Today is World Population Day, so let’s shift outside the lines and discuss the most successful, impactful former Rutgers Football players off the field. As much as we love sports, specifically college football, the point is still that young men that participate are student-athletes.
As hinted last week it didn’t take long ... this week we’ll be helped out by Frederick Aloysius Palowaski, “the Ogre” along with the group he torments in the first installment of the Revenge of the Nerds franchise. (before becoming their friend in part 2)
Most football players are big and strong, so they might not appear on the surface to be “nerds.” Compiling this list was tremendously difficult, so I went back to the research for the Schiano Bowl article as a starting point. Of course we’d love to see comments about off the field accomplishments not mentioned here to recognize those individuals as well. Good thing Sebastian Stan did not play football at RU because who could argue with Captain America?
Eric Young Sr. gets the nomination for players that have succeeded in other sports, did you know Homer Hazel was a professional golfer after he coached Ole Miss when he wasn’t a corporate personnel director? There are a lot of former Rutgers athletes who have gone on to become great parents (like mine), though very few have been in the public eye like Young, who’s son followed his footsteps into Major League Baseball. Young Sr. was an All-Star during a 15 year career before becoming a coach.
Speaking of coaching, Frank Burns for impacting future generations of athletes. This may be a little bit of a homer pick as the field of players who have contributed in this area is significant not just at the college level, but at the high school level (like Dino Mangiero from last week’s poll), and in other sports, like Jack Emmer. Emmer is a Lacrosse hall of Fame coach, having led college squads for 36 seasons, but Burns coached his alma mater to the best season in school history. Burns is also the winningest coach in Rutgers Football history overall.
Eric LeGrand gets the nod for his impact as a motivational speaker. It’s one thing to walk-on at Notre Dame become a motivational speaker after a movie is made about you, but on another level when you need to speak to groups from your wheelchair. Following the steps of Superman is not easy. LeGrand gets a slight nod over Tyronne Stowe who had a great NFL career and is a pastor who, like LeGrand, has even written a book.
Continuing in the arts, no list would be complete without Ozzie Nelson. Nelson was a career musician who also did some acting, particularly in the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Nelson lettered for both the 1925 and 1926 Rutgers Football teams while moonlighting as a saxophone player to pay his tuition. (No scholarship counting like we have today). Even the New York Times ran a long article about him after his death. Ozzie has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Unlike Tony Soprano, who said, “I’m like King Midas in reverse. Everything I touch turns to s--t,” Paul Robeson was quite the opposite. Robeson gets the nod for those who went into acting. Though if Roy Scheider had played football rather than been amateur boxing, he would receive consideration for saving the entire eastern seaboard from shark attacks. Robeson of course was an actor, singer, and political activist after playing in the NFL and being a lawyer. That’s hard to top.
Unless you are a war hero. Second team All-American Walter Winika was a naval aviator, but even a name like that can’t hang with the paratrooping “Wizard of Utz.” The decorated war hero went on to hold leadership positions at Johnson & Johnson. He did much for employee morale as well as creating programs for high school students to visit the company and learn the cutting edge, an idea that has been copied over and over again.
Bill Austin became a bicycle manufacturing executive, Bob “Nasty” Nash an automotive exec, but can anyone beat Alex Kroll? Kroll began his career as a copywriter, but the former Military Policeman, weightlifter, and NFL player rose up to become CEO of Young and Rubicam. Per the advertising Hall of Fame, “During his 10 years as CEO, Y&R’s worldwide billings increased 2 1/2 times, to $8 billion, and its offices more than doubled, to 331.” Wow.
Philip Brett was a three year letterwinner who became the 13th Rutgers University President. Brett gets the nod for public leadership over 1869 captain and future leader of the Dutch reformed church William J. Leggett, because Brett’s tenure came during the Great Depression when morale was restored on the banks. A successful lawyer, the school webpage provides much detail on his contributions.
Though they are an honorable mention, the McCourty brothers get special consideration because of their philanthropy before even finishing NFL careers. Taking a page from former teammate Brian Leonard’s fundraising playbook, the Jason and Devin always seem to be promoting their “Tackle Sickle Cell” campaign. Other honorable mention to Michael J. Pellowski. Not only did he write Rutgers Football: A Gridiron Tradition in Scarlet, a must have for all Scarlet Knight football faithful, you can find plenty of his other work on Amazon.com. These three players have appeared in recent polls.
Who did we miss? I am certain there are many I did. Perhaps someone else from this list played football or this one. Sam Brown who was an activist was not the Sampson Brown who lettered in football in 1965 also, right? Go vote and leave us thoughts in the comments section as for this one we probably did leave someone out!
What Rutgers Football alum accomplished the most off the field?
This poll is closed
Vinnie "the Wizard of Utz"