Daring to Branch Out: The Craziest Post-Career Jobs for Athletes

Geoff Ratliff@@geoffratliffContributor IIIMarch 26, 2013

Daring to Branch Out: The Craziest Post-Career Jobs for Athletes

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    Most professional athletes have relatively short playing careers, and very few retire with enough money to maintain their standard of living indefinitely. This often leads them into some crazy second acts, because the Bentley payments don’t stop when the game clock does.  

    We expect to see athletes transition into sports media after their playing days are over, often landing jobs as studio analysts or talk-show hosts. Even the reality TV circuit has become par for the course for some of the biggest names in sports. 

    But not every athlete is lucky enough to secure a job that is such a natural fit or allows them to maintain a high public profile. Some head into professions that we never would have imagined in our wildest dreams.

    Here are the 10 craziest jobs that athletes have taken once their playing careers ended. It just goes to show that like most of us, they will do almost anything to keep the lights on.

10. Giovanni Carmazzi, Yoga-Practicing Goat Farmer

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    Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Giovanni Carmazzi is easily the least notable former athlete on this list. His post-football life, however, is by far the most interesting.

    After starring at Division I-AA power (the division now formally referred to as the Football Championship Series) Hofstra, Carmazzi retired from the NFL after a two-year career during which he failed to make a regular season start for the 49ers.

    He is perhaps best known for being one of six quarterbacks selected before three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady in the 2000 NFL draft (Carmazzi was selected 65th overall). 

    After a brief stint in the CFL, Carmazzi returned to California, where he lives—along with his five goats—as a yoga-practicing farmer a couple of hours north of San Francisco.

9. Tiki Barber, Co-Chairman/Founder, Thuzio.com

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    As a fellow University of Virginia graduate who briefly overlapped with Barber as a first-year student, I always suspected Tiki had ambitions that reached far beyond the football field.

    After a spectacular NFL career as a running back for the New York Giants, Barber thrived as a TV personality before launching his latest venture, Thuzio.com, in 2012. 

    Thuzio.com is a site that allows you to book the services of dozens of current and former professional athletes for a variety of events or services. Notable athletes include NBA star Gary Payton, five-time MLB All-Star Fred McGriff and 2012 NL Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey.

    Thuzio.com is either uniquely bizarre or insanely brilliant, depending on your perspective, but it is definitely fascinating. I cannot possibly do the site justice in this short amount of space, so check out this article by Grantland’s Rembert Browne for a more comprehensive review of the wonderful world of Thuzio.

8. Drew Bledsoe, Wine Connoisseur

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    Like Barber, former New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe always struck me as the sort of guy who would have a very successful post-NFL career.

    Bledsoe had the cruel misfortune of being succeeded by Brady in New England right at the start of their current dynasty, but he has had a tremendous amount of success in the wine business.

    After returning to his native Washington to retire, Bledsoe purchased is first vineyard in 2003, and launched his current incarnation, Doubleback Vineyards, in 2006. 

    Since then, Doubleback has grown into an extremely successful post-playing venture for Bledsoe and his partners. It was recognized as one of the world’s top 100 wines by Wine Spectator in 2007, and Doubleback’s reputation—and distribution—has only grown since.

7. Michael Jordan: NBA Executive/Team Owner

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    There was absolutely nothing crazy about former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan becoming an NBA executive—and current owner of the league’s Charlotte Bobcats—after his playing career ended. What is amazing is how little success Jordan has had in both positions.

    After leading the Bulls to six NBA championships and retiring as the greatest player in league history, Jordan was abysmal in his role as team president of the Washington Wizards. He proved to be terrible at evaluating talent, highlighted by his selection of center Kwame Brown with the No. 1 pick of the 2001 NBA draft. 

    Jordan’s track record with the Bobcats has been no better.

    Charlotte ended the lockout-shortened 2012 season with the worst winning percentage in NBA history (.106). This year’s team got off to a promising 7-5 start, but has gone 9-49 since to again occupy the cellar in the Eastern Conference.

6. Vinnie Jones: Hollywood Heavy

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    Former Welsh midfielder Vinnie Jones earned a well-deserved reputation as a tough guy on the pitch during a 15-year soccer career. So perhaps movie viewers should not have been surprised when he parlayed that reputation into a successful film career.

    Jones made his film debut in director Guy Ritchie’s 1998 cult classic Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. He played the epic role of Bullet-Tooth Tony in another Ritchie classic, Snatch, starring Brad Pitt.

    For those unfamiliar with those roles, Jones has also appeared in more notable American films like Gone in 60 Seconds and X Men: The Last Stand.

5. Adrian Dantley, Crossing Guard

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    Unlike many athletes, former NBA star Adrian Dantley did not squander away the money he made during a 23-year career as a player and assistant coach.

    The six-time All-Star and 2008 Hall of Fame inductee, was careful enough with his money to be able to retire to a comfortable life in suburban Maryland, just outside of his hometown of Washington, D.C.

    So it seems odd, then, that Dantley is spending a portion of his days as a part-time crossing guard for the local elementary school, earning a mere $14,000 a year.

    Since Deadspin first broke the story earlier this month, the story has started to gain national attention from notable news outlets like CNN and the Washington Post. 

    As much as we complain about athletes needing to be better role models, it’s nice to see someone like Dantley doing something that direct impacts the safety of our children.

4. George Foreman: Lean, Mean Grilling Machine

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    Former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman is widely recognized as one of the greatest fighters of all time. He still holds the record as the oldest man to own the heavyweight title, but his boxing career is best known for his classic bout against Muhammad Ali, commonly referred to as the Rumble in the Jungle.

    That fight was the subject of the excellent documentary film, When We Were Kings.

    Although the heavyweight division has faded in popularity, Foreman has remained relevant—and made millions of dollars—long after retiring from the ring. In 1994, he introduced the world to the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine, taking over kitchens across the globe.

    To date, well over 100 million of Foreman’s grills have been sold.

3. Curt Schilling: Failed Video Game Developer

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    Curt Schilling made a smooth transition to television as a baseball analyst and a member of ESPN’s Baseball Tonight team. If it were up to Schilling, however, he would be spending a lot more time pursuing his other passion: developing video games.

    He poured his heart and soul—as well as the millions of dollars he made in the major leagues—into his company, 38 Studios. Unfortunately, the venture never took off, and Schilling claims that he lost roughly $50 million by the time the company was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2012. 

    To his credit, Schilling has taken full responsibility for the failed venture. Luckily, his strong opinions and frankness in discussing difficult subjects make him a natural on television, so he appears to have a long and successful third act ahead of him.

2. Jesse Ventura, Governor of Minnesota

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    It’s been almost 10 years since former professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura ended his four-year term as the Governor of Minnesota, and I still don't know how he did it.

    Ventura was not the first, nor the most notable former athlete to go into national politics after his "playing" days ended. He has, however, certainly been the most unlikely to achieve the feat.

    After a 12-year career in pro wrestling, and a few more years in Hollywood doing action films, Ventura masterfully parlayed his popularity and flair for the dramatic to win over the hearts of Minnesotans in 1999.

    Apparently the same skills that led to a successful run in the World Wrestling Federation translated well into wooing voters.

1. Charles Barkley: TNT NBA Analyst

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    Charles Barkley tops this list for achieving something extremely rare, particularly among former superstar athletes.

    After a Hall of Fame career that included 11 All-Star appearances and being named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for the 1993 season, Barkley has become more popular in his post-playing career since becoming a basketball analyst for TNT back in 2000. 

    Like Schilling, Barkley is extremely knowledgeable about the league he dominated for 16 years and he has a no-nonsense approach to breaking down NBA games. However, despite his unintentional humor and knack for making up words, he lacks the polish that most distinguished media personalities seem to possess.

    Barkley’s straight talk and his ability to break the game down in laymen's terms may be his most valuable attributes. He is a perfect foil to his more analytical—and more straight-laced—broadcast partners Ernie Johnson and Kenny “The Jet” Smith.

    Shaquille O’Neal’s presence adds more balance to the four-man team with an approach more similar to Chuck’s. But Barkley is clearly the star of the show, and he has established himself as one of the most popular—or at least one the most polarizing—media personalities in any genre.