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The Non-Football Jobs of 12 Coaching Legends

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Most coaches spend their entire lives coaching in some capacity, but a few of the all-time greats have gotten some interesting paychecks outside of football. Take a look at some other jobs coaches have held.

1. Tom Landry
The dapper former Dallas Cowboys coach saw some serious action in the Army Air Forces during World War II. As a second lieutenant, Landry served as the copilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress in Europe and completed 30 combat missions. On one mission Landry's plane ran out of fuel, and the future Hall of Famer had to make a crash landing in Belgium.


2. George Halas
The man who owned the Chicago Bears and coached the squad from 1922 to 1967 was quite an athlete in his own right. He was the MVP of the 1919 Rose Bowl while playing for a team representing the Great Lakes Naval Training Station; the big win earned everyone on the team discharges from the military. After getting out of the armed forces, Halas picked up baseball and bounced around the minors for a bit before eventually getting called up to play for the New York Yankees.

A hip injury cut his big-league career short after just 12 games, but baseball probably didn't lose a future star. Sure, it's a small sample, but Halas only squeaked out two singles in 22 at-bats during his MLB career, good for a less-than-sterling .182 OPS.

3. Buddy Ryan

The former NFL head coach and brilliant defensive coordinator served in the Army during the Korean War before getting into coaching. He rose to the rank of Master Sergeant. How did the service affect the coach? His son Rex, the current head coach of the New York Jets, once said of his father, "I don't pretend to be as tough as he is. I didn't grow up in the same fashion. He was a master sergeant in the Korean War when he was 18 years old."

holmgren-favre-si4. Mike Holmgren
After playing quarterback at USC, Holmgren went on to become a history teacher/football coach at his alma mater, San Francisco's Lincoln High School. The Big Show spent nine years teaching high school before he took a college coaching job at San Francisco State in 1981.


5. Vince Lombardi
Football almost didn't get one of its legendary coaches. When Lombardi was 15 he enrolled at Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception; if he had finished the six-year program, he would have become a Catholic priest. Lombardi eventually left the school, though, and after earning his spot in college football history on Fordham's "Seven Blocks of Granite" offensive line, he got a gig teaching Latin, chemistry, and physics at St. Cecilia, a Catholic school in New Jersey.

6. Bob Stoops
Oklahoma's head coach became a graduate assistant at Iowa after finishing his playing career as a four-year starter for the Hawkeyes. While he was learning to work the sidelines, Stoops had another gig, too: he was a volunteer firefighter.

7. Brian Billick
The former Baltimore Ravens head coach has spent most of his life in football, but he did find a way to earn a little TV face time in 1977 when he was a contestant on the Match Game.

holtz-si8. Lou Holtz
When Holtz was a struggling young coach he got a job selling cemetery plots to pick up a little money on the side—despite his wife's warnings that he couldn't sell anything. Holtz later joked, "She was wrong. By the end of the summer, I'd sold our stereo, our car, and our television."


9. Pete Carroll
The current coach of the Seattle Seahawks has only had one non-football job in his life: after failing to catch on with any pro teams after college, he took a job selling wood products for CertainTeed, a building materials manufacturer. Carroll later told the Orange County Register, "It didn't last long. It wasn't because my heart wasn't in it. It was because I botched it up so bad that I didn't have any future in it."

10. Marv Levy
The hard-luck coach who lost four Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills played college football at Iowa's Coe College, but he didn't immediately head into the coaching world. Instead, he earned a masters in English from Harvard before working his way up the coaching ladder.

11. Paul Brown
The offensive genius and longtime coach of the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns was a sharp guy, too. Brown actually won a Rhodes Scholarship in 1930 but decided to stay home and take a job as a teacher and coach at a prep school to support his wife.

12. Marty Schottenheimer
After a six-year career as a linebacker for the Bills, Patriots, and Colts, Schottenheimer retired from football in 1971 and switched to a very different industry: real estate. The swap didn't last long, though, as he got back into football in 1974 as the linebackers coach for the World Football League's Portland Storm.

This article originally appeared in 2009.

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Big Questions
Who Was Chuck Taylor?
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From Betty Crocker to Tommy Bahama, plenty of popular labels are "named" after fake people. But one product with a bona fide backstory to its moniker is Converse's Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers. The durable gym shoes are beloved by everyone from jocks to hipsters. But who's the man behind the cursive signature on the trademark circular ankle patch?

As journalist Abraham Aamidor recounted in his 2006 book Chuck Taylor, All Star: The True Story of the Man behind the Most Famous Athletic Shoe in History, Chuck Taylor was a former pro basketball player-turned-Converse salesman whose personal brand and tireless salesmanship were instrumental to the shoes' success.

Charles Hollis Taylor was born on July 24, 1901, and raised in southern Indiana. Basketball—the brand-new sport invented by James Naismith in 1891—was beginning to take the Hoosier State by storm. Taylor joined his high school team, the Columbus High School Bull Dogs, and was named captain.

After graduation, instead of heading off to college, Taylor launched his semi-pro career playing basketball with the Columbus Commercials. He’d go on to play for a handful of other teams across the Midwest, including the the Akron Firestone Non-Skids in Ohio, before finally moving to Chicago in 1922 to work as a sales representative for the Converse Rubber Shoe Co. (The company's name was eventually shortened to Converse, Inc.)

Founded in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1908 as a rubber shoe manufacturer, Converse first began producing canvas shoes in 1915, since there wasn't a year-round market for galoshes. They introduced their All-Star canvas sports shoes two years later, in 1917. It’s unclear whether Chuck was initially recruited to also play ball for Converse (by 1926, the brand was sponsoring a traveling team) or if he was simply employed to work in sales. However, we do know that he quickly proved himself to be indispensable to the company.

Taylor listened carefully to customer feedback, and passed on suggestions for shoe improvements—including more padding under the ball of the foot, a different rubber compound in the sole to avoid scuffs, and a patch to protect the ankle—to his regional office. He also relied on his basketball skills to impress prospective clients, hosting free Chuck Taylor basketball clinics around the country to teach high school and college players his signature moves on the court.

In addition to his myriad other job duties, Taylor played for and managed the All-Stars, a traveling team sponsored by Converse to promote their new All Star shoes, and launched and helped publish the Converse Basketball Yearbook, which covered the game of basketball on an annual basis.

After leaving the All-Stars, Taylor continued to publicize his shoe—and own personal brand—by hobnobbing with customers at small-town sporting goods stores and making “special appearances” at local basketball games. There, he’d be included in the starting lineup of a local team during a pivotal game.

Taylor’s star grew so bright that in 1932, Converse added his signature to the ankle patch of the All Star shoes. From that point on, they were known as Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Still, Taylor—who reportedly took shameless advantage of his expense account and earned a good salary—is believed to have never received royalties for the use of his name.

In 1969, Taylor was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The same year, he died from a heart attack on June 23, at the age of 67. Around this time, athletic shoes manufactured by companies like Adidas and Nike began replacing Converse on the court, and soon both Taylor and his namesake kicks were beloved by a different sort of customer.

Still, even though Taylor's star has faded over the decades, fans of his shoe continue to carry on his legacy: Today, Converse sells more than 270,000 pairs of Chuck Taylors a day, 365 days a year, to retro-loving customers who can't get enough of the athlete's looping cursive signature.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Pop Culture
The Time a Wrestling Fan Tried to Shoot Bobby Heenan in the Ring
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For a man who didn't wrestle much, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan wound up becoming more famous than a lot of the men flexing in the squared circle. The onscreen manager of several notable grapplers, including André the Giant and “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Heenan died on Sunday at the age of 73. His passing has led to several tributes recalling his memorable moments, from dressing up in a weasel suit to hosting a short-lived talk show on TNT.

While Heenan’s “heel” persona was considered great entertainment, there was a night back in 1975 when he did his job a little too well. As a result, an irate fan tried to assassinate him in the ring.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Heenan was appearing at the International Amphitheater in Chicago as part of the now-defunct AWA wrestling promotion when his performance began to grate on the nerves of an unnamed attendee seated on the floor. Eyewitnesses described the man as friendly up until wrestlers Verne Gagne and Nick Bockwinkel started their bout with Heenan at ringside in Bockwinkel’s corner.

“Get Heenan out of there,” the fan screamed, possibly concerned his character would interfere in a fair contest. Heenan, known as “Pretty Boy” at the time, began to distract the referee, awarding an advantage to his wrestler. When the official began waving his arms to signal Heenan to stop interrupting, the fan apparently took it as the match being over and awarded in Bockwinkel’s favor. He drew a gun and began firing.

The man got off two shots, hitting three bystanders with one bullet and two more with the other before running out of the arena. (No fatalities were reported.) Security swarmed the scene, getting medical attention for the injured and escorting both Heenan and the wrestlers to the back.

According to Heenan, the shooter was never identified by anyone, and he was brazen enough to continue attending wrestling cards at the arena. ("Chicago really took that 'no snitching' thing to heart back then," according to Uproxx.)

Heenan went on to spend another 30 years in the business getting yelled at and hit with chairs, but was never again forced to dodge a bullet.

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