Fans don’t always realize this, but you can’t play football forever. In fact, some players don’t even realize this until the day comes when no team wants to sign them and they realize that their career is over. When that happens, players (hopefully) have a long life ahead of them that doesn’t involve playing football.
While most retired NFL players have a little money in the bank, it’s surprising to see how many of them end up working regular 9-to-5 jobs like the rest of us once their playing days are over. There are even some who get a head start before their playing days are over. For others, you won’t believe what they ended up doing with their life.
Here is a look at the jobs former (and some current) NFL players job hold down with their days in football behind them.
As a Heisman Trophy winner and a four-time Pro Bowler, George has a lot of laurels on which to rest, but that’s not what he’s been about. One of the first things he did in retirement was run a marathon, which he claims was more difficult than playing in the NFL. He has also served as a spokesman for GetFitTN, a program in Tennessee aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle and preventing Type 2 diabetes.
However, George has put most of his efforts into acting, taking classes, appearing in many smaller productions of Shakespeare plays and even landing a Broadway role as Billy Flynn in the musical Chicago.
If that wasn’t enough, he also went back to school and earned an MBA from Northwestern University, which may not sit well with his fellow Ohio State alums.
Even before he got to the NFL, we knew Rolle was destined for great things that went beyond the football field. After all, he was a Rhodes scholar and studied at Oxford, earning a Master’s in Medical Anthropology, doing so the same year the Titans took him in the 6th round of the draft.
Rolle said goodbye to the NFL forever in 2013, returning to Florida State to enroll in the school’s College of Medicine.
He got his medical degree in 2017 and moved on to a neuroscience residency at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. If you didn’t know, both are kind of a big deal in the medical community. Once he finishes his residency, odds are that Rolle will become a famous neurosurgeon and we’ll all forget that he was actually a pretty good football player once upon a time.
Copeland has worked his butt off on practice squads over the years, turning himself from an undrafted player from Penn into a guy who started 10 games for the Jets in 2018 and could have a solid NFL career ahead of him. However, with an Ivy League education, Copeland is already thinking about what he’s going to do when he’s done with football.
In addition to keeping himself in shape, Copeland spends the offseason working at Weiss Multi-Strategy Advisers as an analyst. He also teaches a financial literacy seminar alongside one of his Penn professors.
Between his job as an analyst and the fact that he saves 90% of his NFL income, Copeland could end up making more money after football than during his career.
Elam is arguably one of the biggest NFL Draft busts the Baltimore Ravens have ever had. He’s also had a little more than his fair share of legal problems off the field. However, Elam has always been cognizant of his future outside of football.
Despite being paid like a 1st-round pick, Elam picked up an offseason job selling shoes at Finish Line while he was still playing with the Ravens.
He’s hoping to own his own sports merchandise store, so he wanted to get some first-hand retail experience. Of course, his football days are long over, so working in retail is now his only career path.
Duvernay-Tardif has been an offensive linemen with the Kansas City Chiefs since 2014. How has he spent his time during the offseason? Nothing major, just getting a medical degree. After doing his undergraduate work at Montreal’s McGill University (basically Canada’s equivalent of Harvard University), Duvernay-Tardif went back to school to study medicine at McGill during the offseason.
He graduated from medical school in 2018, which was the same year the Chiefs signed him to a $41 million contract. He’ll probably be a practicing doctor when he retires from the NFL.
For now, not only is he a regular starter on Kansas City’s offensive line, but he’s working to develop a device that can measure the impact of football hits from inside a player’s helmet. What have you done with your life?
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
After three seasons at Alabama, HaHa Clinton-Dix became a 1st round draft pick. However, he would return to Alabama in the summer so he could finish his degree.
Part of getting his degree in criminal justice was an internship with Brown County, Wisconsin judge Donald R. Zuidmulder. Zuidmulder even encouraged Clinton-Dix to attend law school when he’s done playing.
The judge put together a special curriculum for Clinton-Dix’s internship, as most of his interns are law students. However, the former Packers safety says he might pursue a career in the FBI or as a police officer, as he’d like to dispel some of the lack of trust between police and neighborhoods like where he grew up in Orlando.
Francis is a fringe NFL player who has spent over half a decade trying to prove himself in training camps and practice squads. Unfortunately, the 330-pound nose tackle has rarely made it onto the active roster on an NFL team.
But when he has free time, Francis works as an Uber driver. He first signed up in April 2015 and continues to drive as a way to make some extra money.
After all, Uber is a great side hustle for a lot of people, so why not an NFL player? Francis says he can make up to $40 or $50 an hour while driving for Uber, which isn’t a bad payday for a part-time gig.
It’s no secret that NFL players like to look their best when they arrive and leave the stadium on game days, so Malcolm Jenkins has turned it into a post-football career path.
It all started with a line of bow ties he called Rock Avenue. From there, he expanded to a brick-and-mortar store in Philadelphia, where he’s played with the Eagles since 2014.
He says he loves picking out the fabrics that his company will use and tries to be a hands-on boss despite still being an active NFL player.
After 14 seasons in the NFL, wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad should have been all but set financially for the rest of his life.
But Muhammad was looking to do something else, so he co-founded a private equity firm called Axum Capital Partners. He now serves as the firm’s managing director.
That firm has majority ownership of the Wild Wing Cafe franchise, which currently has 46 locations in nine states. The company has its headquarters in Charlotte, where Muhammad spent most of his NFL career.
For a Hall of Fame inductee who spent over a decade battling in the NFL trenches as one of the best centers in the game, Dermontti Dawson certainly has kept busy in retirement. Soon after calling it quits, he became a real estate developer. Dawson was successful for a while, accumulating $69 million in assets but ultimately filing for bankruptcy.
He soon put real estate behind him and became a sales executive for Prime Time Plus, a promotional product company in San Diego, where Dawson now resides.
Just to keep himself engaged in the sports world, Dawson is also a partial owner of an independent league baseball team in Pennsylvania called the Washington Wild Things.
Wayne Chrebet has one of the best underdog stories in NFL history, going from an undrafted player from Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) athlete to spending 11 seasons with the New York Jets, ending up on the team’s ring of honor. But that was just the first act of what Chrebet has accomplished in his life.
After his football days were over, Chrebet started working as a financial advisor, first with investment giant Morgan Stanley and later with Barclays Capital, where he worked his way up to Assistant Vice President and worked at the company’s Park Avenue offices.
More recently he worked for Stifel Financial Corp. on a management team that had $2 billion in assets, making Chrebet’s NFL earnings look like chump change.
Keith Fitzhugh didn’t get very far in the NFL despite having a standout career at Mississippi State University and being one of the better safeties in the 2009 draft. Unfortunately, with his father unable to work, he couldn’t pursue his NFL dreams forever.
After giving football a shot for a couple of years, Fitzhugh went to work on the railroads, becoming a train conductor.
It wasn’t exactly a natural move for a defensive back, but Fitzhugh now works for the Atlanta Norfolk Southern Railway as a terminal superintendent, so the rails have been far kinder to him than the NFL.
Most people are familiar with Bernie Kosar’s post-football financial woes. He earned $19 million over his 13 seasons in the NFL, but in 2009, he filed for bankruptcy, citing nearly $19 million in debt against just $9 million in assets.
To help him get out of debt, Kosar put his name and stamp of approval on Kosar’s Wood-Fired Grill at the MGM Northfield Park in Ohio. He also spends his days working as a motivational speaker, often discussing leadership.
Sadly, Kosar continues to deal with several serious symptoms that appear to be related to concussions he suffered during his football career, making it tough for him to do too much. However, an experimental treatment program seems to be helping a little.
The late Bill Lenkaitis was a pioneer of sorts when it came to planning for his post-football life. He spent three seasons with the Chargers and 11 more with the Patriots during his 14-year pro career.
However, he spent his offseason working toward a dental degree. In 1973, after six years of going to school in the offseason, he got his degree and spent several years serving as the team dentist for the Patriots, including some years when he was still on the team.
In total, he practiced dentistry in Foxboro, Massachusetts for 40 years. Sadly, he passed away after a battle with brain cancer in 2016 at the age of 70.
As a New Jersey native, Kareem McKenzie fittingly spent his entire NFL career with the New York Jets and New York Giants. He played in over 150 games in 11 seasons and won two Super Bowl rings with the Giants.
McKenzie then made the odd career change from offensive tackle to practicing psychologist. He’s currently working toward his doctorate and earning a Masters of Education in Professional Counseling.
McKenzie says that going to counseling during his career proved quite helpful for him and would like to pay it forward by helping other ex-NFL players by providing similar services once he finishes work on his Ph.D.
Ed Newman and Tony Nathan
Football is all about teammates working together toward a common goal, but Ed Newman and Tony Nathan are a pair of former Miami Dolphins teammates who are still working together toward a common goal. Back in the day, Newman was an offensive lineman helping to open up holes for Nathan, a former running back.
Now, Newman is a judge with Nathan serving as his bailiff. Newman actually attended law school at night at the University of Miami while he was still playing with the Dolphins.
He was an attorney for several years and since 1995 has been a County Court Judge in Miami with Nathan currently serving as the court’s bailiff.
After retiring from the NFL, defensive back Ty Law and his three Super Bowl rings started the Launch Trampoline Park, which is now a franchise of entertainment facilities found throughout New England and other parts of the country that are geared toward showing kids a good time, specifically through the use of trampolines.
With 25 locations and counting, Law’s post-football career appears to be going quite well. Word has it that he stops by one Rhode Island location from time to time so that he can play trampoline dodgeball with some of his customers.
As a five-time Pro Bowler who played 14 years in the NFL, Fred Smerlas is in good shape financially. But he does enjoy staying busy with a number of business ventures and projects.
Smerlas’ company, All-Pro Productions, handles fundraising for police, firefighters, and other agencies throughout his home state of Massachusetts. He and former NFL long snapper Steve DeOssie co-own a steakhouse in a Rhode Island casino called Fred & Steve’s Steakhouse.
Smerlas has also found the time to co-write a book and at times has considered running for political office but has never firmly committed to running a campaign with everything else he has going on.
Eleven seasons as an NFL tight end is a long time, so after he retired in 2003, Tony McGee was eager to try his hand in the business world. Unfortunately, most of his ventures ended up failing.
However, McGee didn’t give up and finally found success in the shipping industry. He’s now the CEO of the freight company he founded called HNM Global Logistics, which is based in Orlando.
McGee also helped to found a mentoring organization called Brothers Reaching Out to help at-risk youth. For good measure, he also owns a Dunkin’ Donuts in Terre Haute, Indiana, his hometown.
Remember when Terrell Owens held a press conference while doing sit-ups at his home? Well, that wasn’t just about staying in shape for football.
In his post-football life, T.O. has pursued work as a model, giving him a good reason to keep his body in tip-top shape. He even signed a deal with NEXT management. Naturally, he’s ended up on a series of reality shows, including Dancing with the Stars and his own show, aptly named The T.O. Show, in order to keep himself in the spotlight.
In 2019, Owens signed a deal with talent agency ICM Partners, who handles movies, television, publishing, and other forms of entertainment, making it a safe bet that we haven’t seen the last of T.O.
During the late 1950s, Dave Middleton was one of the best wide receivers in football. He was the 12th pick in the 1955 draft out of Auburn and immediately had the third-most catches in the NFL as a rookie. Middleton was also part of the Lions team that won the NFL championship in 1957.
Back then, there wasn’t as much offseason conditioning, so Middleton kept himself busy by attending medical school when he wasn’t busy playing football. After six seasons in the NFL, he called it quits in the NFL and started an obstetrics and gynecology practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Longtime Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson only recently retired, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out what he’s going to do with all of his time. Even when he was playing, when the season ended, he would return to his family’s farm in Kansas and get to work, sometimes dedicating up to 12 hours a day to farming.
For a good six weeks a year, Nelson would spend his days rounding up the cows or driving the combine. Nelson says that farming is in his blood, so it’d be surprising if he didn’t return to that lifestyle now that he’s retired from the NFL.
Some people forget that Raghib “Rocket” Ismail actually chose to play in the Canadian Football League for two years before starting his 9-year NFL career.
After a fairly modest NFL career, Ismail took his talents to television for a little while, but now he works as a motivational speaker. He often speaks at churches, schools, and corporate events, sometimes for as much as $5,000 or $10,000 a pop.
It’s also interesting to note that for a brief period in 2007 and 2008, Ismail was the coach of SlamBall team called the Bouncers. If you’re not familiar with SlamBall, do yourself a favor and Google it.
If you don’t remember Ricardo Silva, don’t worry about it; he only ended up playing 14 games for the Detroit Lions over the course of two seasons in 2011 and 2012, racking up 43 tackles and one interception in that time. Also, you shouldn’t feel bad for him because now he’s making a positive impact on the world.
In 2014, Silva joined Teach for America rather than trying to get another chance with an NFL team. He’s now teaching geometry at a high school in Washington D.C., helping to mold young minds.
Since going undrafted in 2014, Bernard Reedy has spent the last five seasons with four different NFL teams, including three separate stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Through it all, he has two career receptions in an NFL game.
However, when the 5’8’’ receiver from Toledo who also serves as a kick returner isn’t trying to keep his NFL dreams alive, he’s working for Car Ride, a company that gives rides to people in wheelchairs. Reedy makes $11 an hour while working as a driver for Car Ride.
But, he gets a lot more out of the experience than the meager pay. Reedy says he’s inspired by the people he drives around, helping to motivate him to keep pushing to get his big break in the NFL.
After 14 years in the NFL, including four trips to the Pro Bowl, who wouldn’t want to just kick back and drink wine all day? That’s exactly what Drew Bledsoe chose to do. Well, kind of.
After retiring, Bledsoe and a close friend founded a winery together called the Doubleback Winery in the area where Bledsoe grew up in Walla Walla, Washington. Bledsoe’s wines have been talked about by multiple wine-related publications, so it seems he has a knack for growing grapes and turning them into cabernet and chardonnay.
Of course, Bledsoe hasn’t completely abandoned football, he also serves as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for a high school in Oregon.
After 10 seasons in the NFL, edge rusher Brian Orakpo called it quits and retired following the 2018 season. Luckily for him, he already had a head start on his post-football life.
Prior to retiring, Orakpo was already the co-owner of a cupcake shop called Gigi’s Cupcakes, located on the outskirts of Austin, Texas where Orakpo played his college football. Former Titans safety Michael Griffin is one of Orakpo’s business partners. They came up with the idea in 2017 soon after Griffin retired.
The former Texas Longhorns and Tennessee Titans teammates both love cupcakes and decided to team up with a third University of Texas alum on the business. Now that Orakpo is retired from football, he’ll have more time to spend baking cupcakes at Gigi’s, although he and Griffin are hoping invest in other business ventures in the future.
Vince Young’s NFL career began with plenty of promise after leading the University of Texas to a national championship, but it fizzled quickly; throwing just nine touchdowns to 17 interceptions in your second pro season will do that. Young last threw an NFL pass in 2011 but didn’t formally retire until 2014.
In between, Young went back to Texas to finish his degree, graduating in 2013. Soon after, he was hired by the university to work in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. Essentially, Young’s job is to raise money for programs that help kids at Texas who come from low-income backgrounds or are first-generation college students.
It sounds like Young can do some good in that job. Then again, he also filed for bankruptcy in 2014, so he definitely needs the paycheck.
Before embarking on his 13-year NFL career, Charles “Peanut” Tillman graduated from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette with a degree in criminal justice. When he retired, he didn’t waste much time in trying to put that degree to good use.
Tillman enrolled in FBI training in Virginia and is now a qualified agent. During his career, Tillman would actually spend the offseason training alongside law enforcement officials, so the two-time Pro Bowler should have no problem achieving as much success in his second career as he did in his first one.
People often forget what a beast running back Deuce McAllister was on the field. After all, he won a Super Bowl with the Saints and is part of the team’s Hall of Fame after rushing for over 6,000 yards across nine seasons.
However, most of the roughly $70 million he made during his career has apparently disappeared. The car dealership he owned in Mississippi filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
Since then, he has done some TV work and been employed as an athletic consultant for a private school in Louisiana. McAllister also does public speaking engagements and owns and operates two locations of the Ole Saint restaurant, doing what he can to earn back all of the money he lost.