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The Quick 10: The Non-Football Careers of 10 Heisman Winners

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Amid controversy on Saturday, Auburn's Cam Newton was the 74th person to win the Heisman Trophy. Whether he'll make it in the NFL remains to be seen - some of the most promising Heisman winners failed to get drafted, played a season or two before getting the axe, or eschewed a bone-crunching professional football career for something a little less, um, painful. Here are 10 career options for Cam Newton if a career in the NFL doesn't work out.

1. Pro basketball player. Charlie Ward was the '93 Heisman winner and went on to have a pro sports career… just not one in football. When he wasn't selected as a first-round draft pick in the NFL, he decided to go with the NBA, which did choose him in the first round - the Knicks took him for the 26th pick. He played in the NBA until 2005, when he retired because of injuries. But you know what the really crazy thing is? Ward was also drafted as a pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1993 despite the fact that he didn't even pick up a baseball during his college career.


2. Pro baseball player. Although Charlie Ward didn't pursue a professional MLB career post-Heisman, someone else did - 1950 winner Vic Janowicz. He passed up the NFL to play with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but after two lackluster seasons with them, Janowicz came crawling back to football… and they took him. He played pro ball with the Washington Redskins until 1956, when he was in a car accident that ended his career. He later ended up in a government job, serving as an administrative assistant to the Ohio state auditor until his death in 1996.

3. FBI Agent. Davey O'Brien, the fourth-ever Heisman winner, did play a couple of seasons in the NFL after graduating from Texas Christian University. He could have continued - he led the NFL in passing yards as a rookie and got a sweet raise from the Philadelphia Eagles for his performance. So what cut his pro football career short? An offer from the FBI, of course. He worked there for 10 years, including as a firearms instructor at Quantico.

4. Counterfeiter. Granted, Billy Cannon, the player who took home the '59 trophy, played with the American Football League for nine years and the NFL with one year after that. But it's his post-football dalliances that made the most headlines.

In financial trouble after accruing some serious gambling debts and making bad real estate investments, Cannon got involved with counterfeiting in a big way. He printed millions in $100 bills and kept them in ice chests buried in the yard of one of his rental properties. He saw 2.5 years in prison for that, which really affected his orthodontist practice when he got out (seriously). He's 72 now, and as of last year, was working as a dentist at the Louisiana state pen (better known as Angola).

5. Playground Equipment Vendor. Eric Crouch, a Nebraska Cornhusker Heisman winner nine years ago, played in the NFL for a couple of years. It was a pretty ho-hum career, though - he left the St. Louis Rams before he ever played in a game, then signed with the Kansas City Chiefs only to be allocated to NFL Europe. He was signed with the All-American Football League in 2008, but when the League went bust later that year (well, sort of - the league says they're returning next year), Crouch finally called it quits. He now runs a playground and recreation equipment company in Omaha and does a little football analysis for Versus and a local station.

6. Actor. This blew my mind. Tom Harmon won the Heisman in 1940 and is considered one of the best - if not the best - Michigan football player to ever grace the gridiron. The following year he played himself in a biopic called Harmon of Michigan. But it didn't stop there. He married an actress named Elyse Knox, and they had three kids - one of whom is Mark Harmon. One of his daughters, Kristin, married Ricky Nelson of Ozzie and Harriet fame. Kristin and Ricky had twin boys named Matthew and Gunnar, whom you possibly remember as Nelson. Tom's other daughter, Kelly, married (and divorced) John DeLorean - as in the car maker DeLorean. Can you say weirdest holiday gathering ever? I'm fascinated by this family. I could do an entire Q10 just on the Harmon clan.

Anyway, Tom Harmon was an actor and voice-over artist, but he also had an amazing military career, earning the Purple Heart and the Silver Star. He actually played for the St. Louis Los Angeles Rams for a few years post-WWII, but his wartime injuries really hampered his speed and agility.

7. Owner of a The Athlete's Foot store. The 2003 Heisman winner Jason White failed to get drafted at all in 2005 and didn't even get a tryout for quite some time after. When he finally did get a call from the Kansas City Chiefs, they decided not to sign him. The Tennessee Titans eventually signed him, but White then decided to retire due to his weak knees. He now owns an Oklahoma and Oklahoma State memorabilia store and, yes, a The Athlete's Foot. He says he even occasionally does shoe fittings himself.

8. Financial Advisor. The 1992 winner Gino Torretta had an NFL career, but only saw gameplay once - a 1996 Seahawks vs. Raiders game. Despite throwing a 32-yard touchdown pass, he never played in another game and retired the following year. He found a job at Wachovia as a Senior Financial Advisor and now works at an asset management company.

9. CEO. You could say the 1958 Heisman winner has been pretty successful - not only did Pete Dawkins take home the trophy, he was a Rhodes Scholar, a Brigadier General and a partner at Lehman Brothers. He got out long before the recent bust, though - he became CEO of Primerica Financial Services in 1991.

10. Sportswriter and foam-rubber salesman. Seems like a natural progression, doesn't it? That's what first Heisman winner Jay Berwanger did. Although he was selected first in the NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, Berwanger decided not to go that route, allegedly because they wouldn't pay him the amount of money he wanted. He instead became a part-time sportswriter for the Chicago Daily News, served in the military for a couple of years during WWII, and then became a foam-rubber salesman. That inspired him to start his own business, Jay Berwanger Inc., which makes plastic strips for cars, farm equipment and trunks to this day. Berwanger reportedly used his Heisman as a doorstop.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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