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Getty Images

7 Famous Athletes Who Now Sell Food

Getty Images
Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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General Mills
10 Winning Facts about Wheaties
General Mills
General Mills

Famous for its vivid orange boxes featuring star athletes and its classic "breakfast of champions" tagline, Wheaties might be the only cereal that's better known for its packaging than its taste. The whole wheat cereal has been around since the 1920s, becoming an icon not just of the breakfast aisle, but the sports and advertising worlds, too. Here are 10 winning facts about it.

1. IT WAS INVENTED BY ACCIDENT.

The Washburn Crosby Company wasn't initially in the cereal business. At the time, the Minnesota-based company—which became General Mills in 1928—primarily sold flour. But in 1921, the story goes, a dietitian in Minneapolis spilled bran gruel on a hot stove. The bran hardened into crispy, delicious flakes, and a new cereal was born. In 1924, the Washburn Crosby Company began selling a version of the flakes as a boxed cereal it called Washburn's Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes. A year later, after a company-wide contest, the company changed the name to Wheaties.

2. ITS JINGLE FEATURED A SINGING UNDERTAKER AND A COURT BAILIFF.

Wheaties sales were slow at first, but the Washburn Crosby Company already had a built-in advertising platform: It owned the Minneapolis radio station WCCO. Starting on December 24, 1926, the station began airing a jingle for the cereal sung by a barbershop quartet called the Wheaties Quartet. The foursome sang "Have You Tried Wheaties" live over the radio every week, earning $15 (about $200 today) per performance. In addition to their weekly singing gig, the men of the Wheaties Quartet all also had day jobs: One was an undertaker, one was a court bailiff, one worked in the grain industry, and one worked in printing. The ad campaign eventually went national, helping boost Wheaties sales across the country and becoming an advertising legend.

3. WHEATIES HAS BEEN TIED TO SPORTS SINCE ALMOST THE BEGINNING.

Carl Lewis signs a Wheaties box with his image on it for a young boy.
Track and field Olympic medalist Carl Lewis
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Wheaties has aligned itself with the sports world since its early days. In 1927, Wheaties bought ad space at Minneapolis's Nicollet Park, home to a minor league baseball team called the Millers, and in 1933, the cereal brand started sponsoring the team's game-day radio broadcasts on WCCO. Eventually, Wheaties baseball broadcasts expanded to 95 different radio stations, covering teams all over the country and further cementing its association with the sport. Since then, generations of endorsements from athletes of all stripes have helped sell consumers on the idea that eating Wheaties can make them strong and successful just like their favorite players. The branding association has been so successful that appearing on a Wheaties box has itself become a symbol of athletic achievement.

4. WHEATIES HELPED KICK-START RONALD REAGAN'S ACTING CAREER.

In the 1930s, a young sports broadcaster named Ronald Reagan was working at a radio station in Des Moines, Iowa, narrating Wheaties-sponsored Chicago Cubs and White Sox games. As part of this job, Reagan went to California to visit the Cubs' spring training camp in 1937. While he was there, he also did a screen test at Warner Bros. The studio ended up offering him a seven-year contract, and later that year, he appeared in his first starring role as a radio commentator in Love Is On The Air.

5. ATHLETES' PHOTOS DIDN'T ALWAYS APPEAR ON THE FRONT OF BOXES.

Three Wheaties boxes featuring Michael Phelps
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Although a Wheaties box wouldn't seem complete without an athlete's photo on it today, the cereal didn't always feature athletes front and center. In the early years, the boxes had photos of athletes like baseball legend Lou Gehrig (the first celebrity to be featured, in 1934) on the back or side panels of boxes. Athletes didn't start to appear on the front of the box until 1958, when the cereal featured Olympic pole vaulter Bob Richards.

6. THE FIRST WOMAN ON A WHEATIES BOX WAS A PILOT.

Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton became the first woman to appear on the front of a Wheaties box in 1984, but women did appear elsewhere on the box in the brand's early years. The first was pioneering aviator and stunt pilot Elinor Smith. Smith, whose picture graced the back of the box in 1934, set numerous world aviation records for endurance and altitude in the 1920s and 1930s.

7. IT USED TO HAVE A MASCOT.

Though we now associate Wheaties with athletes rather than an animal mascot, the cereal did have the latter during the 1950s. In an attempt to appeal to children, Wheaties adopted a puppet lion named Champy (short for "Champion") as the brand's mascot. Champy and his puppet friends sang about the benefits of Wheaties in commercials that ran during The Mickey Mouse Club, and kids could order their own Champy hand puppets for 50 cents (less than $5 today) if they mailed in Wheaties box tops.

8. MICHAEL JORDAN IS THE WHEATIES KING.

Of all the athletes who have graced the cover of a Wheaties box, basketball superstar Michael Jordan takes the cake for most appearances. He's been featured on the box 18 times, both alone and with the Chicago Bulls. He also served as a spokesperson for the cereal, appearing in numerous Wheaties commercials in the '80s and '90s.

9. FANS ONCE GOT THE CHANCE TO PICK A WHEATIES STAR.

MMA star Anthony Pettis on the front of a Wheaties box.
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The public hasn't often gotten a chance to weigh in on who will appear on the Wheaties box. But in 2014, Wheaties customers got to decide for the first time which athlete would be featured nationally. Called the Wheaties NEXT Challenge, the contest allowed people to vote for the next Wheaties Champion by logging their workouts on an app platform called MapMyFitness. Every workout of 30 minutes or more counted as one vote. Participants could choose between Paralympic sprinter Blake Leeper, motocross rider Ryan Dungey, mixed-martial-artist Anthony Pettis, lacrosse player Rob Pannell, or soccer player Christen Press. Pettis won, becoming the first MMA fighter to appear on the box in early 2015.

10. THERE WERE SEVERAL SPINOFFS THAT DIDN'T CATCH ON.

Three different Wheaties boxes featuring Tiger Woods sitting together on a table
Tiger Woods's Wheaties covers, 1998
Getty Images

Faced with declining sales, Wheaties introduced several spinoff cereals during the 1990s and early 2000s, including Honey Frosted Wheaties, Crispy Wheaties 'n Raisins, and Wheaties Energy Crunch. None of them sold very well, and they were all discontinued after a few years. The brand kept trying to expand its offerings, though. In 2009, General Mills introduced Wheaties Fuel, a version of the cereal it claimed was more tailored to men's dietary needs. Wheaties Fuel had more vitamin E and—unlike the original—no folic acid, which is commonly associated with women's prenatal supplements. Men didn't love Wheaties Fuel, though, and it was eventually discontinued too. Now, only the original "breakfast of champions" remains.

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TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
The Sandlot Is Returning to Theaters for Its 25th Anniversary
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Few films from the 1990s have grown in stature over the years like The Sandlot. Though it gained respectable reviews and box office receipts when it was released in April 1993, the movie's standing in pop culture has since ballooned into cult classic territory, and you can still find merchandise and even clothing lines dedicated to it today.

Now you can revisit the adventures of Smalls, Ham, Squints, and The Beast on the big screen when Fathom Events and Twentieth Century Fox, in association with Island World, bring The Sandlot back to theaters for its 25th anniversary. The event will be held in 400 theaters across the U.S. on July 22 at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., and Tuesday, July 24 at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m. (all times local).

Each screening will come complete with a preview of a new documentary detailing the making of the movie, so if you wanted to know even more about how this coming-of-age baseball classic came to be, now’s your chance.

For more information about ticket availability in your area, head to the Fathom Events website. And if you want to dive into some more trivia about the movie—including the fact that it was filmed in only 42 days—we’ve got you covered.

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