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7 Famous Athletes Who Now Sell Food

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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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Pop Culture
Evel Knievel, Insurance Salesman
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To his coworkers at the Combined Insurance Company of America in Chicago, he was just Bob. A few months shy of his 24th birthday and newly married, Bob was ambitious, charming, and sincere—all qualities company president W. Clement Stone valued in his salesmen. To push high-volume, short-term disability insurance, customers needed to trust their words. Bob Knievel could look a man in the eyes and tell him that $3 worth of insurance was money well spent, and they'd believe him.

Years later, when Bob adopted the Evel Knievel persona and made breaking his bones a spectator sport, his former colleagues would stare at their televisions in amazement. There went Bob, clearing 10 or 14 or 20 cars on a motorcycle. There lies Bob, a heap of fractured limbs that needed to be scraped off the pavement like chewing gum.

In the span of just a few short years, the best insurance salesman in his assigned district had become the most famous daredevil in the world.

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Born in Butte, Montana, in 1938, Robert Knievel stole his first motorcycle at the age of 13. Prone to delinquency and petty crime, he failed to get a high school diploma and instead entered the U.S. Army Reserves. By the time he was 19 years old, he was out of uniform and starting up a semi-pro hockey team, drawing crowds at local arenas and even playing Olympic hopefuls from the Czech Republic. (Knievel’s team lost 22-3.)

By 1960, any discernible skills beyond mediocre athleticism and amoral behavior weren’t quite ready to reveal themselves. Knievel struck upon the idea of becoming a merchant policeman in Butte, which was a fancy term for being a private security specialist. Knievel would approach businesses and promise he’d act as a kind of sentry, checking their locations for suspicious activity and thwarting any robbery or vandalism attempts.

What Knievel wouldn’t admit until much later was that he was frequently the perpetrator of that activity, breaking windows and robbing the registers of businesses that didn’t sign up for his services. It was his version of property insurance.

A few things conspired to redirect Knievel’s ambitions. He married Linda Bork in 1959, and the couple started a family. He also grew concerned that Butte authorities were close to catching up with his security monitoring scam. In the summer of 1962, Knievel decided to go straight and become a salesman for Combined Insurance.

The company’s district manager in Montana dispatched Knievel to Chicago, where he underwent a two-week training course in sales tactics endorsed by president W. Clement Stone. Stone had co-authored a book, Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, and considered it his business gospel. The lessons were at the level of fortune cookies and free of cynicism (“Big doors swing on little hinges,” “Thinking will not overcome fear, but action will”) but Knievel never once rolled his eyes. He absorbed the strategies and hit the road back in his home state, prepared to sell the $3 policies and collect his 60 cents per signature.

Earning an honest living at that rate would require volume. So Knievel traveled to working-class towns and paid bars to allow him to set up an “office” in a booth, where he could catch the steady stream of farmers coming in for a drink. He stopped workers at a train repair station during lunch breaks, and preached the virtues of the payments Combined would offer in the event the insured had an accident. Sometimes he’d pass up the $3 and do barter trades, like when a rancher once offered to give him a lame horse.

If Knievel had a crowning moment in his gone-straight, suit-and-tie life, it was when he set a district record for the most policies sold in a single week. He had talked his way into a state mental hospital in Warm Springs, Montana, and sold coverage to the staff—and if company legend is to be believed, to many of the hospital's patients as well. Knievel logged 271 sign-ups that week.

For this, Knievel got an award and recognition; he was feted by company executives as an example of the can-do spirit their president endorsed. While he enjoyed the attention, what Bob really wanted was to occupy the office of the vice president. When Combined refused to promote him, he quit. Without advancement in sight, making a living out of a suitcase ceased to be appealing. Knievel wanted to do something else.

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After leaving Combined, Knievel returned to his rudderless lifestyle. He found work at a motorcycle shop in Wyoming and thought a good way to drum up business would be to hop on a bike and try to jump over a pit infested with rattlesnakes.

It was.

That then gave him the idea to jump greater distances, which eventually led to him convincing the operators of Caesars Palace that he could make the 150-foot jump over the fountains near the front entrance of their Las Vegas resort and casino. He didn’t make it, but footage of the 1967 wipeout was absolutely mesmerizing: Airborne one minute and tumbling on the ground the next, Knievel looked like a crash test dummy. Convalescing in the hospital with multiple broken bones, Knievel’s popularity soared. He became one of the most famous men in America in the 1970s, rivaled only by Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali.

Matt Tonning, one of Knievel’s former coworkers at Combined, was one of the millions of people who saw the footage. He was alarmed, but not because of the gruesome outcome. Over the years, Knievel had phoned Tonning to catch up and buy policies—10 in all, which was nine more than a salesperson was technically allowed to sell to any one person. Tonning liked Knievel so much that he usually just entered another salesman’s name to complete the transaction. The policies could not be canceled and covered any accident.

At no point did Knievel ever list his current occupation: daredevil.

Tonning was fired. When Knievel heard of his friend’s dismissal, he agreed to drop claims on nine of the policies.

If there were any hard feelings, Knievel never voiced them. He would later credit the unflinching optimism of Stone and his book as one of the key reasons he became a professional cheater of death. Staring up at the ramps that would launch him into the air, those sales lessons led him to believe he could make it—even when past experience proved otherwise.

Additional Sources: Evel: The High-Flying Life of Evel Knievel.

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20 People You Didn't Know Were Southpaws
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Pernell Whitaker
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The "southpaw advantage" is more than just a boxing superstition. Fighting with a dominant left hand has helped some of the sport’s fiercest competitors rise to the top of their class. Here are 20 boxers who assumed the southpaw stance.

1. PERNELL WHITAKER

Pernell Whitaker launched his career at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics when he defeated Cuban fighter Luis Ortiz (a fellow southpaw) to take home the gold. As a professional he claimed the world champion title in four weight classes: lightweight, light welterweight, welterweight, and light middleweight. Popular boxing magazine The Ring declared him the best boxer in the world pound-for-pound for a period in the 1990s.

2. MANNY PACQUIAO

Manny Pacquiao in the boxing ring.
Sunil Grover, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

One of the best boxers of the 21st century also may be the most famous southpaw of all time. The Filipino athlete has racked up numerous distinctions over his career: He’s the first and only eight-division world champion, the first boxer to earn the lineal title across four weight divisions, and the first to win 10 world championships in eight classes. After achieving all that, he took a break from boxing to become a senator in the Philippines.

3. MARVIN JOHNSON

Marvin Johnson made a name for himself at the 1972 Munich Olympics, where he won a bronze medal boxing for the U.S. team. After returning to the States, he broke into the professional circuit and gained a 43-6 record during his 15-year career. He told his local Indianapolis news station in a 2008 interview, "Not trying to sound boastful, but I would describe myself as one of the best in the ring during my time."

4. TIGER FLOWERS

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Theodore "Tiger" Flowers entered the professional boxing ring at a time when the sport was still segregated in America. He broke racial barriers in 1926 when he became the first black man to earn the world middleweight title. Flowers is also credited for helping make integrated audiences a more common sight at boxing matches.

5. RAFAEL LIMÓN

Born in Mexico in 1954, Rafael Limón won world titles in the super featherweight division. His performance in the ring earned him the volatile nickname “Bazooka.”

6. ADA VÉLEZ

Boxer Ada Velez in the ring.
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Ada Vélez became the first Puerto Rican boxer to secure a women's world boxing title in 2001. In this case, it wasn’t her southpaw that gave her the winning advantage—the champion she unseated, Kathy Williams, is also a leftie.

7. LEW TENDLER

He may have never won a world title, but that didn’t stop Lew Tendler from becoming a boxing legend. The athlete ascended to prominence in the 1920s, a golden age for boxing in the United States. Today he’s immortalized in the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

8. YOUNG CORBETT III

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Born Ralph Giordano in Italy, Young Corbett III was most famous for holding the world welterweight title for a short stint in 1933. Of the 151 professional matches he fought in the 1930s and '40s, he came out victorious in 123.

9. CARMEN BASILIO

Portrait of Carmen Basilio.
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Italian-American athlete Carmen Basilio is best known for his matches against boxing legend Sugar Ray Robinson. He won the first of the storied fights in 1957. He was challenged to a rematch in 1958, and the second time, Robinson came out on top. After relinquishing his middleweight champion title to the victor, Basilio boxed only occasionally before retiring for good.

10. MARVELOUS MARVIN HAGLER

In 1987, Marvelous Marvin Hagler (his legal name) was the most formidable name in boxing. The American boxer was riding high on a seven-year reign as middleweight world champion, one of the longest streaks the class has ever seen. After defending his title 12 consecutive times, he made headlines for a different reason: losing to Sugar Ray Leonard in one of the most anticipated fights of the decade.

11. JACK PETERSEN

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Jack Peterson was 18 years old when he reached the finals of the Welsh Amateur Boxing Association in the late 1920s. He returned the next year to win two titles (he also claimed a title from the British Amateur Boxing Association that same year). After going professional, Jack Petersen earned his place in history as the first Welshman to be crowned British heavyweight champion.

12. OSCAR DE LA HOYA

Portrait of Oscar De La Hoya in the boxing ring.
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Mexican-American boxer Oscar De La Hoya represented the U.S. at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics when he was still a teenager. Earning gold in the featherweight division was just the start of his decorated career. From there he earned world titles in six different weight classes and became the top-earning pay-per-view athlete of his day.

13. CHRIS BYRD

Boxer Chris Byrd hits Andrew Golota.
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There was a second southpaw competing for the U.S. at the Barcelona Olympics. During the 1992 games Chris Byrd took home the silver medal in the middleweight division. In the years to follow he rose to the ranks of two-time heavyweight world champion.

14. HECTOR CAMACHO

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Hector "Macho" Camacho’s quick punches and fancy footwork helped him bag world titles across multiple weight classes in the 1980s and early '90s. He was known for his flashy brand of showmanship: Some of the outfits he wore in the ring included a Roman gladiator costume and a monogrammed fur robe.

15. HOLLY HOLM

Holly Holm celebrates victory over Ronda Rousey.
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As a boxer, Holly Holm has earned and defended world champion titles many times over. She’s also known for being one of the few fighters to defeat superstar Ronda Rousey in the mixed martial arts ring.

16. GUILLERMO RIGONDEAUX

Guillermo Rigondeaux throws a right to the face of Drian Francisco during their junior featherweight bout.
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Cuban boxer Guillermo Rigondeaux is the current holder of the super bantamweight world title. He's also the owner of two Olympic gold medals—one he received in 2000 and the other in 2004.

17. SERGIO MARTINEZ

Sergio Martinez in boxing gear.
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From 2010 to 2014, Argentine boxer Sergio Martinez dominated as champion in the lineal middleweight division. He officially retired one year after losing the honor to Miguel Cotto.

18. REGGIE JOHNSON

James Toney throws a punch at Reggie Johnson during a fight.
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One of only eight men to win a world light heavyweight title after earning a title in middleweight, Reggie Johnson was one of boxing’s brightest stars in the late 1990s. He lost his light heavyweight title to Roy Jones Jr. in 1999, but even his rival had nothing but respect for the native Texan. Jones spoke of him to The Ring: “You won’t find a better person than Reggie Johnson in boxing.”

19. VICENTE SALDIVAR

Vicente "Southpaw" Saldivar is famous for more than his left-sided fighting stance. The Mexico City native competed in the 1960 Olympics, held world featherweight titles, and fought before massive crowds. He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1999.

20. ERISLANDY LARA

Erislandy Lara in the boxing ring.
Rob Foldy / Stringer / Getty Images

The junior middleweight world title currently belongs to Erislandy Lara. He adopted the nickname "The American Dream" after defecting from Cuba, and in early 2017 the boxer became an American citizen.

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