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7 Famous Athletes Who Now Sell Food

Any old professional athlete can toss in a few hundred thousand dollars and become a partner in a restaurant bearing his name. But for some jocks, that's not enough. They aren't content with the life of the absentee restaurateur; they want to grab shelf space and feed the people with only a grocer as a middleman. Here are some of our favorites.

1. Fred Smoot's SMACK Energy Bar

For those of you who don't follow the NFL all that closely, Fred Smoot is a cornerback for the Washington Redskins. His most notable achievement as an NFL player was being the purported ringleader of the Minnesota Vikings' "Love Boat" scandal, a 2005 episode in which a group of Vikings players allegedly rented a cruise boat for a lewd party on Lake Minnetonka. Smoot entered guilty pleas for two misdemeanors associated with the cruise. Now, in addition to being a pillar of society, he's also an energy bar salesman.

Who wouldn't want to ingest something endorsed by Fred Smoot? His Fred Smoot's SMACK Energy Bar is a crispy chocolate bar that offers all of your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Vitamin A in addition to 50% of your calcium needs. How much calcium is that? According to the product's website, it's as much calcium as a glass of chocolate milk. What really sets Smoot's bar apart, though, is its populist philosophy. As the promo materials note, "This chocolate energy bar is made for EVERYONE, not just those extremely bulky bald-headed men that pull trains and planes in Australia for 'Worlds Strongest Man' competitions and bench press 400lbs in Gold's Gym." So there you have it; Fred Smoot's SMACK Energy Bar is the snack for you, provided you're not trying to win a bodybuilding competition. As Smoot's voice exclaims on the website, "Grabbin' a snack will never be the same!"

2. Tony Siragusa's Goose's Barbeque

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Tony "Goose" Siragusa enjoyed a long career as a defensive tackle for the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, and picked up a Super Bowl ring in his last season. After his playing days were over, Siragusa turned his attention to a subject near and dear to any 340-pound lineman: food. He opened Tiffany's restaurant and, according to his website, "embarked on a quest to create "˜the filet mignon of ribs.'" (When you're that big and intimidating no one points out to you that filet mignon comes from a decidedly non-rib part of a cow.) Siragusa's quest must have been fruitful, though, because now he's offering a wide range of barbeque products, including baby back ribs, pulled pork, sausage, and meatballs. The prepackaged meats are available online, and at a variety of grocery chains.

3. Boomer Esiason's Ribs

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Siragusa isn't alone in the NFL-retiree-running-a-ribs-business game, though. Former QB and fellow TV analyst Boomer Esiason has his own line of prepackaged, fully cooked ribs as well. Like Siragusa, Boomer found his rib recipe "after a long quest of searching for a rib that's perfect and tender every time with no additional cooking." (Apparently former NFL players love to go on meat-related quests.) Esiason has also marketed Boomer's Barbecue Sauce, and his profits from that venture went to a noble cause: sponsoring research on cystic fibrosis, a disease that afflicts his son Gunnar.

4. Bo Jackson's Soon-to-be-Famous BO Burger

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Bo Jackson's career on both the baseball diamond and football field made him a legend. His combination of strength and speed made him unstoppable in both the NFL and Major League Baseball, and that's not even considering the utter dominance of his character in Tecmo Super Bowl. Now we can add another item to Nike's list of things Bo knows: culinary excellence. Bo Jackson Signature Foods, a division of N'Genuity Brands, offers some of Bo's favorite "white tablecloth specialties."

Bo's menu of prepackaged meats is fairly extensive, and in addition to his self-titled burgers, he also hawks country-fried steaks, veal, and prime rib. Moreover, his BO-tisserie Heat & Serve Roasted Chicken shows that he's just as skilled with a pun as a stiff arm. The products are mostly sold to casinos and the military, and Jackson personally approves each dish.

[Image courtesy of ESPN, from The Worldwide Leader's amazing profile of Mr. Jackson, Bo Knows Bo.]

5. Ben Gordon's BG7 Energy Drink

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Chicago Bulls star Ben Gordon has an NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award to his credit and a soft touch that lets him pour in points without demanding a starter's role. He also has licensed his own energy drink, BG7, named after his initials and jersey number. The drink, which Gordon debuted in 2006 at a Michael Jordan-owned Chicago restaurant, contains a large amount of white tea, only fitting since Gordon was born in London and hopes to play on the British national team at the 2008 Olympics. According to promo material for the beverage, the white tea offers five times the antioxidants of other teas, giving you that perfect boost to come off of life's bench at the first TV timeout. Gordon may not be ready to take the late-night club market away from Red Bull, though; in an interview he expressed optimism that BG7 would mix well with vodka but admitted he'd never tried it.

6. Isiah Thomas' Dale and Thomas Popcorn

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Yes, Isiah Thomas is arguably the worst coach and general manager in NBA history. The New York Knicks teams he has assembled have been terrible despite huge payrolls, and he was also a defendant in a high-profile sexual harassment case from a Madison Square Garden employee. When it comes to popcorn, though, Isiah's still a top dog. Englewood, New Jersey-based Dale and Thomas Popcorn seems to be thriving in the fast-paced world of gourmet popcorn. The company claims to employ the world's only "popcorn chef," and he offers such products as PopTruffles, Cinnamon Crème DrizzleCorn, and the aptly named "Big Tub O' Crunch."

The company was originally known as Popcorn, Indiana. But the name was changed in December 2003, after Thomas tasted the product and supposedly wanted to bring some Bad Boys flavor to an industry long dominated by Orville Redenbacher. As of this writing, Dale and Thomas has the distinction of being his only commercial enterprise Thomas hasn't absolutely driven into the ground, a fact that's either a testament to the high quality of the company's popcorn or an indication that Isiah has little to do with company's day-to-day operations. [Image courtesy of Deadspin.]

7. Pete Rose's SuperCharg'r Energy Bar

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Even though you can't get this one anymore, let's end with a classic. Before Pete Rose was a convicted tax cheat and admitted baseball gambler, he was just Charlie Hustle, baseball's all-time hits king, head-first slider, and energy bar magnate. Rose was peddling power-packed bricks of pure awesomeness well before the current energy-bar craze; his SuperCharg'r bars were available in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

While there's not a lot of information on the product out there, it billed itself as being protein-rich, full of vitamins and minerals, and coated in carob instead of chocolate. Although the bar touted itself as "nature's answer to candy," the Candy Wrapper Museum notes that high fructose corn syrup was the first ingredient listed on the wrapper. (Perhaps we should have realized Rose wasn't to be trusted a little sooner.) Rose's snack was just one in a long line of athletic candy-type products, though, including Reggie Jackson's Reggie Bar, Mike Mussina's Moose Bar, Muhammad Ali's Crisp Crunch, and the San Diego Chicken's Bubble Gum.

Ethan Trex grew up idolizing Vince Coleman, and he kind of still does. Ethan co-writes Straight Cash, Homey, the Internet's undisputed top source for pictures of people in Ryan Leaf jerseys.

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Big Questions
Who Was Heisman and Why Does He Have a Trophy?
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Brett Deering/Getty Images

On Saturday night, one of three finalists will be named this year's Heisman Trophy winner. But before anyone brings home the hardware, let’s answer a few questions about John Heisman and his famous award.

Who Exactly Was John Heisman?

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His name is mostly associated with the trophy now, but Heisman (right) was a player, coach, and hugely successful innovator in the early days of football. After playing for Brown and then Penn as a collegian from 1887 to 1891, Heisman became a coach at a series of schools that included Oberlin, Buchtel, Auburn, Clemson, Penn, Washington & Jefferson, Rice, and, most notably, Georgia Tech.

For What Football Innovations Does Heisman Get Credit?

Just some little trivial stuff like snapping the ball. Centers originally placed the ball on the ground and rolled it back to their quarterbacks, who would scoop it up and make plays. When Heisman was coaching at Buchtel (which later became the University of Akron), though, he had a 6’4” QB named Harry Clark. Clark was so tall that picking the ball up off the ground was wildly inefficient, so Heisman invented the center snap as an easy way to get the ball in Clark’s hands. Heisman also innovated the use of pulling guards for running plays and the infamous hidden-ball trick.

Any Other Shenanigans on Heisman’s Resume?

You bet. When Heisman found a way to gain an edge, he jumped on it no matter how ridiculous it seemed. When Heisman was coaching at Clemson in 1902, his team traveled to Atlanta for a game against Georgia Tech. Although Heisman was known for being a rather gruff disciplinarian, the Clemson team immediately started partying upon their arrival.

When Georgia Tech’s players and fans heard that the entire Clemson squad had spent the night before the game carousing, they prepared to coast to an easy win. When the game started, though, Clemson roared out of the gate en route to a 44-5 stomping.

How did Clemson crush Tech when by all rights they should have been ridiculously hungover? The “team” that everyone had seen partying the night before wasn’t really Heisman’s Clemson squad at all. He had sent his junior varsity players to Atlanta the night before to serve as drunken decoys, then quietly slipped his varsity team in on a morning train right before the game.

What Kind of Coach Was He?

Heisman worked as an actor in community stock theater during the summer – he consistently received rotten reviews – and allegedly spoke in a brusque, yet bizarrely ostentatious manner. Georgia Tech’s website relates a story of one of Heisman’s speeches he would break out on the first day of practice while describing a football: "What is this? It is a prolate spheroid, an elongated sphere - in which the outer leather casing is drawn tightly over a somewhat smaller rubber tubing. Better to have died as a small boy than to fumble this football."

How Did His Name Get on the Trophy?

After leaving his head-coaching job at Rice in 1927, Heisman became the athletic director at New York’s Downtown Athletic Club. In 1935 the club began awarding the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy to the nation’s top college football star. (Chicago’s Jay Berwanger won the first trophy.) Heisman died of pneumonia the following fall before the second trophy could be awarded, and the club voted to rename the prize the Heisman Memorial Trophy Award.

Did He Ever Really Throw that Iconic Stiff Arm?

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Possibly, but Heisman didn’t have the ball in his hands all that much. Even though he was a fairly small guy at just 5’8” and 158 pounds, he played as a lineman throughout his college career.

The famous “Heisman pose” is actually based on Ed Smith, a former NYU running back who modeled for the trophy’s sculptor in 1934. Interestingly, Smith went years without knowing that he’d modeled for the famous trophy. His sculptor buddy Frank Eliscu had just needed a football player to model for a project, and Smith volunteered.

Smith figured Eliscu was just doing some little personal sculpture and remained totally oblivious to his spot in football history for the next 48 years until a documentary filmmaker called Smith to interview him about the Heisman in 1982. Smith initially had no idea what the guy was talking about, but he eventually remembered his modeling days. In 1985, the Downtown Athletic Club gave Smith his own copy of the Heisman, and in 1986 he even received recognition on the televised ceremony. He looked at the four finalists – Vinny Testaverde won that year – and quipped, "Whoever wins the award, I feel sorry for you, because you're going to be looking at my ugly face for a long time." [Pictured Above: Auburn's Bo Jackson in 1985.]

What’s a Heisman Trophy Worth on the Open Market?

Quite a bit. A number of Heisman winners have eventually sold their hardware, and the trophies fetch quite a bit of loot. O.J. Simpson got $230,000 for his, and several others have gone for six-figure prices. The most expensive trophy that’s changed hands was Minnesota back Bruce Smith’s 1941 award; it fetched $395,240.

How Did Steve Spurrier Change the Process?

SEC fans are going to be floored by this one, but the Ol’ Ball Coach did something really classy when he won the Heisman in 1966. Instead of taking the trophy for himself, Spurrier gave it to the University of Florida so the school could display it and let the student body enjoy it. Florida’s student government thought Spurrier’s generosity was so classy that they paid for a replica for Spurrier so he’d get to have his own trophy, too. Since then both the school and the player have received copies of the trophy.

So Heisman Must Have Been the World’s Greatest Sportsman, Right?

Well, not really. Heisman was on the victorious side of possibly the most gratuitously run-up score in sports history. In 1916 tiny Cumberland College canceled its football program and disbanded its squad, but it had previously signed a contract to travel to Atlanta to play Heisman’s Georgia Tech team. If Cumberland didn’t show up, they had to pay Georgia Tech a $3,000 penalty, which was quite a bit of cash in 1916.

Rather than forfeiting the money, Cumberland scraped together a team of 16 scrubs and went to take their walloping from Heisman’s boys. For reasons that still aren’t totally clear – some say it was to avenge an earlier baseball loss to Cumberland, while others claim Heisman wanted to make a statement about the absurdity of the old system of using total points scored to determine the national champion – the legendary coach showed Cumberland’s ragtag band no mercy. Tech went up 63-0 in the first quarter, but Heisman kept attacking until the final score was 222-0. There are tons of hilarious stats from the game, but the funniest is Georgia Tech rushing for 1,620 yards while Cumberland only squeaked out negative-96 yards on 27 carries.

This article originally appeared in 2010.

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#TBT
Thin Ice: The Bizarre Boxing Career of Tonya Harding
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Al Bello/Getty Images

In 2004, the Chicago Tribune asked Tonya Harding about the strangest business offer she had received after her skating career came to an abrupt end in the mid-1990s. “I guess to skate topless,” she answered. In 1994, the two-time former Olympian became infamous for her ex-husband’s attempt to break the leg of rival Nancy Kerrigan. Although Harding denied any knowledge of or involvement in the plan—which ended with Kerrigan suffering a bruised leg and Harding being banned from the U.S. Figure Skating organization, ending her competitive pursuits—she became a running punchline in the media for her attempts to exploit that notoriety. There was a sex tape (which her equally disgraced former husband, Jeff Gillooly, taped on their wedding night), offers to wrestle professionally, attempts to launch careers in both music and acting, and other means of paying bills.

Though she did not accept the offer to perform semi-nude, she did embark on a new career that many observers found just as lurid and sensational: For a two-year period, Tonya Harding was a professional boxer.

Tonya Harding rises from the canvas during a boxing match
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Following the attack on Kerrigan and the subsequent police investigation, Harding pled guilty to conspiracy to hinder prosecution, received three years’ probation, and was levied a $160,000 fine. (Gillooly and his conspirators served time.) Ostracized from skating and with limited opportunities, Harding first tried to enter the music scene with her band, the Golden Blades.

When that didn’t work—they were booed off stage in Portland, Oregon, Harding’s hometown—she disappeared from the public eye, offering skating lessons in Oregon before resurfacing on a March 2002 Fox network broadcast titled Celebrity Boxing. Using heavily padded gloves and outsized headgear, performers like Vanilla Ice and Todd Bridges pummeled one another on the undercard. In the main event, Harding used her physicality to batter and bruise Paula Jones, the woman who had accused then-president Bill Clinton of sexual harassment.

This was apparently the boost of confidence Harding needed. “I thought it was fun knocking somebody else on their butt,” she told the Tribune. Boxing, she said, could be an opportunity to embrace her self-appointed title as “America’s Bad Girl.”

Harding looked up a boxing promoter in Portland named Paul Brown and signed a four-year contract that would pay her between $10,000 and $15,000 per bout. The 5-foot, 1-inch Harding quickly grew in stature, moving to 123 pounds from her 105-pound skating weight. Following her win against Jones, Brown booked her a fight against up-and-coming boxer Samantha Browning in a four-round bout in Los Angeles in February 2003. The fight was said to be sloppy, with both women displaying their limited experience. Ultimately, Browning won a split decision.

Harding rebounded that spring, winning three fights in a row. Against Emily Gosa in Lincoln City, Oregon, she was roundly booed upon entering the arena. “The entire fight barely rose above the level of a drunken street brawl,” The Independent reported.

Of course, few spectators were there to see Harding put on a boxing clinic. They wanted to watch a vilified sports figure suffer some kind of public retribution for her role in the attack on Kerrigan. Following her brief winning streak, Harding was pummeled by Melissa Yanas in August 2003, losing barely a minute into the first round of a fight that took place in the parking lot of a Dallas strip club. In June 2004, she was stopped a second time against 22-year-old nursing student Amy Johnson; the Edmonton, Alberta, crowd cheered as Harding was left bloodied. Harding later told the press that Johnson, a native Canuck, had been given 26 seconds to get up after Harding knocked her down when the rules mandated only 10, which she saw as a display of national favoritism.

Harding had good reason to be upset. The Johnson fight was pivotal, as a win could have meant a fight on pay-per-view against Serbian-born boxer Jelena Mrdjenovich for a $600,000 purse. That bout never materialized.

Tonya Harding signs head shots on a table
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There was more than just lack of experience working against Harding in her newfound career. Having been a longtime smoker, she suffered from asthma. The condition plagued her skating career; in boxing, where lapses in cardiovascular conditioning can get you hurt, it became a serious problem. Although Harding competed again—this time emerging victorious in a fight against pro wrestler Brittany Drake in an exhibition bout in Essington, Pennsylvania, in January 2005—it would end up being her last contest. Suffering from pneumonia and struggling with weight gain caused by corticosteroids prescribed for treatment, she halted her training.

In an epilogue fit for Harding’s frequently bizarre escapades, there was remote potential for one last bout. In 2011, dot-com entrepreneur Alki David offered Harding $100,000 to step back into the ring, with another $100,000 going to her proposed opponent. Had it happened, it probably would have gone down as one of the biggest sideshows of the past century. Unfortunately for Harding, Nancy Kerrigan never responded to the offer.

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