Life After Football: The Notable Second Acts of NFL Stars

Life off the field was packed with just as much action after these MVPs hung up their helmets and cleats 

01 of 13

What's Next for Tom Brady?

Tom Brady
Tom Brady. Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty

Ending months of speculation (again!), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback confirmed on Feb. 1, 2023, that he was retiring from football.

Though the news wasn't easy for him to announce after 23 seasons in the NFL, the seven-time Super Bowl champ has plenty to keep him busy now that he's in the permanent off-season. In addition to TV and film cameos through his career (including the new 80 for Brady film), Brady published the bestselling book The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance in 2017, launched the Brady brand of apparel and co-founded the sports-based NFT platform Autograph in 2021.

In the spirit of his next future adventure — the broadcast booth! — we've rounded up the notable goals that his peers, present and past, have pursued in their fifth quarter of life.

02 of 13

Terry Bradshaw

Terry Bradshaw
Bettmann Archive/Getty

Bradshaw — who is known as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time — played for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 14 seasons, leading them to four Super Bowl victories and eight AFC Championships. After retiring in 1984, he started an acting career, making cameos in shows like Malcolm in the Middle, Modern Family, The League and more. He also starred in the romantic comedy, Failure to Launch, in 2006. In 2020, Bradshaw and his family's reality show, The Bradshaw Bunch, premiered on E!

And that's not all: He has also been an analyst on Fox NFL Sunday since 1994 and released three country music albums.

In late 2022, he shared that he'd been diagnosed with cancer twice that year, but was cancer-free by November.

03 of 13

Michael Strahan

New York Giants Michael Strahan celebrates his team's 26-21 win over the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, MO, 15 September 2002.

Strahan played for the New York Giants for 15 seasons from 1993 until 2008.

He followed up his successful career on the field with a successful career on the small screen. After retiring in 2008, he became an analyst on Fox NFL Sunday. From 2012 to 2016, he co-hosted Live! with Kelly and Michael alongside Kelly Ripa, winning two Daytime Emmy Awards.

In 2016, he left Live! to join Good Morning America. That same year, he was announced as the host of the $100,000 Pyramid. Strahan has made plenty of TV and film appearances as well, starring on the short-lived sitcom Brothers and appearing in Black-ish and Charlie's Angels. He is also an author — in 2015, he published Wake Up Happy: The Dream Big, Win Big Guide to Transforming Your Life — and a recent astronaut, going to space with Blue Origin.

04 of 13

Frank Gifford

Agence France Presse/Getty

Gifford officially retired from football in 1964 — he had retired once before in 1961 following a head injury, but returned the following year — after playing for the New York Giants for 12 seasons.

He followed up his successful career with 27 years as a sportscaster, known for his work on Monday Night Football and Wide World of Sports. He also commentated at the Olympics. Gifford married TV host Kathie Lee in 1986.

Gifford died in August 2015 at 84 years old.

05 of 13

Terry Crews

Terry Crews
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

Before Crews lit up TV screens, he tore up the football field! Drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1991, Crews played for the San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins, among others, in the '90s. After retiring in 1997, Crews set his sights on acting, breaking out in the comedy Friday After Next in 2002.

His star continued rising with movie roles in White Chicks and The Longest Yard, and Crews further became a household name for appearing in Old Spice commercials. In other acting credits, the comedian played leading roles in Everybody Hates Chris from (2005 to 2009) and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013 to 2021). Crews has also hosted America's Got Talent on NBC since 2019.

06 of 13

Nate Burleson

Nate Burleson #81 of the Minnesota Vikings heads upfield against the Green Bay Packers during the game on December 24, 2004 at the Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Matthew Stockman/Getty

Burleson was drafted in the third round by the Minnesota Vikings in 2003, and played for the team for three seasons. During that time, the wide receiver reached more than 1,000 receiving yards and set the impressive record of being the only player to have three punt returns of 90 or more yards in NFL history. He moved to the Seattle Seahawks (2006 to 2009) and later the Detroit Lions (2010 to 2013).

Burleson began his TV career as a commentator for the NFL Network in 2014, and flexed his range as an entertainment correspondent for Extra from 2019 to 2021. After five years of hosting the NFL's Good Morning Football, he became a co-host of CBS Mornings in September 2021, waking up America alongside Gayle King and Tony Dokoupil.

He also won a Sports Emmy Award for outstanding studio analyst for his work on CBS' pregame show The NFL Today.

07 of 13

Brett Favre

Brett Favre
Former quarterback Brett Favre. Mike Ehrmann/Getty

The legendary quarterback spent most of his 20 seasons in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, beginning his career with the Atlanta Falcons in 1991 and retiring in 2010 after two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.

Favre set incredible records on the field – including an unbelievable 297 consecutive regular season starts across 19 seasons, which still stands unmatched – but the Super Bowl champ, three-time NFL MVP and Hall of Famer has made an incredible philanthropic impact off of it.

Since its establishment in 1995, the QB's Favre 4 Hope Foundation has donated more than $8 million to charitable groups supporting children in need and breast cancer patients. (The foundation is currently under investigation regarding a donation to the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation, per ESPN.)

In August 2021, Favre teamed up with the Concussion Legacy Foundation for a PSA campaign, urging parents to delay enrolling their kids in tackle football until age 14.

"​CTE is a terrible disease, and we need to do everything we can to prevent it for the next generation of football players," he said in a statement at the time.

08 of 13

Jerry Rice

Wide receiver Jerry Rice #80 of the Oakland Raiders carries the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during Super Bowl XXXVII
Donald Miralle/Getty

Considered to be the greatest wide receiver in NFL history, Rice won three Super Bowls during his 15-season career with the San Francisco 49ers from 1985 to 2000. At Super Bowl XXIII, he was voted MVP.

He played for the Oakland Raiders for three seasons and was traded to the Seattle Seahawks, retiring in 2005. Rice holds the record for most touchdowns scored (208!) and "virtually every significant career receiving record," per his website. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

In another first, Rice became the first former NFL player to compete on Dancing with the Stars in 2005, where his extraordinary athleticism took him all the way to second place.

09 of 13

Deion Sanders

Deion Sanders

Sanders began his career in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons in 1989, and the defensive player would bounce to the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens during the next 14 seasons. Winning back-to-back Super Bowls in 1995 and 1996, he retired in 2005.

Sanders is considered to be one of the greatest cornerbacks of all time, and is also the only person to play in both the Super Bowl and the World Series; the sports superstar played nine seasons in the MLB, and reached World Series with the Atlanta Falcons in 1992.

The Hall of Famer was named to the NFL All-Time Team in 2020, and today hosts the 21st and Prime podcast on Barstool Sports, and also contributes to the popular show Pardon My Take during football season. (He also cameos in MC Hammer's "Too Legit to Quit" music video and has appeared in other TV programs, including The League, Running Wild with Bear Grylls and Lip Sync Battle against Justin Bieber!)

Currently, he is the head football coach at the University of Colorado Boulder, where is son Shedeur plays.

10 of 13

Jim Brown

Jim Brown
Focus on Sport via Getty

The fearless football player was a running back for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1965, playing in nine Pro Bowls in nine years and setting team records for career rushing yards (12,312) and career touchdowns (126), among other feats. During his years in the NFL, he never missed a game, according to the league.

Amid his success in the game, Brown dreamt of acting, landing a part in the 1964 western film Rio Conchos. Allured by this next act, he famously quit the Browns' training camp in 1966 in favor of filming The Dirty Dozen and subsequently announced his retirement, the NFL said.

Acting alongside Al Pacino and Burt Reynolds, and racking up more than 50 acting credits through the years, the Hall of Famer's other credits include 100 Rifles, Three the Hard Way, The Running Man and Mars Attacks!

Brown was commended for his ferocity in football with a spot on the NFL 100 All-Time Team.

11 of 13

Ray Lewis

Ray Lewis
Jim Rogash/Getty

Lewis is known as one of the toughest linebackers in NFL history, and spent his 17-year professional football career with the Baltimore Ravens. He set the NFL records for career combined tackles (2,059) and won the Super Bowl with the Ravens twice: in 2001 and in 2012, his last game. Lewis is celebrated as one of the best defensive players of all time and the greatest Baltimore Raven.

After retiring, he established the Power52 Foundation, which connects at-risk individuals in the Baltimore area with employment training for jobs in the solar industry and other green opportunities. Lewis competed on Dancing with the Stars in 2019, and recently partnered with the Professional Fighters League to help advance the MMA sport.

12 of 13

Dan Marino

Quarterback Dan Marino #13 of the Miami Dolphins looks on from the field before a game against the Buffalo Bills at Rich Stadium on September 11, 1988 in Orchard Park, New York. The Bills defeated the Dolphins 9-6.
George Gojkovich/Getty

Marino played for the Miami Dolphins for 17 seasons from 1983 to 1999. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005, and in 2019, was named to the NFL's 100 All-Time Team. There, he was included as one of the 10 greatest quarterbacks in the league's history.

He followed up his football career by becoming an analyst for The NFL Today from 2002 to 2013, and an analyst on Inside the NFL from 2002 to 2007.

Following his retirement, Marino became a partner in Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza, a chain which has since expanded to more than 60 locations along the East Coast.

13 of 13

Muhsin Muhammad II

Muhsin Muhammad
Scott Cunningham/Getty

The former wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears retired from football in 2009 after 14 seasons in the NFL. While playing in the league, he attended Wharton's Executive Business Management & Entrepreneurship Program, following up his football career by funding a private equity firm, Axum Capital Partners. He continues to work as the managing director of Axum.

Related Articles