A Second Wind
Every professional athlete faces retirement. But after these four bowed out, they found success in new careers, applying the same talent and work ethic that made them sports stars.
From the Print Edition:
Michael Jordan, July/August 2005
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His football career translated well enough for the voters, at least those in Oklahoma. He won election in November 1994, with 63 percent of the vote, and amassed margins of more than 20 percent in his three subsequent congressional campaigns. He served from 1995 to 2002, then resigned to run for governor of Oklahoma. By then, he'd become as recognizable as a legislator as he ever was as an athlete, a frequent guest on the cable shows and a spokesman for his party. When his gubernatorial bid failed, it had more to do with ideology than any stigma remaining from football.
As head of the cellular phone trade organization, he spends much of his time racing around the country, meeting with member companies or lobbying legislators. His meetings often begin with football chatter. "Maybe only half the people I see know that I used to play football, but I usually meet with a few people at a time, and one has invariably told the others," he says. He gets on the phone and spreads the word among clients and constituents: "If we all pull together, get on the same team, we can get something accomplished." As a former athlete, he has credibility. "Sometimes, they even listen," he says.
Largent insists he'd still be working just as hard even if he'd made a huge salary his whole career and had millions in the bank. His morality has always been tinged with a Puritan ethic, and now he applies it to himself. "It's not about the money for me, it's about having a focus in my life, something bigger than myself. I don't think it sets a good example for the kids to have Dad just laying around the house or the yard."
Not everyone agrees. When he meets with groups of athletes, he tells them that the skills that made them successful—drive, competitive spirit, self-discipline—are exactly what businesses are seeking these days. Many of them look at him as if he's insane. They can't fathom showing up somewhere at nine every morning in a coat and tie, not even if they own the company. Not with $10 million homes and portfolios stuffed with investments.
"They don't need to work, and they're afraid to fail," Largent says, shaking his head. "They've lost their fear in that one domain, but lift them out of that domain and all the insecurities come flooding back."
He worries about the motivation of a player who has been financially secure since he signed his first contract, a player who never experienced the need to go out and get a job. "These are people who have more money than they know what to do with, and more time than they know what to do with, and that combination to me is gasoline and matches," he says. "Unless a person is incredibly mature or incredibly disciplined and grounded, I believe it will absolutely lead to disaster."
Largent tugs on his suit jacket, his lips pursed. Then he shakes a hand and strides out of the conference room to his office, where a state senator is waiting.
NHL Hall of Famer/Real estate investor
Nobody got rich in the National Hockey League when Serge Savard was playing defense for the Montreal Canadiens. "Players today make more money in one month than we made in our whole career," he says. "But I don't envy them. We had a very good life."
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