
Although Johnson would never again reach 2,000 yards, he continued to perform at an elite level and rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the next four seasons. His career with the Titans ended after the 2013 season, although Johnson continued to play through 2017. After 10 seasons in the league, one of the fastest, most exciting backs in NFL history called it a career, having made it to the playoffs only once.
Unlike other guys on this list, Chris Johnson’s retirement hasn’t been all peaches and cream. In April, 2018, Johnson was involved in a violent outburst against a valet parking attendant. According to the victim, Johnson choked and punched him in the face, resulting in minor injuries. Since his angry outburst, Johnson has remained out of the news.
For a few years, Shaun Alexander and the Seattle offensive line ruled the NFC. In the 2000 NFL Draft, the Seahawks selected the former ‘Bama back with the 19th overall pick. After a forgettable rookie year, Alexander turned up the heat and had an impressive sophomore campaign, running for 14 touchdowns and over 1,300 yards, the first of five consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
During the 2005 season, Alexander broke the NFL’s total touchdown record with 28 scores en route to a Super Bowl appearance and MVP season. Alexander ended his career with a disappointing, injury-plagued lone season in Washington (2008) where he rushed for only 24 yards.
Shaun Alexander Today
Today, Alexander finds himself in suburban D.C. raising his eight children. In fact, Alexander, a devout Christian, is homeschooling all of his children so they can receive more bible study. Alexander has also mentored different running backs at both the college and professional ranks, giving advice on how to handle the rock and the celebrity status that comes with being a big-time football player.
Besides taking on the role of mentor, Alexander has used his faith to launch a podcast and even wrote a book. Alexander also travels the country as a motivational speaker, reflecting on his faith, life as a star football player, and life after football.
Expectations for the Colts were beginning to build. In 1998, they drafted future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning with the first overall pick. One year later, they selected Edgerrin James, a speedy, shifty back from Miami, with the fourth overall pick. The offense was ready to explode, and James did his part to ensure it did. He led the NFL in rushing his first two seasons and was named the 1999 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Following his time in Indy, James went to the deserts of Arizona where he continued to rack up yards. Despite his efforts, James was unable to help Arizona capture the franchise’s first Super Bowl. In 2011, the former Hurricane retired as the Colts’ franchise leader in rushing touchdowns.
Edgerrin James Today
Since retiring, James has come down with a serious case of wanderlust, which makes sense because he was bitten by the travel bug. James loves to travel since he isn’t on anyone else’s clock for the first time in his life, but with six kids, his primary responsibility and joy is spending time with them. Besides being a globetrotter, James plans to write a book.
Besides being a father and avid traveler, James make sure he finds enough time to run football camps put on by his eponymous foundation, the Edgerrin James Foundation. The only thing missing in retirement is a Hall of Fame induction. He’s been nominated multiple times, but has fallen short each time.
When Dante Hall was playing, he was considered the most exciting man in football. Danger was imminent if you were kicking or punting him the ball. Before you knew what hit you, Hall could be in the endzone throwing up his signature “X” touchdown celebration. Known as the “Human Joystick,” Hall enjoyed an unprecedented amount of success as Kansas City’s return man from 2000-06.
He finished his career in St. Louis on a bad note, managing only one punt return for a touchdown in his final two years. Hall retired as the Chiefs’ franchise leader in multiple records including kick return yards and kick return touchdowns. He also finished his career as the Chiefs’ all-time leader in all-purpose yards.
Dante Hall Today
Spinning out of a relaxing retirement would not be something Hall did. In an interview with NFL.com, Hall said, “The first year I just took off. A lot of travelling, golf, and just enjoying life.” But he didn’t get overly complacent. Hall stayed busy and got his real estate license, opened up a few businesses, and hired a personal trainer to stay fit. But he longed for football.
With that burning desire to get involved with football, Hall accepted a job to be the running backs coach at a private high school in Long Beach. Outside of football, Hall has returned to school at Texas A&M and is determined to finish his degree. In case you were curious, once Hall arrives to campus, he is all about his bicycle. No more parking tickets.
He was no Dante Hall, but he was just as exciting and dominant. More importantly, he was the only thing on the Browns worth watching. Yes, Cleveland had LeBron James, and that’s about it. The Browns were (and still are) miserable. They were almost not worth watching, and that’s why ticket prices were so unbelievably low.
If, by some random chance, you ended up at a Browns home game, you would have one thing to watch, and that would be Joshua Cribbs. In Cleveland, he was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Cribbs racked up yards returning punts and kicks and also did a bit of receiving on the side.
Joshua Cribbs Today
During both the 2007 and 2009 seasons, Cribbs amassed over 2,000 all-purpose yards. He finished his career with eight kick return touchdowns and three punt return touchdowns and nine rushing/receiving touchdowns. Although his touchdown numbers pale in comparison to other positions, as a return specialist, Cribbs was certified elite.
Retirement, for Cribbs, has been just as exciting. He’s been a guest star on two television shows (The League and Hot in Cleveland) and has appeared on ESPN speaking about concussions. However, Cribbs’ biggest journey in retirement has been coaching with the Cleveland Browns, the same organization that gave him a shot to play professional football. Hired in the 2018 offseason to assist with special teams, Cribbs has been all-in on the upstart Browns.
Remember the “Greatest Show on Turf”? Torry Holt sure does, because he was one of its founding fathers. Drafted sixth overall in 1999 by St. Louis, Holt burst onto the NFL scene, putting up solid rookie numbers while helping the Rams win Super Bowl XXXIV.
Holt, considered one of the game’s most dominant receivers, put up at least 1,000 yards receiving in eight straight seasons. He made it to seven Pro Bowls and was a one-time first-team All-Pro. Despite his dominance, Holt and the Rams struggled mightily to reach the postseason, and when they did, they exited early. In 2012, Holt retired from football as the Rams’ second all-time in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
Torry Holt Today
What do many players do when they retire to stay busy? What they do best, football. Holt didn’t stray too far away from the game he loved and took up coaching. He started off coaching Heritage High School in Wake Forest, North Carolina as an assistant, but the high school level wasn’t enough for him. Next up was the NFL.
Initially, Holt began as an assistant with the Cardinals before joining Los Angeles Rams where he again helped the receivers fine-tune their skills in catching and route running. What Holt hasn’t been able to do in retirement is secure a spot in the Hall of Fame. He’s been eligible for the past few years but has failed to garner the necessary amount of votes.
Marvin Harrison, drafted 19th overall by Indianapolis in 1996, may be one of the most accomplished receivers to emerge from Syracuse University. He preceded Peyton Manning by a few years, but when the two finally did link up, they would become on of the most unstoppable dynamic-duos in league history. For 13 years, Harrison managed to stay healthy and snag footballs at an unprecedented rate.
The game-plan was simple: put Manning in the shotgun and give Harrison the ball. Defenses knew what was coming but could not stop it. His personal accolades are far too extensive to list here, but some highlights include Super Bowl XLI champion and three-time first-team All-Pro. He retired as the record holder for receptions in a single season, and, for his outstanding play, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Marvin Harrison Today
While playing football, Harrison avoided controversy. Some would say he was averse to the spotlight, a recluse of sorts. Retirement, however, has thrust Harrison into an uncomfortable position. So far, retirement has been anything but easy. In one incident, Harrison, who legally owns guns, was implicated in a shooting that left a man hospitalized. Harrison, however, claims he wasn’t the man behind the shooting and got off scotch-free.
One year following that incident, the same man who had been shot the first time was shot again, but this time he succumbed to his wounds and died in a hospital. Once again, nothing came of it for Harrison.
Other than finding himself involved with murders and guns, Harrison spends his time managing a bar and car wash he owns. In addition to those businesses, Harrison has purchased about 20 properties in his hometown of Philadelphia.
He was born Sharod Lamor White, but many people simply know his as Roddy. That’s right, Roddy White, one of the greatest offensive players in Falcons history. White was drafted out of the University of Alabama Birmingham with the 27th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. In Atlanta, Roddy White was the go-to guy. He was the Falcons’ offense before Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.
The Falcons didn’t have any great quarterbacks during his career, but they did have him. Six-straight 1,000 plus-yard seasons. Four Pro Bowls. Four playoff appearances in five seasons. White’s 2015 season was disappointing and he was released by the Falcons. He did not suit up in 2016 and retired in 2017.
Roddy White Today
Today, you can call the most prolific receiver in Atlanta history Coach White. That’s because Roddy White has followed a very similar, established path as those who have come before him: coaching. White started out his coaching career with Johns Creek, a high school in the Atlanta area.
White, who self-admittedly loves kids, believes coaching is a perfect opportunity for him. He’s the receivers coach and is doing his best to impart all of the knowledge he learned during his 11-year NFL career. White also plans on taking up a front-office role with the Falcons, and based off of his comfortable relationship with owner Arthur Blank, that will, in all likelihood, happen.
Housh, as he’s known, began his football career at a community college before transferring to Oregon State University. There he met his future Bengals teammate Chad Johnson. In the 2001 NFL Draft, the Bengals took the 6-foot-2-inch receiver in the seventh round. His college teammate, Johnson, was taken in the second round of the same draft.
In 2004 and 2005, Housh fell just shy of eclipsing 1,000 yards receiving, but he did manage to reach 1,000 yards in 2006 and 2007. The next two seasons, he would again fall just short of the 1,000 mark. Although Housh managed just one Pro Bowl, he was a constant threat and made a name for himself as a physical receiver and precise route-runner. Housh retired from football after the 2011 season as the Bengals’ fourth all-time leader in receptions.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh Today
Since retiring, Housh has taken his talents and cool last name into coaching. He’s had a variety of roles ranging from John Ross’ (the ninth overall pick in 2017) personal receiving coach to a special assistant with his former team, the Bengals. His biggest role, however, was with Long Beach Poly. There, Housh joined a star-studded staff as the offensive coordinator.
A crisp route runner and physical receiver, Housh has a lot of knowledge to pass down to the youngsters. And to be sure, star studded is not an understatement. Antonio Pierce, the Super Bowl champion, was the head coach. Takeo Spikes, a dominant linebacker, was the defensive coordinate, and Derrick Ward, a former NFL running back, handled the role of running backs coach.
He may be remembered most for a crucial drop in Super Bowl XLII. That crucial missed interception opportunity on an errant Eli Manning pass turned into, one play later, one of the biggest catches in Super Bowl history when Eli Manning improbably connected with David Tyree. That second chance Samuel gifted the Giants ultimately led to one of the most historic upsets in sports history when the Giants defeated the previously-unbeaten New England Patriots 17-14.
But if you can look past Samuel’s blunder and take in the rest of his career, you’d realize he was a dominant corner with a propensity for big plays. He won two Super Bowls with the Pats and made it to four Pro Bowls. Twice he led the NFL in interceptions and was named to the Patriots All-2000s team. He finished his career in Atlanta after a disappointing 2013 season.
Asante Samuel Today
In 2015, Samuel’s took a relatively unique route to staying busy in his “retirement.” Rather than coaching or working as an analyst, Samuel’s started a record label, “Eighties Nation.” Samuel’s rap endeavor isn’t just about making billboard hits. To him, he views his company as a means to help locals in his community find work and stay out of prison. So while Samuel definitely regrets dropping the ball in the Super Bowl, he appears to be quite comfortable dropping bars in retirement.
In an interview with HipHopDX, Samuels asserted that nobody is perfect and everyone deserves a second chance. “We will make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. The number one goal is to give jobs and opportunities for better leadership and not for people to be going in and out of jail.”
Lights out. Shawne Merriman was a ferocious hitter. He was the meanest thing San Diego had ever seen. Drafted 12th out of Maryland, Merriman provided the San Diego defense with an instant spark. If San Diego was the Chargers, Merriman was the voltage that provided the charge and brought people to the stadium. In total, Merriman made it to three Pro Bowls including a trip during his rookie season.
Injuries and some controversial incidents would, however, mean lights out for Shawne. He was suspended for steroid use and his body could not stay healthy. Merriman finished his career in Buffalo and recorded only two sacks in his final two years. Merriman will forever be known as a player who had one of the fastest starts in league history who just didn’t have enough juice to run out the full marathon.
Shawne Merriman Today
The now-not-in-the-NFL Shawne Merriman is just as intense as the once-in-the-NFL Shawne Merriman, albeit in a different way. Merriman didn’t take up coaching or motivational speaking. He didn’t write a book or find himself sitting in a comfy chair analyzing football games for Fox Sports.
Nope, Shawne Merriman signed a contract with the World Bare Knuckle Fighting Federation to become that league’s premier fighter. No gloves, just glory. That pretty much sums up bare knuckle boxing, which, based off its name, sounds like a pretty brutal sport, and if Shawne somehow escaped football with minimal brain damage, this sport could probably change that.
Oh how the Dolphins suck. Since that franchise lost Dan Marino, they’ve gone nowhere fast. They’ve tried signing big players, redoing their uniforms, and upgrading their stadium. Nothing has worked, but every blue moon that pathetic franchise has a bright spot, and from 1997-07 that bright spot was defensive end Jason Taylor.
A six-time Pro Bowler, 2002 NFL sacks leader, and NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Taylor’s body of work speaks for itself and earned him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Taylor also holds the NFL record for fumbles returned for touchdowns. Safe to say he was a force, and his post-football life would be no different.
Jason Taylor Today
Step one: coach at one of America’s most powerful high schools, St. Thomas Aquinas. The program, known for churning out top talent, struck gold in hiring Taylor. Besides coaching kids on how to disrupt offensive schemes, Taylor is heavily involved with his charity, the Jason Taylor Foundation.
One of his foundation’s signature events, the Ping Pong Smash, is currently in its 15th year and brings together people from all walks of life with one common goal: help South Florida’s children in need. Besides that signature event, Taylor’s foundation focuses on giving money to causes that need in most, be it a hospital or a recreation center needing new equipment. While in the NFL, Taylor was a one-man wrecking crew, and, since stepping off the gridiron, he’s continued to assert himself as a difference maker, except this time he’s extending a helping hand instead of putting people on the ground.