Although life in the NFL moves fast, careers are often all too short. This is a sport where the average retirement age is 30 years old and the retirees generally have the luxury of living a worry-free life after football.
So what happens in life after football for NFL retirees?
More often than not, they scatter to the winds to live a quiet life pursuing whatever passion they hold dear. Once retired, most NFL players resurface in the public eye only on the rarest of occasions.
It is not unheard of for former football players to be reluctant to give up the limelight, though. Leaving the national stage of the NFL for a life of relative anonymity isn’t for everyone.
Those special players will gravitate back into the world of broadcast media after leaving the NFL. So sit back and grab some popcorn while we take a look into a possible future to see which then-retired NFL players might test the waters of launching acting careers network television, Hollywood, or even perhaps Broadway.
Where he’d go: Chad Ochocinco (or Chad Johnson, whichever one he’s calling himself these days) is the first name that comes to mind for most people when they think of NFL players turned actors. He would easily find a place in Hollywood. In fact, studios will probably be drooling all over themselves at the opportunity to recruit the dual actor/comedian one-man-act that is Chad Ochocinco.
Why he’d make it: Well, let’s think about this one.
All joking aside, Ochocinco would be a great asset to any Hollywood production. He’s not just funny, he’s also smart and incredibly hardworking despite his happy-go-lucky outward appearance. It’s not terribly common to find that combination.
What he’d do: It’s immediately clear that Chad Ochocinco will need a dual role in Hollywood to keep him satisfied with his screen time. He will spend part of the year replacing Adam Sandler as the go-to man for raunchy comedies. The rest of the time will be spent touring with his solo comedy act.
How successful he'd be: If Charlie Sheen could sell out a tour, imagine the splash that Ochocinco could make with a little bit of help with his marketing. He loves the spotlight, so provided that he’s even a moderate success he’ll be a household name for years to come. Don’t be surprised if he reverts his name back to Johnson, though.
Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that both Deon Grant and Jacquian Williams are a package deal. After all, they were both spontaneously injured at the same time not so long ago, so clearly they need to stick together.
Why they’d make it: What they’re lacking in endurance (can you see either of those two playing an entire 90-plus minutes in a soccer game?) they’ll make up for in their ability to stall for time with coordinated pretend injuries.
What they’d do: They would fake it ‘til they make it. Plain and simple.
How successful they'd be: The refs in soccer have pretty much grown accustomed to ignoring grown men wailing and writhing on the field. Grant and Williams probably wouldn’t be any more successful than any of the other players on the field, but it’s worth a shot, right?
Where he’d go: Tony Romo might just have what it takes to cut it on Broadway. He’s got the kind of demeanor that would allow him to take on almost any role without losing too many man points.
Why he’d make it: Romo has already tried to kick start his acting career during his stint in the NFL, but not in the traditional way. He has exhibited a bizarre tendency to ape the actions of the people around him, so it’s easy to believe that he’ll be great as long as someone shows him what to do.
What he’d do: Aside from wanting to be a referee (or at least play one on TV,) it seems clear that Tony Romo has what it takes to become part of a dance production on Broadway. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see him on Riverdance or something equally choreographed. Thanks to his NFL career he has the athleticism and the physical awareness of his body’s movements to pull it off.
How successful he'd be: At the start, he’d be the single act in town that everyone wants to see. After the novelty wears off, though, Romo can rest assured that his presence won’t merit much more than a raised eyebrow.
Where he’d go: Now that Hines Ward has demonstrated the softer side of his toughness by Dancing With the Stars, his secret is out of the bag. He may never be a contestant again, but he will doubtless feel the siren call of dancing on stage once again.
Why he’d make it: He’s Hines Ward. He’s one of the toughest guys in the NFL. If he wants to dance, then who are any of us to stand in his way?
What he’d do: He would dance. Shake it like a Polaroid picture if he wants to. It’s a legitimate form of acting, and he’s pretty much a natural. Whether on Broadway or in Vegas, there is a dance production somewhere out there that would accept Hines Ward and his talented feet.
How successful he'd be: In the beginning, his success will be largely because of the spectacle of seeing a big, bad NFL wide receiver moving to the groove. If he keeps up with moves like the ones he showed on Dancing With the Stars, though, he could quickly carve a name for himself based entirely on his own merits.
Where he’d go: He’s inactive in the league at the moment, but until that lasts for an entire season it’s still up in the air whether or not he's retired. Terrell Owens has had his time in football, and when he finally decides to hang up the towel for good he’s almost certain to head to the nearest television studio.
Why he’d make it: T. O. is one of those naturally made-for-television personalities. He’s already had a VH1 television show made just for him (The T.O. Show.) Without the constraints of a football season, there’s no telling what he and some television executive producers will come up with.
What he’d do: After a brief stint in hosting his own reality show, Owens will realize that life after football is slower than he’d anticipated. In an effort to improve ratings, T. O. will take his reality show presence a step further and apply to the next available Survivor or similar show.
He will find that he has a taste for the competitive aspect, and will proceed take a tour around any reality show that will have him before settling down to produce his own sports-themed reality show.
How successful he'd be: Success is never the question with T. O. He’s a perennial fan favorite and anti-favorite, generating both positive and negative attention with an astounding efficiency. He’ll always find a way to keep his ratings good enough to stick around for as long as he likes.
Where he’d go: Eli Manning is headed straight for the big screen once he retires. He’s got the boyish good looks for now, but they certainly won’t last forever!
Why he’d make it: It doesn’t matter whether or not Eli can act his way out of a paper bag (he probably can’t.) As long as he hangs on to that teenage handsome look he’s got going on, the girls will love him no matter what he does.
What he’d do: Think of the most clichéd romantic chick flick you can imagine. Insert Eli Manning as the male lead. Profit.
How successful he'd be: He’ll be a hit until his age catches up to him. After that, all bets are off unless the man can actually act.
Where he’d go: Unable to leave the spotlight behind and hard up for cash, Antonio Cromartie will take a stab at a Hollywood career when he retires from the NFL.
Why he’d make it: He’ll get a shot based on the recognition value of his name and his popularity from his time in the NFL. Although it’s hard to see Cromartie landing a leading role in a movie, it’s not too much of a stretch to see him try his hand as a strong secondary part.
What he’d do: The easiest way to act is to go with what you know in real life. With nine kids at present dispersed across six different states, it’s clear that Cromartie would be a riot in a child-heavy family comedy like Daddy Day Care 2. Heck, he could supply most of the cast!
How successful he'd be: Unfortunately for Antonio Cromartie, it’s hard to believe that he’d actually enjoy huge success in Hollywood. His family-friendly film or films would bring in a modest profit, but studios won’t be clamoring at his door to sign him up for anything more than minor roles.
Where he’d go: Brian Urlacher may not realize it right now, but he’s got a bright career ahead of him in Hollywood if he chooses to take it.
Why he’d make it: He has three qualities that give him the potential to be a star: Good looks, strong personality and sheer badness. His high intelligence and willingness to take direction will certainly give him an edge in Hollywood too.
What he’d do: Look at Brian Urlacher and tell me you don’t see the next incarnation of The Rock, Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Everything about him screams “guy who could kick your butt.” He could be the next big thing in action films.
How successful he'd be: The sky’s the limit for this guy. The ladies will love him and the men will want to be him.
Where he’d go: Matt Leinart may not have what it takes to be successful in the NFL as a starting quarterback, but he’s certainly got the looks and the force of personality to be a successful game show host.
Why he’d make it: Let’s face it, he’s got the rugged good looks and poise to make him a decent emcee for a game show.
What he’d do: As a game show host, Leinart would be the driving force behind the show’s success. He’d get to enjoy himself rubbing shoulders with the contestants, and America would get to enjoy watching him in an environment that is probably better suited to him than the football field.
How successful he'd be: Depending on the format of the game show and whether he chooses to stay once it’s syndicated, Leinart could enjoy long-term success as an emcee. He’ll probably stay for as long as the show will have him; it will be hard to give up a career where he’s a good fit after spending so many years as a second-rate quarterback on the football field.
Where he’d go: Adrian Peterson has already dabbled in the realm of acting through sponsorships from Nike, Cytosport Muscle Milk and Coca Cola (among others.) He’ll stick with what he knows, but he’ll probably focus his attention on a single company once he retires instead of seeking multiple sponsors.
Why he’d make it: Adrian Peterson is one of the best known running backs in football. You could pretty much call him a household name. Add in a handsome face, a nice build from his football days, a killer smile, and you’ve got a great salesman.
What he’d do: Clearly there is no role more suited to Peterson than that of Old Spice Guy. The entire male part of the country could spend a couple of years believing that they can trick women into thinking that they’re Adrian Peterson and that they’re capable of doing outrageous things. All they have to do is put on the right deodorant!
How successful he'd be: He would enjoy huge success with an Old Spice campaign, or with any similar product. While he would eventually be phased out to make room for new blood, he could probably count on several years of popular ads.
Where he’d go: Jay Cutler will most likely find his way into show business through a sponsored partnership that brings the cameras to him.
Why he’d make it: Through sponsorship deals, Cutler won’t have to worry about actually acting. He’ll be the handsome face of a franchise.
What he’d do: It isn’t hard to envision Cutler cast in a role that pokes a bit of fun at the aloof, somewhat distant public persona he has cultivated. Cutler could enjoy huge success playing a part similar to the “unmanly man” in the recent Miller Lite Man Up campaign.
Or, more realistically, he’d follow in the footsteps of his counterpart Brett Favre and endorse something as rugged and manly as possible. Maybe Cutler can strike a deal with Wrangler when they’re done with Favre. He’ll almost certainly generate less controversy for unseemly behavior.
How successful he'd be: Cutler would enjoy a memorable campaign or two, but as a retired player in a sponsored role he will be dropped for a fresher face relatively quickly.
Where he’d go: If Greg Jennings chooses to pursue an acting career, he’ll have the luxury of choosing between self-production on the Internet and network television.
Why he’d make it: Most importantly, he actually wants to be an actor. This future could realistically happen for him.
He’s already made it in his own way. The Packers’ 2010 Super Bowl run coincided with Jennings' brush with Internet fame. It came in the form of a viral video where his Madden doppelganger puts the team on his back and runs downfield with a broken leg.
In the realm of real TV, he’s already had a bit of a role on CBS drama Criminal Minds. More recently, during the lockout, he played a featured role (albeit as himself) on USA’s Royal Pains.
What he’d do: With enough diligence, Jennings could develop his acting career into a full-time cast character on a prime-time drama.
How successful he'd be: His success would be modest, but consistent. He won’t win any awards for his acting, but he’ll be a regular fixture on whatever show ends up casting him.