The athletics and the arts aren’t supposed to be intertwined, or at least that is what we are taught to think. Athletes are supposed be one-dimensional and only capable of playing sports.
I can’t tell you how much I love breaking that stereotype!
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kareem Rush, a former member of the Missouri Tigers and the Los Angeles Lakers who you probably remember for sinking a plethora of three point shots on Sportscenter, however Rush opened up the eyes (or ears) of many people when he appeared on TMZ and sang Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”, and was applauded by fans for how well he could sing.
For many, this was the first time that they had heard Rush’s singing voice and he proved what anyone who already knew him personally had been aware of for years; the man can sing!
I first heard Rush sing when an ESPN article spoke of his transition into music and soon after I heard “Hold You Down”, an excellent R&B song that channelled some of the great 1990’s stars of the genre. This wasn’t a vanity project because an athlete could get into a recording studio; rather this was a well-crafted debut effort that showed a true passion for the craft of singing and left you wanting to see what his next effort would be.
Now I may have been aware of Kareem Rush’s prowess on both a basketball court and with his vocal chords, I learned about his other pursuits and how he is in the process of building a global brand.
In talking with Kareem, we spoke about everything that he has working on, including what’s next for him musically, a return to basketball and the multitude of projects that he is working on, and the emergence of a true renaissance man who I wouldn’t bet against.
I had the pleasure not that long ago of interviewing another former basketball player, Terry Cummings who among other things is now involved in a career in gospel music, and some of the questions that I am going to ask you will probably be a little similar.
Do you find that as an ex-basketball player that it is more difficult for people to take you seriously as a musician?
“You get caught up in the stigma of athletes who have ventured off into it. You know like Shaq or more of the notable guys who attempted music. I think some people look at it as a gimmick but there are some guys who look at music as a passion.
I’m talking about Wayman Tisdale[ii], Jerry Stackhouse and I know a few of the guys now who are in the league are very passionate about music. I think at this point the stigma is there and there will be people who think I only have one talent, but the tide will turn and you have push through that and let the music speak for itself.”
I think that going into R&B certainly works in your favor as so many people have gone into Hip Hop and Rap thinking it would be easy, and it is certainly not. R&B is such a rich and textured style of music and mastering that is such a difficult thing to do.
In previous interviews you have mentioned that one of your biggest influences was Maxwell. I am curious if you remember what was the first CD that you ever bought, or the first one that you put on heavy rotation when you were a kid?
“My first favourite group growing up was probably Jodeci, that would have been my first real R&B group I was into, but music was always around. My mom listened to a lot of old school like Ronald Isley and Frankie Beverly so I was around that a lot, but my first introduction to R&B was Jodeci and Boyz II Men. It was the blueprint that taught me how to sing and make me think that I could do this because I could sound just like these guys and it made me think that is something I could do down the road.
Basketball took over for my focus when I was nine years old, but along the way I always sang. I sang at my high school choir and anybody who knows me, knows how much I sing, and it doesn’t surprise people who know me that I am pursuing a career in music. They are happy that I am doing something about it and pursuing it.”
So many times we see athletes mingle with celebrities. Has there been anyone from the music world who has given you positive encouragement in your music career?
“No, not yet. But the feedback that I have gotten has been really good so far. I just recently did a TMZ interview…”
I saw that!
“I was a little upset about it though. At least give me some kudos! I did that without warming up, I did it cold in my kitchen.[iv]
But you have performed in front of that many people before when you were playing.
“It was completely different. It was something very new for me, but it was a lot of fun. I knew I could do it because I wasn’t too nervous but obviously I did have the butterflies”
Was it more so because your ex-teammates were there?
“No, that made it more comfortable. Before I went on I talked to the guys and it put me at ease, and then they came up to me and said it was time to go on. I didn’t have a chance to think about it again and be nervous. I just went up there and did my thing and got it done.”
Is there any musician that you are thinking would be the perfect person for you to collaborate with?
“Not really. As an artist you want to work with everybody but I am so focused on honing my sound and I don’t want anything to take away from what I am trying to be as an artist. I think with my story and what I am doing musically and my confidence, that my music speaks for itself and it will let people see who I am.
Maybe down the road after I get a couple of successful singles then sure I would love to do that with some of the bigger R&B, whether it be a female artist or maybe dive into to the rap game, but that is down the road. Right now I am focused on building The Gentlemen Brand.[vi]
“Absolutely. The CBA, The Chinese Basketball League, I actually created the first digital platform that focuses on American sports and American entertainment. It is called muho.tv. In our first year out we got 700,000 unique visitors. We have a great partnership there so I wouldn’t mind going over there cross promoting.”
So clearly you are branching out in so many ways.
“That’s really it. I’m trying to mimic Magic (Johnson) by going in multiple avenues. I’m starting all of these things that I am a part of and am starting to build a global brand from fashion to entertainment to charities. My foundation, the Rush Forward Foundation are really targeting the L.A. school districts to work with anti-bullying and obesity issues and I feel that if I can get back to the NBA that I can make this cause and my brand even bigger. It can open so many doors; it gives you so many eyeballs.”
I am glad you brought that up. That is how we first were able to come in contact as I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Puder who mentioned he was working with you on anti-bullying. That is something that has become a real hot topic, and I will ask you the same thing I asked Daniel. As someone with your size and success athletically, you aren’t someone who people would automatically think could identify with the bullied. How did anti-bullying become a cause that became important to you?
“I love kids, and I attack every issue. We are starting with anti-bullying because it is such a big issue now in the schools that I’ve been working with in Los Angeles. That is the biggest issue that they are dealing with is bullying. As an athlete is my goal to show that there is a different way and that you don’t have to be mean. We are looking at the cause, the kids who are doing the bullying. It might extend somewhere from home and what they are dealing with there, so we want to tackle that where we can.
As far as the kids being bullied, I can surprise the kid for a day, take them out to lunch and change that culture, and make people think why are they picking on this kid today? That’s my buddy, that’s a cool kid; that is someone who I want to change how people think of him.
We actually partnered with the producers of American Greed[viii]
Writing is something that I am definitely working on and it is a process that I will continue to develop over the course of my music career.”
Bringing up March Madness, you had a deep run with the Missouri.[x]
Now that Kim Anderson is down there, I knew him with when he was there with Norm Stewart
[ii]Cummings also forayed into R&B. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKOB416A9j4
[iv]Here he is singing at the game: http://www.sports-direct.org/sports-live/lakers-vs-pacers-staple-center-22-01-2012-national-anthem
[vi]He played for Lietuvos Rytas and was the Finals MVP. He was also named the All Star Game MVP.
[viii]Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-SxOsY90z0
[x]He’s right. There have been four since he left the program.
Last year, we had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Litherland, the head of the online campaign to get Janet Jackson inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
What a difference a year makes!
Since that time, the movement has grown exponentially, and shows no sign of slowing down. Perhaps what impressed me the most is the class in which Mike and his supporters have shown, choosing to extoll the virtues of Jackson as opposed to knock the institution itself, a breath of fresh air as similar campaigns for other musical acts took their beliefs to a more critical and derogatory tone.
We had the chance to speak with Mike and what has changed since we last spoke.
Since we first spoke your Facebook campaign had 14,000 Likes. I see now that has exceeded 50,000. What would you say has helped drive that number so high in such a quick period of time?
The page really started to take off last summer leading up to the nomination announcements. The hardcore fans rallied and helped make #InductJanet trend on Twitter and Facebook and that's had a major impact. When Janet wasn't nominated again last year there was a lot of disappointment and #InductJanet quietly started to trend again. It's really gained momentum now which is both exciting and humbling at the same time.
There have been a lot of print and Internet articles mentioning Janet and the Hall of Fame; certainly considerable more than there was two years ago. I think your efforts have certainly played a part in that. Has there been one article in particular that you have read that just made you say “Yes, that sums it up perfectly!”
I agree. And that's exactly why I started the page - to keep Janet's name fresh in the Nomination Committee's minds. We've definitely raised awareness and time and time again we're hearing.... "Yeah, what about Janet? Why hasn't Janet even been nominated yet?" It's great reinforcement and a solid reminder of Janet's overall impact. I stumbled across a recent blog posting that was really well written and nailed the case for Janet Jackson's nomination. http://hiddenunderheadphones.com/2015/02/07/the-rock-and-roll-hall-of-fame-the-case-for-janet-jackson/
Has there been anyone unexpected who has reached out offering to help or giving a kind word to the cause?
We've gained all kinds of support. Jimmy Jam (producer) and Missy Elliott have retweeted articles and posts. Quest Love, who's on the Nomination Committee, encouraged us to not give up. It's great to see support not only from fans but also members of the music community.
I imagine you have seen in her in concert. I have thought that she did not get credit for being a very good live act. Do you have any favorite memories of seeing her in concert?
I've seen each of Janet's tours...multiple times. I won't disclose how many times but it's quite a few. She definitely puts on an amazing show. In many ways, her shows are reminiscent of the Broadway musical experience. And there are elements of her shows that continue to be emulated by this newer generation of artists. Janet's first tour, the Rhythm Nation 1814 World Tour, remains the most successful debut tour of any artist in history. That's pretty amazing considering that was back in 1990.
Last time we talked, you mentioned that Janet’s inactivity over the past few years might be hindering her a little bit, but that there was new material in the works. What musical direction would you like to see her go in next, and is there one that you think that would make those on the Nominating Committee react to?
I just hope she's truly connected to the project. Her last album, 2008's "Discipline", was the first album since "Control" (1986) that she didn't write or co-write the lyrics. "Discipline" wasn't a bad album - but it isn't revered as one of her best. She seems to be taking her time and I'm sure she's writing about what's she's experienced. And she's certainly had a lot to draw from in the death of her brother and marriage to a new love. Her fans are hungry for new material and for the first time in a very long time, the industry seems ready for her return, too!
Unrelated question, what were your thoughts on this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class? Personally, I thought this was one of the weakest groups in the last five years.
I agree with you here. I thought the most recent group was rather weak, too. It just seemed like a really safe list of nominees. It'll be interesting to see the direction the Nomination Committee takes later in the year when they announce the list of 2016 nominees.
We here at Notinhalloffame.com would like to congratulate Mike on all the progress that he has made on the #InductJanet campaign and are very eager to see how it grows throughout 2015.
The original interview can be found here:
I have had the pleasure of interviewing many athletes but I laughed more speaking with former Cincinnati Bengal and University of Michigan Defensive End, Larry Stevens than I have with all the other people I have spoke too combined.
It was one of those experiences where when I was transcribing the interview, where exclamation points just don’t do it justice. I had never interviewed anyone before who had more energy, and who put more entertainment in a story than Larry had, and I immediately wished that I had my podcast set up.[i] Print simply doesn’t so this man justice.
Larry Stevens was one of the most highly recruited football prospects ever from the state of Washington and would sign with the University of Michigan, one of the most storied programs in all of College Football and one that sent shockwaves across the Pacific Northwest.[ii] He would have a very good career at Michigan, this despite the unexpected shift from offense to defence, and he would go on to play two seasons with Cincinnati Bengals primarily on special teams, a career that would have lasted longer had it not been for a career ending injury in 2007.
Although I already knew from my research that Larry Stevens already knew how to monetize his past exploits on the gridiron, I did not realize the multi-layered way in which he went about accomplishing that task, and continuing to do so, and not just for himself, but also for his peers.
Our conversation, and while I again state was easily the most fun I have ever conducted, we also talked about a lot of very serious topics of the game of football, and the business behind it on every level. We talked about what it meant to be a Michigan Wolverine, what it means to be a professional athlete and the sacrifices that came with it.
I hope you enjoy reading the story of Larry Stevens, of which there is no doubt in my mind has a lot more interesting chapters to be written.
When looking at your LinkedIn profile the first thing I remember thinking is what doesn’t this man do? You seem to have so many things professionally going on in your life, and it leads me to ask you when during your football career did you start to develop a plan once you knew your athletic career would be over?
Were you thinking that when you were with Michigan, or was it before or after?
“You never really plan for it, especially in the NFL. You never think of your career being over. You never know what you’re going to do after Football. It just sneaks up on you. It is different when all you know is Football. Nowadays it is different when they are preparing us, by doing things like classes, but what I did is I built a network in college and that is one of the biggest things that I teach guys today is to do that.
Outside of that I was able to work with Merrill Lynch and I was able to build sustainable relationships. How many people are able to say that they played in the NFL? How many people get the opportunity to do business with ex-players?
You know what everyone is banking on? It’s ignorance. I don’t say that in a negative way, but people think that if you play Football that those people tell you ‘We’ll take care of your finances, we’ll take care of your margin, we’ll take care of all these aspects of your finances’ and they just want you to worry about Football.
Some guys, that’s good for them! But that just further handicaps us players to where we can handle our own endeavours or handle our own affairs, which gives you the experience to handle those markets when you are done playing.
Myself, I got injured after playing a couple years but for me I always wanted to be more than a Football Player. You got to be willing to do something different. I just built a network, but even back then I never knew what I really wanted to do, but I knew that I was really a very personable person. I knew that I was great in sales, and that’s just where I took it.
I kind of jumped around, but basically I got bored. I dominated in sales, you know? I dominated for Under Armour. I dominated for Enterprise, I dominated for these companies. I was the number one sales person for each month for these companies. I doubled the sales each month you know?
But you get to the point where you want to make the lifestyle you want or bring it back to where you had the lifestyle you had before; people who say that it is not about the money, they are full of shit you know?
That was a big thing for me, as was to own your schedule, you know? I worked for so many companies and was never satisfied and that was a positive for me because I am always going to be hungry so I channelled that and started my own company.
If you look at my timeline, you would see that I worked here for a few years, and here for another, and I was approached for so much. I had a couple of nightclubs, I owned a fight company on the East Coast, I did all of those things! I just got bored with it, and not just bored with but I got tired of building other people’s dreams, where you put in sixty or seventy hours a week to build other people’s dreams.
I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t live the lifestyle that I wanted to live. So what do I do? The same thing that teaches these other players is to find your niche, and to take advantage of the things that you do positive. What do you do good? What do you do great? What can you tell someone else that nobody can tell you how to do better?
That’s how I started my company, 95 Elite Sports. When it comes to the structure of an organization, when it comes to Football, when it comes to the NFL, when it comes to building a network, when it comes to putting people in the right places, when it comes to experience in recruiting the AAU style; everything we are doing is based on what I know how to do best.[iii]
Can you tell me more about 95 Elite Sports?
“95 Elite Sports is a company that I founded and I did so because I want to help youths. It’s not just football, but youth sports. I am building an athlete resource center in Ohio and I want to expand into other states. What that is going to do is provide academic training, test preparation, skills development, speed schools, coaching clinics, scouting clinics, but most importantly I have a contract with the NFL and the National Youth Football League where 95 Elite Sports is a governed body over the state of Ohio with National Youth Football.
What I do is hold competitive seven on seven competitive tournaments through the whole state of Ohio. I have ten different territories set up and they compete for a championship. There are sixth graders, seventh graders, eighth graders, ninth graders, tenth graders playing on a national level going against other champions from other states like Texas. They get to play at Texas Stadium or Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.
It’s a trial AAU thing and it’s a pretty big deal. A lot of revenue, a lot of exposure, a lot of market and it’s backed by the NFL. It’s a great deal. I locked that contract down and that’s what prompted me to start my company. I already had that in place and there were already other intangibles in place and it just gave me a shot to do it.
This has always been my dream but I never had the time to do it really. I had always been working for someone else or I just didn’t have the time. Now, I took a risk, I took a step out and I got the right people in place. I have people in the NFL, NFL scouts, college coaches, I have everybody on board and they want to be a part of the big picture that we have.”
That sounds incredible! I also noticed that you are the chapter president of the Athlete Chamber of Commerce. I didn’t even know that existed!
“Absolutely. That’s great too. This is the same premise of what we were talking before. When you talk about how you can you get in touch with an athlete, and how hard is that to do. Nowadays it is a lot easier with technology, you can talk to people on Twitter and yeah, you can get a professional athlete to say hello, but how can you get a professional athlete to the table? How can you present your investment, your strategy to an athlete? You can’t do it.
The Pro Athlete Chamber of Commerce, what we do is provide a forum for the non-athletes to get together with the pro athletes. We have over a thousand athletes from the NHL, NFL, MLB, NBA, you name it, and these are athletes that are looking to engage partnerships. They are looking for investments, opportunities or projects.
What we want to do for them (the athletes), and we get inquiries all the time for different things, and we are there to streamline the process and make sure that everybody is who they say they are. We are like the law. We have the resources, we have the information and as long as they are who they say they are, we can bring these parties together.
I also work with another company called Pro2u, which does a lot of the same thing.[iv] We have a huge database and access to a lot of these athletes, and there are lot of people who are looking to do business with or meet these players and we have a forum for them to do that. Not everybody can do that, because they don’t have the network to do that. I worked hard for these relationships.”
I totally understand and am a huge advocate of relationship building and I come from a lengthy sales career myself, and I totally respect working hard so that you can work for yourself. For me writing is my passion, and now that I can do that for a living, it is like a dream come true.
“I write a lot too actually.”
“Oh yeah, where do I start. I wrote for the NFL Players Association, I wrote all of their website content. I wrote articles, I wrote interviews, I did all that stuff.
I wrote also for Huddlepass, which is a forum for College Football and I write columns and do podcasts.[v] They are very opinionated and they should be. People pay me for my opinion. I get thirty minutes, forty minutes to talk about what I want to talk about.”
There is something I have to ask you, if I can switch it back to Football.
How does a kid from Tacoma, Washington, grow up being a Michigan fan, and how does a former Cincinnati Bengal love the Dallas Cowboys? I have to ask, how does that happen?
“My Facebook is filled with hate! People say I should be a Seahawks fan, and they don’t understand how I can be a Cowboys fan! It is all a long story and it had to do with illegal recruiting, and this is something that I haven’t really talked about much in the press or anything like that.
You know there were a lot of things going on and being the number one player in the region out of high school, there were a lot of coaches under a lot of pressure and it became very uncomfortable and I had to pretty much leave the Pac 10 and I didn’t want to deal with it based on things that were happening.[vi]
There were rules being broke that I had nothing to do with that other coaches knew about. Pac 10 coaches knew what other coaches were doing and there were investigations going on, though they never talked to me. Nobody ever talked to me about it. They were just talking to other people because I think people in Stanford or USC called in and reports Rick Neuheisel for illegal recruiting.[vii] Head Coaches were supposed to come like once a month, and they were coming every week! (Laughs) He was there every week! He wasn’t shy about it, but that’s how it was.
I grew up a Michigan fan though as a kid, but that didn’t mean that I was necessarily going to go to Michigan. I had maybe seventy scholarship offers for Football and fifteen for Basketball and I could have went anywhere.
After the things that happened in the Pac 10, I just got freaked out and decided that I’m not going to deal with this. I was going to declare early and a lot of that bullshit stops. The phone calls, the harassment, it was too much.
I had Head Coaches having girls call me, playing games you know? Random numbers where they would call, and it would be a Head Coach saying, ‘Gotcha’ (Laughs), you know! They would drive by my house, leaving notes, you wouldn’t believe! I kept thinking, are these guys serious? It was out of control!”
Actually, that sounds amazing because I would beg for dates in High School!
“(Laughs). Heh, that’s why I went to Michigan! With all that crap going on, I just had to get away. I’ve never really told that story but whatever! (Laughs)”
You got to be a part of one of the most storied rivalries in sports, the Michigan/Ohio State series.
“Yes and I hate Ohio State with a passion, and I live in Ohio too. You can’t be in Columbus and say you’re from Michigan. You don’t get no girls dude! (Laughs) I don’t care how good looking you are, how much money you got, if you’re from Michigan, you’re not worth shit!”
I believe in your senior year, Michigan finished fourth in the national rankings, and you played in the Rose Bowl twice. Was that a surreal experience for you?
Growing up in Washington in the neighbourhood where we grew up that stuff wasn’t a reality, you know what I mean? I never expected to play (pro) or go to college. I never grew up watching the Pac 10, I never really watched football like that so I never really understood the significance of the Rose Bowl. I mean knew about the Rose Bowl, but I never really cared about the Rose Bowl until I went to Michigan.
Michigan was like a whole different experience. The leadership there, the people who were there for years, they taught you what it meant to win for Michigan. They taught you what it meant to represent the name on the back of your jersey. They taught you what it meant to play for the people who were there before you.
You actually physically carried that burden. To actually go into and play in the Rose Bowl, that was something that all those greats would come back for. Greats like Bo Schembechler, I met all of those guys.[viii] My father in law was with them from 1975 to 1980 and went to all kinds of Rose Bowls.[ix] We could win every game on the schedule, but if you didn’t beat Ohio State or go to the Rose Bowl, you didn’t accomplish anything. The whole season was lost.
So for me to actually play at the Rose Bowl it was unreal. It was unreal to be a part of that legacy, it was unreal to be a part of that team, and it was unreal to be a part of the 100th game against Ohio State and we beat them, because there is no such thing as going to the Rose Bowl without beating Ohio State.[x]
To get into that stadium and look around that stadium and to be told your entire career that this is where you were supposed to be and to finally get there, we felt that we had arrived.
Was it a better feeling to play in from of 100,000 in Michigan than it was in the NFL?[xi]
“Absolutely! Here’s the thing. When we would play at Michigan I never played if front of under 109,000 people. Never, not one time. There is something so special at that place. When you enter Michigan Stadium, and if you’ve never been there before you see this sea of people, and there thousands of people where you can see every face. You can see every face no matter where they are sitting in the stadium you can see their face.
It is overwhelming! The energy, the atmosphere, I can’t even explain it. It’s a different kind of feeling, and I know that, I’ve played there. The first four or five plays, you’re out of breath, you’re sweating, there are butterflies in your stomach, you can’t believe the amount of pressure that is on you to do the right thing and to make plays.
So when other teams come in here, they see something they have never seen before. They play in front of 60,000 and what the hell is that?[xii] We have that in our back end zone, you know what I mean? There was nothing else like it, not even in the NFL.”
Now you went undrafted in 2004 but were signed as a Free Agent by the Cincinnati Bengals. You were projected as a sixth round pick, but was it much of a difference for you being signed as a Free Agent or being a late pick in the draft?
My situation was a little different. Coming out of college, everybody wants to get drafted. My situation was that I was a tweener.[xiii] You have to understand this, when I started at Michigan, I had never played defense. I had never put my hand on the ground, never. I had never played Linebacker before. I had never played Defensive End before. I never did any of that stuff before!
I had to learn a new position every level that I got too. When I left High School I led the West Coast as a Wide Receiver in Yards, Catches and Touchdowns. I ever suspected to have to play defense. My point is (referring to being a tweener) is that I was never built to play that position in the first place. That’s not what I did.
Now I managed to dominate at Defensive End (at Michigan); but in the NFL, I was too big to play Linebacker but too small to play Defensive End. There was no footage of me playing Linebacker, so there was no film showing if I could do it.
I did a couple of combines, but in my senior year a tore some ligaments in my knee and it didn’t allow m to perform the way I wanted to at the combine. Then I got into a fight in college; there were tons of reasons I didn’t get drafted.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t going to get an opportunity to play in the NFL, I would, but the truth of the matter is there are so many guys in the NFL and only a few are household names and only a small percentage that play more than three years.
Everybody signs two year deals, three year deals and a lot of those guys who get drafted, after their contract is over they are lost and they are out of the league. The guys who are contributing to their team’s success are the guys drafted after the third or fourth round or free agent pickups. These are the role players, these are the guys who are holding your team together.
I didn’t get drafted and I worried about that, of course I did. It meant that I work two or three times harder than this asshole over here, you know what mean, and a lot of those times they never got on the field!
I made league minimum, but I made more with performances bonuses, like 80,000-90,000 dollars cause I was in fifty plays a game; whether it was fifteen plays on defence, but I played ever Special Teams play. These rookies, these guys who were getting drafted only played eight snaps a game, if they even got on the field at all! With that said, the bonus money was good, but you still had to fight.
People don’t understand this. When you have fifty-three man rosters, you got forty-five men who are active during a game; now if a Tackle, a Guard or if someone from your star positions goes down, you have to cut someone from a different position. It could be a Defensive Back, a Linebacker; you might have eight Linebackers and now you have seven. Only forty-five of you guys can suit up during a game, so there are guys who have to get cut and not because they are good or bad but because of the needs of the roster.
The long story short is that you have to work much harder when you are undrafted and you have to fight. I remember coming down to the Cincinnati Bengals Stadium thinking that I was the last man on the pole, praying that this asshole was going to get up in practice. When that guy goes down, who are they going to cut first? ‘Please get up, please get up!!!’ Well, they are going to cut you! It’s crazy!
I would come down from lunch and Coach Marvin Lewis and my Coach Ricky Hunley and I would look at them training eight guys who were playing your position![xiv] That’s how cut throat it is. That is how it is. They laugh and say they could replace you, but they are serious about it! They are laughing, but this is my livelihood!
I tell you, the pressure of being a non-drafted player is unbearable. I remember going to training camps, and it’s the worst feeling. They don’t always cut players in the most professional way. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they let you practice all day, and they already know you’re cut! You are burned out, you just did 100 reps, practice is over and coach is like ‘give me the playbook’.
I would go into the dorm at night, wake up in the morning go out and order breakfast and I would come back to an empty room! They just cut three players! I didn’t even know! You would walk with teammates coming through the building and there would be the personnel guys who would sit there looking like a Grinch, like what are you going to do about it? And what are we going to, we’re scared. They don’t even look at us for months. That’s cold.”
Do you still have a relationship with the Bengals?
“I do. Actually I have connections with their trainers and coaches. I don’t have a bad relationship with the Bengals at all. They were good to me, and I understood it was a business. I understood that it wasn’t personal. I have made more money and impacted more people off the field than I ever did on it.”
I think that is incredible and this is the type of story that I love talking about. Unfortunately, people never want to talk about good news, or the players in the NFL and NBA that made it after their career was over. I interviewed Leonard Marshall recently and loved talking about his successes after the NFL.
“It’s an easy narrative to tell. Honestly, there are a lot of players who don’t help it out either. Hell, we do dumb shit all the time you know what I mean? (Laughs) However, when you get to the media they do enjoy talking about the negative. We are human beings like everybody else. There are politicians, there are congressmen who do the same shit or even worse, you know?”
Totally. Just like right now nobody is going to report when I do something stupid on Twitter!
“Not only that, what the media does not report is what the players do for all these charities and all these donations. You will never hear about all these great things that these players do!”
You are completely correct. It is not just athletics, as CNN did not become profitable until the Gulf War. Basically, bad news sells.
It’s what we like to do with heroes, we like to build them up to knock them down. Be it in music, Hollywood or sports.
Yeah, It’s true. Now let me share this with you. You go to Indianapolis and the experiences are surreal. It’s not what you think as a player when you go in there they are paying attention to everything you do off of the field. It is everything that you do.
For example it felt like a modern day slave trade. You have to enter the gymnasium in your boxers and there are a hundred coaches with their pens and papers staring at you and you are in a line with guys and are measuring you. They are measuring inches from your neck to your shoulder and stuff like that. Every aspect of your body is being measured, and they are talking about certain measurements say this is longer or that is longer and you are wondering ‘what the fuck are these guys talking about?’
That process…it stuck with me. I wanted to share that with you, it was just so weird. It was the weirdest thing I went through as a professional.”
The way you are describing it, it seems so dehumanizing.
“It is completely dehumanizing!”
I can’t even imagine it. Lloyd Carr was your Head Coach at Michigan. All I have ever read about Carr has been positive. Was he as good a coach as I have read?
“I love Lloyd Carr. Lloyd Carr was a player’s coach most definitely. He did a lot of things for young players that we really didn’t understand at the time. The players they got now, and I think they got a lot of good kids, but those who aren’t getting it, those who are smart ass kids, they should go to Noorthwestern! (Laughs)
He (Carr) took players lie myself from unordinary circumstances and taught us how to be men. He was literally teaching us how to do that. It was through literature, poetry anything you could think of. He would engage in his player’s lives, his door was always open. I mean that, there was nothing that you couldn’t talk to Lloyd about. The players loved Lloyd. You can’t tell us anything bad about Lloyd because we know what he did for us.
We didn’t have fathers, we were raised on the street and he turned us into men. He turned us into Michigan men. That’s why we bled blue so heavy. They took us from nothing and turned us into men. That’s why the Michigan bond is so strong.
People ask what are you talking about? You had books at your school, you had resources, you had your mom and dad. When I went to school I didn’t have any of that. I didn’t have anybody. I left to go 2,000 miles away and I didn’t know anybody. They had to make me feel pretty damn comfortable, especially for someone who never left the city (of Tacoma).”
No doubt. I imagine that first Michigan winter must have been fun.
“They lied to me man! Here’s the thing. I love Michigan to death, but they told me that it was going to snow in January. I’m from the West Coast, we don’t deal with that! Well, it snowed the first week in October. (Laughs) I’m freaking out! Not just snow, I‘m talking Canadian snow! I couldn’t get used to it. I didn’t go to class. I’d look out the window and see that and would go right back to sleep. (Laughs)
You wouldn’t want to visit me right now!
“(Laughs) People told me all the time that ‘you must be used to it’, and no I don’t get used to that. Haven’t you noticed that black people don’t like the winter? Didn’t you get the memo? (Laughs)”
My best friend is Jamaican, he is still not used to it!
“Another thing though with Michigan was that I didn’t know I was going to play defense. That is one grudge that I hold against Michigan. It changed my whole career you know what I mean? It changed everything.
I had offers to go anywhere in the country to play at the position that I wanted to play and I wasn’t told (by Michigan) that I was going to play Defensive End or Linebacker or whatever the hell they decided to put me at. I never would have went there if I would have known that.
That must have killed you inside.
“That was where the heartbreak begins. I led the West Coast in yards, catches and touchdowns and I was better than anyone around me at catching the ball. I really felt that way. In my first day I ran three routes and all of the sudden they tell me to come over here. Come over here? Why am I coming over here? All the other receivers are right here!
They didn’t even move me to Tight End, they moved me to the defensive side of the ball. It pissed me off and I am still outraged to this day about it. I am still outraged. It changed my whole life. I was a touchdown, end zone, entertainment highlight; I was the show. I was always the show. I would score four touchdowns a game, I would dance and to not be able to do that anymore it minimized me. It put me in deep depressions for years.”
I think we got robbed of seeing some innovative Larry Stevens touchdown dances!
“(Laughs). I used to do stuff all the time! If you look at the history of our state I was in the newspaper every day. You would always see my picture, and I would talk crap all the time. I would talk to crap to everybody and back it up every single time. I would be at the line of scrimmage at a game and I would talk to the three corners they put on me. Did you ever see three guys cover a Wide Receiver? (laughs) But I would still burn them!
Talking crap wasn’t about making an opponent feeling belittled, which would happen, but that wasn’t the reason I did it. I talked crap because it forced me to play at a high level. It forced me to back up everything that I said. I am a back against the wall kind of guy, that’s the kind of guy that I am.”
I totally understand that. If you are going set goals and dream anyway, they might as well be big.
Now I ask a lot of football players, but I am curious if you have a different take on this. The NFL has changed a lot of rules to better protect Wide Receivers and Quarterback and protect against concussions. As someone who played defense in College, Special Teams in the NFL and offense in High School, how do you feel about the new rule changes and the move towards greater player safety?
“It’s a big deal. My health right now is horrible. My spine, my shoulder, my arthritis, the bulged discs, the concussions; it’s all from Football. Playing Special Teams, and that was one of the biggest rules they changed was where they kick the ball of from.[xv]
There were times when I would hit guys and I couldn’t feel the whole right side of my body. My arm and my leg would be numb. You would go down field and there would be a wedge buster, and I had never played special teams and I am told to hit number three.[xvi] Number three, who is number two, what the fuck are you talking about?
Here’s the thing; you’re breaking a wedge and there’s three of them and your coach tells you the only way you’re going to make the team is if you go nose to nose with number 2. Nose to nose with number 2? What does the hell does that mean? There’s three of them! Well, that is the guy in the middle. If I don’t hit helmet to helmet with guy, it’s going to be an alley and they are going to run it back. I have to shock this guy up, and I had to do that five or six times in a game, and it hurt! I can’t tell you how bad it hurt.
These are kickoffs where everyone is running full speed. These men are gladiators! So was I, I was an NFL player, but some of these guys were more “gladiator” than I was! If there was still slavery, they would have went first on the ship! (Laughs) You can laugh at that, go ahead man!”
(Laughs) I have extra white guilt, my father is from Germany so I have that going for me too!
“(Laughs) That’s hilarious.
[i]The Notinhalloffame Podcast will launch this summer.
[ii]This is no exaggeration. I found countless articles where people in Washington were stunned that he left not only the state but the west coast in general.
[iii]The AAU stands for the American Amateur Union.
[iv]This is the website for the company. http://www.thepro2u.com
[v]This is their website: http://www.huddlepass.com
[vi]An ESPN article commented on the huge loss for the University of Washington to not be able to sign Stevens.
[vii]Neuheisel was the Head Coach for the University of Washington at the time.
[viii]Schembechler was the Head Coach for Michigan from 1969 to 1989.
[ix]Michigan went to the Rose Bowl in 1977, 1978 and 1979 in that time frame.
[x]That was in 2003 where the Wolverines won 35 to 21. Making that game bigger at the time was that Michigan entered the game ranked at #5 and the Ohio State Buckeyes went into the game ranked at #4.
[xi]Michigan Stadium’s capacity is 109,901, which is the highest in all of Football. Third in capacity in the NCAA is Buckeye Stadium with 104,944, Stevens biggest rival in college. The highest capacity football field in the NFL is MetLife Stadium where the New York Giants and New York Jets play with 82,566 people. That still only puts it 16th in Football capacity in the United States.
[xii]It’s true, division rivals, Wisconsin, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana and Northwestern have stadium sizes half the size, and those are still large venues!
[xiii]A “tweener” is this case refers to a defensive player who is skilled but doesn’t necessarily fit the role of current positions in defensive schemes in the National Football League.
[xiv]Hunley was one of the Defensive Coaches for the Bengals at the time.
[xv]The kickoff change in 2011 was when the ball was kicked from the 35 Yard line instead of the 30 Yard Line, which was designed to limit the amount of kickoff returns and increase touchbacks.
[xvi]The wedge formation was made illegal in 2009. Basically three of the biggest men on special teams were linked together to block for the runner. The “wedge buster” was designed to break them up. Any wonder why those kickoff team is often referred to as the “Suicide Squad”?
There are many of you who are reading this and are familiar with Daniel Puder from his stint in the WWE where he won the 2004 Tough Enough competition and from his title as an Undefeated Mixed Martial Arts Fighter. That alone is impressive, but that wasn’t why I wanted to talk to Daniel; in fact in my conversation with Daniel, those topics were only a sidebar on the narrative.
What he is known for now in many communities across the United States is for his creation of a new program to confront the bullying problem that has plagued schools across the country. And, he is doing so in a ground breaking way by going after the problem at the source instead of just delivering speeches on the topic.
As Daniel explained to me, dictating to kids about how they shouldn’t bully their peers without giving them the rationale as to why it is wrong or finding out why they engaged those activities to begin with is nothing more than a cosmetic solution.
He’s right, as when “establishment” dictates what is right and wrong, and this is regardless of what celebrity is involved in giving the message it is like throwing fresh paint on an old house. It may still look good on the outside when driving by and give an illusion that everything looks fine, but it is all for show. The pipes are rusted, the foundation is cracked and the roof is one good wind away from needing repair.
Recognizing this, Daniel Puder created the “My Life, My Power” program which he and I had the opportunity to discuss in great detail and how he intends to continue rolling it out internationally and the great strides he has made so far in such a short period of time.[i]
With the way that Daniel has been challenging the existing system from the inside out, I can only wonder what would happen if he tried to execute the ills of the American political system from within. Based on the relationships he is forging and the determination he is showing in the My Life My Power project, we would not be surprised to see him in that arena, and if so, I would be hard pressed to bet against him.
The first thing that I want to do is congratulate you on your endeavour with “My Life, My Power”. I have done a lot of research on this project and I think it is just an amazing thing that you are doing. I am curious when you first envisioned this?
“October 2010. I got on national TV and said with all the anti-bullying and anti-suicide messages that were being discussed, that I would come to your school if you are being bullied and talk about it. We got over 10,000 emails from over twelve different countries in about eight weeks.”
That’s quite a lot!
“It is. What it really came down to is looking at what the root problems really are before going out there and trying to figure out the solution. It’s like going to the doctor if you don’t know it’s broken, how do you know how to fix it?
That’s where we started. During the first year, we really tried to figure out what’s going on with our youth by visiting communities, schools, students, teachers and principals. The next year, we started developing a curriculum and an overview to teach kids at a younger age how to deal with challenges, and how to become more successful and learn from that and grow and gain more wisdom and make the right decisions.
We really put something together in the last four years where our program and platform is being used and implemented across the country. We just launched in Burundi and Mexico last month. Next year, we are expected to be in China, Vietnam and Cambodia. We are working on a contract right now. It’s pretty great.”
I think I want to ask specifically how this became a personal issue for you. Was this something that stemmed from your childhood, or something you witnessed? Basically, why did this become your main cause?
“When I was a kid they put me in special ed classes because they said I had learning disabilities. I like to call them learning differences and the challenge is that they put a lot of kids is these classes and school is built for one type of person and they want to throw people who learn in different ways in special ed, which to me is insane.
I looked at how I was picked on and bullied continuously when I was a kid and I brought it back to how the system needs some changes and how parents need to be more involved. I really took it from my past and said that we need to put something in place to fix these similar issues that I faced when I was a kid.
Right now the kids are still doing it but its even worse. The value system is all off with what is "cool". If you don’t have the latest cell phone you’re not cool. It’s ten times worse today because we have more stuff.
Going through research, I found that the national average that a parent spends with their kid is about three minutes a day of undivided attention. Then you look at the U.S., and you see that we are number one in prison population, we are number one in divorces, number seventeen in education, number forty-six in the freedom of press. You look at the entire system that is going in a direction that we don’t want it to go but most people aren’t willing to spend the time to fix it.”
I really like the way you are tackling it from a different point, going to the root of the problem, and focusing on the bullies, while still acknowledging the bullied. I don’t recall a whole lot of people approaching it from that angle before.
“You see all these campaigns right? I just had a guy named Kareem Rush contact me; a former NBA player. I haven’t met him yet I am going to meet him in about two weeks in L.A.. I talked to his PR people and he is about to launch his music career and he wants to do something with bullying, it’s his passion.
I said ‘All right, does he want to do a campaign or does he want to solve it?’ Because the ‘War on Drugs’, the anti-cigarette campaigns, the anti-drinking and driving campaigns; you still see people doing drugs from forty years ago. Why didn’t it solve it? How are you impacting the subconscious mind? Why did it (drug use) grow? How do you get to the root problem and solve it? His team said “He wants to fix the problem”
So what me and my team did was create an approach, or taken other proven and effective approaches that are out there, like motivational and interviewing which a lot of successful counselors and psychologists use. We just made it friendly for kids and adults, where it’s very simplistic. We just ask a series of questions and get them to really focus in on their vision while understanding their purpose and creating a mission to be able to get to their long term goals. We've basically developed it in a way that doesn't feel like a therapy or counselling session, but instead it's fun and interactive for their futures!
What have you found is the common thread of the bullies? Is there something that they have that distinguishes them somewhat?
It’s pain, hurt and fear. Pain from other people hurting them and fear from the unknown or from feeling insignificant. They haven’t received enough love, they are trying to get their next fulfillment. When you give three minutes of undivided attention to a kid per day and you buy them two hundred dollars worth of toys for their birthday, but with only those three minutes per day, how do you expect them to have any self-worth? There is an obvious disconnect. Their value is in things and not themselves.
And this is something that's not just across country. I have been to Canada, the U.K., Japan and Mexico and I have seen this downfall of time and effort towards our children and even ourselves. There is less peace in our lives and more stress. It’s all perspective. I was just in Mexico, where I was in Leon, Mexico and helping an orphan on the street. That is what a harsh life is.”
I think also too the message coming from yourself, someone who has been in multiple sports locker rooms, someone who is as physically imposing as you are. Do you think this helps kids identify better with you? I don’t mean this in a bad way, but you look like the kind of guy who would be on the other side of it.
“Correct. I agree with you. People go ‘you were bullied as a kid?’ and I show them a picture of what I looked like as a kid. The reason I got to where I am, is that I surrounded myself with good people in my life, who became my mentors and I listened to their advice and direction. I walk into some classrooms and they go “come on, you’re the big tough guy, wouldn’t you be the guy to pick fights?’ and I go ‘no, I want to build relationships, I want to help others.
I think looks are very deceiving. I think a lot of people value looks and first impressions and don't really take the time to understand what’s really going on people’s lives.”
Indirectly I think that helps you break stereotypes, which I love doing myself, especially when I am talking to athletes like yourself. I love breaking down the myth that athletes only think about sports and are one-dimensional people.
“I think that’s the challenge, right? For instance, look at the NBA players. I think the last stat I saw was that 86 percent of them are either broke or divorced within three years of retiring from playing. In the NFL, it’s in the 90 percentile. You look at some of these guys and they’re doing dumb stuff, but you have to look at why they are doing it. You have to look at what’s really going on in their lives to cause them to act a certain way.
It’s the fast fulfilment, it’s the partying, it’s the drugs, the things that have instant gratification, and then it’s taken away one day and then they begin to stress out, you know? They can’t deal with it.”
It is too common. I was just talking to Leonard Marshall, a former New York Giant who bucked that trend and became very successful after football, and spends a lot of his time mentoring youngsters and with other philanthropic endeavours.
Would I be able to ask a few questions about your past athletic career?
I won’t go into the Kurt Angle thing, you’ve been asked that to death. I saw that great YouTube thing you did with Jimmy Korderas[ii] that sums it all up.[iii]
That was great by the way! I don’t think anything more needs to be said on the subject, and I am sure that you are looking forward to when you are not asked about that on a regular basis. Saying that, what I have been trying to figure out as a wrestling fan is why they used you so poorly.
Specifically, I am thinking of the 2005 Royal Rumble it almost appeared that they had you out there specifically to be punished as you took some harsh knife edge chops during your stint in the match.
“I've heard different things. You know, at the end of the day, I stuck to my guns. I wouldn’t go out and drink with the guys and in the WWE, like other industries, they like when people simply follow. I was one of those guys who would show up well before time, help with setting up the ring and do all of that stuff.
It’s interesting how some people who like to talk smack or just don’t like you for whatever reason. The people in charge, Vince (McMahon) has the ultimate say so on that, and at the end of the day he would have had a guy who would have really busted his butt for him. But he didn’t want that. He actually offered me a crappy deal at the end of the first year and there was no way that I was going to deal with a company that wants to low ball based upon doing everything I was supposed to do.”
And just going back to that moment when Koreras saved Kurt Angle from you breaking his arm. I look back at that at that as almost a perfect theme to what you are doing now. Angle was in there to bully you and the other Tough Enough contestants.[iv]
“Yes. It was to pick on us and make us look bad. You know if you really look at people’s objectives and motives, they (the WWE) have an anti-bullying campaign, but I’ll tell you right now, from my experience and research in the topic of bullying, you don’t just solve bullying by talking about it. You don’t solve drug abuse by talking about drugs, you don’t solve gang violence by talking about gangs. You solve these things by tackling the problem, which is the root core issue, and then getting them engaged on something positive toward a successful future. You have to give their life meaning and value.
It’s interesting to see how a billion dollar company would want to go to a couple of schools and talk about bullying so that they don’t look bad for their investors.”
I wanted to ask you a question about your Mixed Martial Arts career, and I apologize, as I am sure that a lot of people have probably asked you about this before. You have an undefeated 8 and 0 record.[v] Did Dana White ever contact you to work for his organization? I would think that with your record and the notoriety that you had, that it would be a given that they would have reached out to you at some point.
“The first time they contacted me was after Tough Enough and he wanted me to do the first season of Ultimate Fighter. It was five hundred bucks a week and I was making five thousand (with the WWE). That wasn’t guaranteed, and I had a guarantee (with the WWE) so it wasn’t my first choice.
When I got out of the WWE, we met to go over contracts, but it just didn’t jive and there was one other point where I met with them and it just wasn’t the right contract and just wasn’t the right timing.”
Is that something you would think of going back to or is what you are doing with My Life, My Power your main focus, and you are much happier with that?
“I love what I’m doing now. It’s a harder fight than actually fighting. To be able to build a program in a field where a good portion of the kids and parents don’t care. Parents don’t spend the money or the time, or they think the school is taking care of that for them. The schools don’t have any money, the principals are overwhelmed, the streets have too many issues, the school counselors often don’t have enough time, like in California where it is an average of eight hundred kids to one counselor. So, you have a system where there is no budget, no time and no value of taking care of and maintaining mental health.
We have been able implement My Life My Power into the juvenile justice system where kids are court ordered by judges to go through our program and become mentored by police officers, who have been trained on our program, within their schools. We just got the FBI, DEA, Homeland Security, ATF, U.S. Marshalls and the HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program of South Florida aboard so that their agents can start going through our training and become mentors to kids.
We’ve gone from nothing to implementing a new approach and a new way to deal with positively changing the mindset of our youth. Going back to your original question, I love what I’m doing right now and I’m trying to go for a bigger challenge and we have some interesting projects coming up and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Are there any that you could share with us?
“With our new platform, we’re really spending a lot of time in Houston, Texas and Florida. We’re getting the Feds on board now, and we have seven police chiefs providing their support here locally in Florida. We have just pitched Nova Southeastern University to implement a credited curriculum college course based on My Life My Power and they are potentially talking about having a faculty for the mentors and the mentees in the education department.
We’re looking at how can take the most proactive approach by starting with kids when they are in elementary school and working with them throughout their entire schooling. Also, how can we take the next generation of teachers and educators and provide them with the right amount of wisdom and skills so that when they walk into a classroom, they can have the most effective and efficient students based upon their approach and how they mentor a kid, so that they can build the necessary relationships and trust.
We have something else that we are launching, which is called “Spare Change for Real Change”. This is a program to raise money for our non-profit so that we can donate our program to underprivileged youth and schools who cannot afford it. Also, another big project that we have been working on over the last couple of months, is our "Think Tank" where we have some of the leaders of the most influential government agencies, and they all get together to discuss how we can create the biggest impact with long term change possible!
On a side note, did you know that we can base the number of prisons that must be built depending on a generation of third graders. That’s how prisons are built in the U.S., where we have gone from about two hundred thousand inmates to about three million in the last thirty years.”
That’s a scary statistic.
“For instance, in Florida, 43 to 46 percent of kids get rearrested in Miami-Dade County, that’s about 3,500 kids. Something is clearly wrong with these numbers. However, we can actually lend a hand to the system and give them alternative ways to fix a kid and change their mindset with the My Life My Power Program.
We also have a military transition program, which we haven’t announced yet…I guess we just did! (laughs) It was launched in Fort Hood about two months ago and now my buddy who is over there now; actually I will read you his text, it makes me so happy:
‘One of our guys is going to go back to the hospital today and do my weekly recruiting.’
What he’s doing is going to the military hospital and looking for men and women who need some encouragement and have a desire to help our future generation! He then helps them by having them come out and talk about their challenges and what they have gone through and rebuild their values and gain fulfillment in their life with our program.
Everything currently has a flow problem. For example, you have a kid in jail, he gets out and now what? He goes back to school, he is on probation but what happens to prevent it from happening again? What we do is expose them to our program while in juvenile hall so that they want to be mentored and at that point not only is the kid going to be mentored by an officer in school, but they will be mentored weekly and that's when we truly begin changing lives.
We are recreating the system so that we can make a bigger impact long term instead of just doing what most people do, which is always the same where they say ‘Let’s say no bullying’. If you’re going to tell people ‘Let’s say no to bullying’ or ‘Let’s say no to drugs’, why would they change if you just tell them what not to do? They’re going to look at you and go ‘You don’t know what I’m going through? You don’t know my problem?’
It has to begin by solving the root core issue, so when I say we are going after bullying, or any other challenge, whether it is drugs, gangs, school challenges, or home challenges, we now teach adults, kids, and parents how to deal with what they are going through and to help them get to where they want to go by providing them with the tools needed.”
Is there anything you would like to promote?
“Absolutely! If there is anybody out there that wants to be a part of this, be it at one of our charity events or take some time and mentor a kid, we would love to have more people help us solve problems within the community. Once you start going through the program and you start making these great relationships with teachers, principals, cops, community leaders, lawyers, this and that; it really helps you grow in your own life too! Now you’re serving the community and it is the community that can help you grow into whatever you want to do.
Thank you so much for your time!
[i]This is the link to his website: http://www.mylifemypower.org
[ii]Jimmy Korderas was the referee in the ring during the Kurt Angle/Daniel Puder Tough Enough altercation.
[iii]This the YouTube with Puder and Korderas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cgyhODv7bM
[iv]For those not aware of the scenario, Angle was in the ring with the Tough Enough contestants where they were shoot wrestling. Angle, a former Olympic Gold Medalist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics was expected to defeat all completion handily. As Korderas explained the above mentioned YouTube video, he deliberately counted Puder’s shoulder to the mat to save Angle, not only from the injury but from embarrassment.
[v]That record may not have been in the UFC, but it was with very reputable Mixed Martial Arts companies, mostly with the respected Strikeforce organization.
Owning this website allows me not only to interview athletes but debunk the myth that all athletes are just “dumb jocks”. Rules may be made to broken, but stereotypes are made to be shattered, and after speaking to multiple athletes from the NHL, MLB, NBA, and the WWE, I can say that unequivocally that some of the most intelligent and well rounded people I have ever talked to in the last year have had an athletic past.
Granted, there have been many publicized instances where we see athletes who have gone through millions of dollars and have declared bankruptcy within a few years after retirement. Those are the stories that are sexy to the media, though when a former player excels in multiple careers outside of athletics, it rarely gets coverage; it just isn’t a sexy story.
This is one of those reasons that we need to talk about Leonard Marshall, a three time Pro Bowl selection and two time Super Bowl winner with the New York Giants, who not only excelled on the gridiron but mastered every endeavour off of it.
Leonard Marshall has succeeded at becoming a financial wizard, a broadcaster, a writer, an entrepreneur, an educator, a mentor and a philanthropist.
Let’s put it this way. If Leonard told me that he was going to walk on the moon one day, I wouldn’t put it past him, and it was a joy to speak to someone so dedicated to giving back to those willing to help themselves.
I had the opportunity to chat with Leonard Marshall about his post NFL career, his path to success, and some moments he had with the New York Giants.
The first thing I wanted to do is commend you on all of your post NFL endeavours. So many times the media talks about former NFL athletes who have fallen under hard times after they retire, but you clearly had a game plan in place long before you hung up the cleats.
I am curious how early in your career that you decided that when you were done playing football that you were going to do execute all of those plans?
“In my second year in the NFL, I took a more proactive approach to what I wanted my legacy to be and how I would go about building that legacy. Like most kids when they come in the game I had the goal to play ten years, but I also had the goal to graduate from college, which is something I did not complete during my athletic career at Louisiana State University. I actually left school early to turn professional.[i]
So the challenge was to get myself hooked up with the right people in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area that would enable me to go back to school and help set myself apart from others who didn’t think like I did.”
You did that with Seton Hall right?
“No, my undergrad education was with Fairleigh Dickinson University, which is based in Teaneck, New Jersey near Hackensack. My studies were in Edwin Williams College, and there was a dean there, Kenneth Vehrkens.
At the time, my teammate, George Martin was helping Dr. Joel Goldberg and the New York Giants implement a program for continued education for players, in particular young players that had just joined the New York Giants.[ii]”
Obviously the mindset was that you still wanted to play a lot longer in the NFL, but that was when you developed your exit strategy; especially if heaven forbid, you get injured and can’t play any more. As a Football player, you had seen that multiple times, and when we’re young, we think we are immortal, but reality sets in sooner or later.
“Absolutely correct. My thing was one, if I were to get injured before I get vested, I wanted to make sure that I had my education in place because I’m going to need it to go out and get a job.[iii] However my goal (on the field) was to become vested, would happen when I made my fourth NFL season.”
Was there something specific that you had in mind following football? You are one of the early NFL entrepreneurs and you had your hand in so many activities following football. You had a clothing company, you were in the financial field, you were a broadcaster; was there one of those fields that you were looking at first?
“My interest was always in the area of finance and that began at my days at LSU. I’ve always had these entrepreneurial aspirations and trying to understand money, the power of money, what money can do for you and how money can work against you. I’ve always had that as part of DNA. So I ventured down that path and got deeper into it while attending Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Thereafter in 1991 after the second Super Bowl I was able to graduate and I graduated after taking a class every season while playing all the way up until 1991. I didn’t take any class in the off season, I only did it during the season because I found that it made me focus a little bit better. I really don’t know why, but I found my focus was just there during the season. It kept the intensity level up, and I looked at it as a challenge. But being young, you can do those types of things, you know? (laughs).”
Oh, I know!
“With some of the leadership provided to me and the encouragement provided to me by my teammate, George Martin and Dr. Joel Goldberg I wanted to best I could every day and every week and I was able to advantage of those opportunities to continue to grow.”[iv]
I notice too that you have also been very big in philanthropy. Is that something that extends to try to give back to the current Giants? Unfortunately, we have seen so many who have spent so much money, this despite many of them making considerably more money than you did, and you did very well during your playing days.
“Yes. The thing with that is with the philanthropic piece is that someone helped Leonard Marshall along the way to achieve the goals, the dreams and the aspirations along the way both as a player and as a human being. I always took that to heart and told myself that if I could ever get into a situation where I could help somebody or give advice, and give somebody a hand up and not a hand out and enable someone to help their situation and become successful that I would do it without hesitation. Since my playing days and beyond I’ve always given to people who were in dire need.”
Have you been mentoring any current football players?
“Yes I am. It’s funny you say that. I am mentoring a young man named Wesley McKoy. He’s African-American. He’s a Quarterback.[v] He goes to Don Bosco Prep, a high-end parochial school in New Jersey. Don Bosco Prep is probably the number one sports program for football in the country.[vi] He’s on the verge of accomplishing some amazing goals and he’s being entertained by Boston College and Yale University in terms of a scholarship.”
“This young man is unbelievable.”
You also coached high school football for a brief spell did you not?
“I sure did. I was the head football coach at Hudson Catholic High School in Jersey City, New Jersey. I coached there for one season and I coached there because I thought I could make a difference. The school had some problems, and I didn’t think that the President of the school understood what I was trying to do with the football program.
I felt like he was more in tune with competition (with me) versus what was good for the kids and the football program. I took a program that wasn’t winning and taught a lot of young kids how to play football and made them believe that they could win again. I felt like I did something good, but for some reason they just didn’t see it the way I saw it and it created a problem for me. I’m always about solutions and doing good so I decided that I would resign and just leave the school.”
Another thing that you were successful doing, and it seems like every football player, and not just football in terms of athletics, looks to become a broadcaster of some sort. You were able to accomplish that.”
“Yes I did.”
I think also you were a natural for it. You have a funny and outgoing personality and you’re not shy to give your opinion but are not looking to do so in a malicious way. Was that a hard transition for you to go to athlete to broadcaster and put in a position where you may be forced to criticize friends of yours? I can’t imagine that this is an easy thing to do.
“It’s not an easy transition but as long as you keep it professional and don’t make it personal. You talk about the basics of the game, the basics of the position and how it should be played and the integrity in which it’s played with, and never make it personal. As long as you keep it that way, you’re good. It’s when you take it to another level and make it personal and act bitter or have an axe to grind that you can have problems.”
I believe you never had that issue once during your career.
“Not even once. I’ve never had that happen. I have had people take pot shots at me in terms of my ability to play the game at a high level. I’ve had people question if I still have a love for the game. Those people that took the personal route, those were people that I felt were jealous and wished they could have been doing what I did and wished that they could do it as well as I did for a long period of time.”
Is broadcasting something that you would think about going back to?
“Well I actually work with the New York Giants now doing post game work on WFAN which is on CBS Radio. I have done three games this season. I would love to continue to do broadcasting work. Prior to working with the New York Giants I worked in Florida with a sports radio program covering the Miami Dolphins in South Florida and prior to that I worked with Howard Stern for six years on the radio.”
Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that! You are one of the few athletes that he is aware of. He openly talks about how he doesn’t really follow sports. I certainly remember the old WPIX days.[vii]
“Howard and I were very good friends, we are still very good friends. It’s funny because today I was on the phone with his (Stern’s) Don Buchwald and my agent, James DeFalco in regards to doing something about concussions and I would love some participation from Howard.[viii] Yeah, I really enjoyed doing the broadcasting stuff.”
That had to be so much fun working with Howard and witnessing all the interesting stuff that went on there!
“Yes, Oh yes!”
Are their any great stories you could share?
“A good Howard Stern story?”
“Ahh, let’s see a good Howard Stern story. In 1991 Howard Stern and I made a bet and you can find this on line, the Giants were playing the San Francisco 49ers in California and we were a team of destiny that year. We lost to San Francisco (earlier in the year) on a Monday Night Game in a score that was 7 to 3. Howard and I made a bet on the air that if we met again that we would win and if we won the game, he would have to kiss my butt, and shine my shoes, like Sambo the shoeshine boy outside of the studio of WXRK radio in Manhattan. If we lost the game to San Francisco, I would have to do the same for him I would have to kiss his butt and shine his shoes on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.[ix]
Well I want you to know, Mr. Stern lost the bet! I actually made Mr. Stern pay off the bet. It was funny as hell as there was some 10,000 people out in the streets hanging from the rafters on Madison Avenue to see it. It was totally hilarious!”
Now that you bring this up, I remember seeing this in the WPIX show!
“Yes, it was the funniest thing!”
You mentioned something before, and I wanted to ask you about, which is the work that you are doing with concussions. The last football player that I interviewed, Kyle Turley, was open about how he felt that the NFL had not done a good job in dealing with the issue. I know that you have been open about concussion symptoms that you feel that you are having now. I am curious if you feel the same way that Kyle does in that the NFL has not done enough, or have they addressed it to a certain level, and if so, where do they go from here?
“Well at least the NFL is trying to do the right thing. They’re trying to do the right thing to bring awareness to the situation and they are trying to treat families that have players that have been severely injured as a result of dealing with traumatic brain injury or guys that have certain illnesses as a result of brain injury while playing in the National Football League.
There are cases like Kevin Turner and the likes of others that the NFL are addressing on a daily basis.[x] This work has been done quietly. There are some players that think that the NFL should publically make statements and publically address this and address the disconnect that they’ve had.
I say that the NFL and the fact that they have admitted that they would pay 700 plus million dollars, which now the number is up over a billion dollars and sixty-five years of health care for players that have debilitating illnesses associated with traumatic brain injury. That in itself answers a bunch of that in terms of the NFL’s commitment.
I think players need to come to the reality of that this is far as its going to go and that we should be happy that we were able to substantiate that there was something wrong and have them admit that there was something wrong by making payments to players and their families that have been injured and maimed from playing the game of professional football.”
Do you think that will happen?
“I think it will happen. The long term settlement was agreed upon and the judge just ruled in favor of the players and they are just fine tuning the deal right now. I think we will see a disbursement of funds as early as January of 2015.”
Do you think that will all benefit former players? I know that when I have talked with some of the former NFL players, and I am specifically referring to the generation before you, that they have felt that they have not been taken care of and that current players have ignored their plight.
“There are some guys that, and I am going to say pre-1960, some of those guys I feel bad for. Some of those guys were pre union. I don’t think that the union was formed until 1968, which I think my former college coach, Jerry Stovall had a hand in helping form the union that we live by now in the National Football League.[xi] The way he told the story when he and I sat down a few months ago, and I always talk to him about this is that back during those times those guys couldn’t wait until the season was over because most of them made just as much money working in the off season that they did while playing the game. A bunch of them needed that job in the off-season. They had children, wives, mortgages, needs, private school, you know they had things they needed to take care of and those things required a commitment.
In most cases, those that had those children and I’m talking two or three kids, and this was their wives could not work. So the reason for forming a union was to make sure that they had a pension, though he (Stovall) said a pension wasn’t even a top priority. The top priority was to make sure that they had health insurance or some form of insurance that would take care of them if they were injured and be able to take care of their family.
The other piece was trying to help them transition into another phase of their lives, which they were never able to firmly accomplish. Now when he (Stovall) look back at the union now and the players that he helped put in the National Football League and mentored into the National Football League, he says now that ‘I am so honoured that I had my hand in putting that whole process together’. He continued that this NFL, which he knew as the old AFL or AFC or whatever you want to call it, that this thing now has become a real institution. He said that he didn’t know what would happen with this thing those many years ago when there was only sixteen teams, and you only played so many games and only got paid so much money.”
Going back to what we were discussing, the rules in the NFL have changed somewhat, and you being on the defensive side of the football would not be able to do some of the things today that you were able to do before. Is this something that you think is good for the game and protecting the offensive players?
“I think some of the new rules do protect the players, specifically hitting with the head, which protects the player and the integrity of the game. I think it will limit a lot of the sever head injuries that we see. I think that some of the hits that were back in the day when I played would be considered totally outlandish in today’s game, especially my hit against Joe Montana or a couple of Quarterbacks that I hit directly with my helmet. I think those hits would have been deemed huge fines if I were playing today based in the rules then.”
That hit you did on Joe Montana; I don’t know if you have ever Googled your name but that is the first thing that comes up.[xii]
“I would probably figure that it would be the case. It was a violent football play but you know people have to understand that all I was doing was my job; what I was taught and trained to do, which is play the game at a high level and make a football play when given the opportunity.
I didn’t go out of my way to personally or physically to hurt Mr. Montana, I just went out to make a football play and help my team win. It just so happened that it ended up being an ugly football play in the eyes of the fan.”
Now you were able to retire on a one day contract with the New York Giants, which obviously is the team that you are mostly associated with. How important was it for you to go back and retire as a Giant?
“It was extremely important for me because it was where my career began and I always wanted to say that I played for one team in my career, and if I had a chance to do it all over again, and though I had a great time with the New York Jets and a great time with the Washington Redskins in the one year I spent at both of those places, but I really wish I would have spent my entire career with the New York Giants. I would have been able to go out playing in the 3-4 Defence with Lawrence Taylor and shaking his hand after twelve or thirteen seasons as a player and letting him know how much fun it was and an honor to work with him. It was an honor to win championships and to just try to win championships with him in New York.”
You grew up in Louisiana and you currently live in Florida, but despite that is your heart still in New York City?
“I will never get New York out of my system. I am back and forth to New York now. I used to teach at Seton Hall University and I am always back and forth between Florida and New York.”
I wanted to ask you about your relationship with Seton Hall. Can you tell me how that all came to be?
“Well, its funny because I have a very dear friend who happens to be an attorney named Deborah Gabry and Ms. Gabry and I maintained such a strong friendship that she asked me to play golf in an event for Seton Hall and in the foursome was one of the deans of the Stillman School of Business. The Dean actually won the right to play golf with me and I didn’t get a chance to play golf with the Dean.
So what I agreed to do is instead of play golf is to golf with the Dean and the children of the charity. We went to dinner one night and started talking and discussing my aspirations after football and how I could help people and young students that are looking to graduate from Seton Hall and get into their professional career as they leave and graduate from Seton Hall.
So I talked about one, being a mentor, and serving as a capacity as an executive in residence as well as doing some professing in the Stillman School of Business. One thing led to another and the next thing you know I’m serving as an executive in residence at Seton Hall. This was around 2004.”
“Yeah, it is.”
I know we talked about your love of philanthropy. Does it feel better to help a youngster than to make a crushing hit on the football field?
“I get a lot out of that because you know the phrase “as long as you are green you will continue to grow’? It’s when you think you’re ripe that you will begin to rotten.
I try to tell young people all the time to always be willing to learn and continue to grow. I think when you do that it gives you the best opportunity to win at the game at life.
My nineteen year old daughter, and this is the one thing that I always preach to her; ‘continue to grow, Arianna!’ Always ask questions, always be enamoured by what you can grow from the knowledge that someone can give you. That content is worth it’s weight in gold. If someone wants to give you that time and effort and energy, take the knowledge, just take it and let it become the driving force behind your success.”
I also wanted to congratulate you on being a successful author. Will we see a second book?
“Believe it or not I wrote one in 1986.”
Oh! I didn’t know that!
“Yes I did. It was entitled ‘The End of the Line’ and then I helped participate in a book called “What it means to be a Tiger” and it is about the greatest players at Louisiana State University. I am thinking about writing a fourth book right now.”
What would that be about?
“This one’s going to be more about a true story about a friend I had in New Jersey who was murdered in 1994.”
This would be something close to your heart and topical with what is going on today.
“Yes, very close to my heart. I will be collaborating with friends of mine who were close enough to us to make sure I can make this story to light.”
I can’t help but ask a few football related questions; can I do that?
The two Super Bowl Rings you won, where do you keep them?
“I keep them in a safe!”
When do you break them out? Is there an occasion where you say that you are putting on one of the rings?
“Every now and then, when I go to a charity event, or something to do with kids, and I’ll bring one of the rings out.”
I think it also worth noting that you had twelve post season sacks, there are so many defensive stars that can’t even say that one post season sack, let alone twelve. Were you one of those players that amped up even more for the big game, or were you already that dialled in? Was there a secret to your post season success?
“I think Bill Parcells challenging me as a player, and he would always put up challenges to guys. He always tried to bring out the best in me. My thing was the big time players will make the big plays in the game. They leave it all on the football field.
I always wanted to be a guy who was known as a playmaker, that something I did in a game made a difference. I wanted to be a guy where something that I did changed the outcome of the game. I can look back at every big time championship game that we played and see that somewhere in there I made a big time football play to help my team get into a better position to win.”
So who do you fell worse for? Hitting Joe Montana or watching Scott Norwood go wide right?[xiii]
“I think I felt worse for Scott Norwood for kicking that ball wide right. (laughs) No doubt. The Montana play was just a natural football play. That guy (Norwood) kicked field goals every day, and this day he just didn’t hit it right or something just went wrong.”
Growing up in Toronto and being in close proximity to Buffalo, it is just one of those cities, and I don’t want to dump on a city, but if there is any city that it’s going to happen to, it would be either Buffalo or Cleveland.[xiv]
When you still go back to New York, and with the dedicated Giants fans I am sure you are still recognized often. Are the fans as great as they seem?
“I love Giants fans, I tell you. I love them, I fool around with them a bit on twitter, I laugh and joke with them about the games as opposed to back in the day when we played. I have a little fun with them on game day. I find them all very humorous.”
One of our other projects that we have here is the Fictitious Athlete Hall of Fame, and we just announced our first class I have to ask what your favorite sports film is.
“Wow, that’s a good question. That’s a really good question. One of my favorite movies to watch, and I get a laugh out of it only because my teammate is in it is the Waterboy. The movie with Adam Sandler.”
Which teammate was in that?
Oh, that’s right, I forgot![xv]
“He’s in that movie and he tells the kids “Boys, don’t smoke crack!”[xvi] (laughs) I just have to laugh.”
He’s certainly one of the greatest defensive players of all time, if not the greatest.
“No doubt! And it was an honor to play along side of him! It was an honor to play with Harry Carson, Carl Banks, Pepper Johnson, George Martin, Gary Reason and that great cast of characters that made up our great defense in 1986 and 1990.
We had Bill Belichick and we trusted Bill more than any other coach on the field, because he was such a general every Sunday. I fee so strongly about Belichick and what he has accomplished that one day they will no longer call the Super Bowl Trophy, the Lombardi Award and that it will be called the Belichick Award. That is how I feel in my heart of hearts.”
What were your thoughts when he (Taylor) went into professional wrestling for a brief period?[xvii]
“I thought he was bananas. That’s Lawrence. That’s just the guy that he is. He’s such a gifted guy. He has more talent than anyone I ever met in my life. He had more tenaciousness than any guy I ever met in my life and it was an honor to work with the guy.”
I do have to say when I saw your website, Notinhalloffame.com, and what you do, I think that it’s such a farce that I’m not in it, although I was nominated in 2000. I’m the last of the 3-4 Defensive Lineman that almost one hundred quarterback sacks, I had two championship rings, three times all NFL, three Pro Bowls and not even considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame when my career matches Lee Roy Selmon and Howie Long, who both played the 3-4 Defense and is in the Hall of Fame.[xviii] I think it’s a farce that I’ve not been considered.”
Why do you think that is?
“I don’t know. I wish I had an answer for that.”
I will throw this out as a theory. Sometimes I think that the Hall of Fame puts too much premium on the amount of Pro Bowl selections.
“I think if you ask any Defensive Lineman who played in my era, Bruce Smith included will tell you that I deserve to be in Canton. The things I did, I not only rushed the Quarterback, but I played the runs as well as I rushed the Quarterback.”
It’s funny, I can’t hear your name without imagining it coming from Pat Summerall. You and that great Giants team seemed to be on every week.
“Yes, we were on a lot.”
Is there anything I can promote on your behalf?
“Yes there is. My company is Playbook Solutions Group, the website is psgfif.com, my personal website, leonardmarshall.com and my Facebook page which is www.facebook.com/leonardmarshall.”
Thank you so much for your time!
[i]Marshall was drafted in the second round (37th overall) by the New York Giants in 1983. He was the second Defensive End chosen behind Jim Jeffcoat, who went to the Cowboys in the first round.
[ii]Dr. Goldberg has initiated this program with many other professional teams and currently serves on the Board of Directors of seven companies.
[iii]Being vested meant that he would qualify for a full NFL pension.
[iv]Martin played for the Giants from 1975 to 1988, also at Defensive End. Martin was known for his ferocious pass rush and had 90 Quarterback Sacks in the NFL.
[v]This is a YouTube Highlight real of McKoys: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7p0X42Ihg-o
[vi] Current Minnesota Vikings Defensive Ends, Corey Wootton and Justin Trattou went there. So did former Green Bay Packers Running Back, Ryan Grant and Matt Simms, the backup Quarterback for the New York Jets and the son of Giants legend, and former teammate of Marshall’s Phil Simms.
[vii]Stern had a late night show on the New York station WPIX, which thanks to a satellite dish, allowed me to watch Stern. He was not available on the radio in Canada at the time where I lived.
[viii]In other interviews, Marshall expressed that he suffers from CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and is openly speaking on the issue.
[ix]That game would incidentally be the NFC Championship Game.
[x]Turner was a Fullback who played for the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. In 2010 he was diagnosed with ALS and has been involved in research that links ALS with CTE.
[xi]Stovall was a three time Pro Bowl selection with the St. Louis Cardinals.
[xii]This was the hit in question: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iv7-25q39hc
[xiii]Scott Norwood missed a 47 Yard Field Goal attempt that would have won the game for the Buffalo Bills, who lost Super Bowl XXX to Marshall’s Giants, 20 to 19.
[xiv]That Bills loss would trigger three more consecutive defeats in the Super Bowl. At the end of the decade, the Sabres would lose in the Stanley Cup Finals. To this day there has never been a title in the four major North American sports leagues.
[xv]How could I forget that considering what I do for a living!
[xvi]Here is that clip: http://youtu.be/nfHOQAT0-Mk
[xvii]Taylor headlined Wretlemania XI against Bam Bam Bigelow.
[xviii]Selmon entered the Hall of Fame in 1995, while Long entered in 2000.
The amount of players who have participated in the National Hockey League who have managed to make the elusive 50 Goal Club is an elusive one. It is one of those magical numbers in sports, akin to a .300 Batting Average in Baseball, 1,500 Rushing Yards in a season in Football, and a 20 Points per Game Average in the National Basketball Association.
Anyone who accomplishes those above feats receive All Star recognition of some kind, especially if you do that more than once, or take it to the next level; a feat that former Hockey superstar, Dennis Maruk accomplished when he had consecutive 50 Goal seasons and became one of the rare players to net 60 Goals in an NHL campaign.
Although this is a man who achieved those numbers and had an NHL career that nearly gave him 900 Points, he did so playing for three teams that no longer exist in their original incarnation. Maruk was a member of the California Golden Seals, the Cleveland Barons and the Minnesota North Stars (twice), and his greatest feats with the Washington Capitals, while although proved to be a good hockey market, still took a back seat to the glamour teams of the 1980’s.
Saying that, as a man who grew up watching the National Hockey League intensely in the 1980’s and one who studies the evolution of the game from the 1970’s, talking to a man who not only rose to prominence in the 1970’s, but what was one of the men who made the Washington Capitals relevant, a team that has emerged as one of the healthiest franchises in the National Hockey League in recent years.
Maruk is the holder of multiple records with the Washington Capitals, is the all time leading scorer for one defunct franchise, and was one of my favourite interviews that I have done.
I had the chance to speak with Dennis about his time in Oakland and Cleveland, his records in Washington, and the adversity he had to overcome as a smaller player in the NHL.
One of the first things I wanted to talk to you about, and this may sound a little weird is that I love 1970’s Hockey.[i]
For whatever reason, I watch a lot of it on YouTube or through other methods. With that in mind, you played for the London Knights in the OHL, a great hockey town, and in the National Hockey League, you went to Oakland to play professionally for the California Golden Seals. I have never talked to anyone who played there and I am really curious what the hockey culture was in Oakland and how you liked playing there?[ii]
It was a real exciting time for me because they drafted me out of junior hockey, the first pick of the second round, 21st overall and they gave me the opportunity to show what I could do.[iii] It was a young team, and not a team that was very strong but it gave me an opportunity to make the team, first of all and I had a pretty good season.[iv] Things worked out pretty good.
There was some older players, but there was a lot of young players, some of which coming up from the minors from Salt Lake City. We lost a lot of close games, but it was really exciting to play in Oakland Coliseum as a nineteen year old to play in California.”
So you had some really good fans then?
“Oh yeah, really good. We had quite a few sellouts, and the fans were really good. They (the Seals) had been there for seven years but they never had really strong teams. We had a fellow by the name of Krazy George, I don’t know if you remember him?”[v]
Yeah, I know he is.
“He would go around banging a snare drum. He would climb up on the glass and get the crowd riled up. He would do it for football games and other events too. He was very instrumental in getting the fans going in the building. Were the fans educated in the game of hockey? I think they were at times, but it was going to take more time to get them really invested. Then all of the sudden we had to move.
Did you or any of the other players see that coming?
“Not really. The owner at the time, who has since passed away, Mel Swig was looking to build a new arena in San Francisco on the other side of the BART, which is the big train system there.[vi] There was going to be a big shopping mall built there but at that time it was Mayor (George) Moscone and it was voted down 13-2 or something like that. So they decided to move the team.”
How was it moving from the exciting place of the Bay Area to Cleveland, Ohio?
“(Laughs) The mistake on the Lake? Is that what they call it?”
(Laughs). Yeah, I have been to both places and there is definitely a difference between the two! Now, granted, in my early 40’s I have a different perspective on things, but I can imagine that you being in your very early 20’s at the time had to have a very distinct experience. I know that at 22, I would have rather have been in California than Cleveland!
“Well, I think it was a shock at first for all of the players but we all knew that this was our job. Living in California and being able to go to San Francisco and have a lot of fun, not to mention San Jose and Oakland, and enjoying the nice weather, and now we’re going to Cleveland, which has had only a minor pro hockey team, we didn’t know how that would go.
We were in a beautiful building, the Richfield Coliseum, which was in the middle of nowhere land. It was a big building that seated about 21,000 and we didn’t get a lot of response there. I would say 10,000 in the building looked empty anyway. It was a beautiful rink but the people just didn’t go there.”
So you found the fans in Oakland far more receptive than the people in Cleveland?
“Yes. At that time yes.[vii] The support was not there in Cleveland and again, we were not a strong hockey club and maybe that part to do with it. That could have been it, but I just didn’t think it was the right fit. We even went through a situation where we were going to fold. I think we did for half a day. The NHL took over the insurance so that we could play.”
That’s got to be frustrating as a young hockey player, and not just for you but for the entire team. I can’t imagine what it’s like to go to work every day and have that uncertainty hanging over your head.
“I think at one point in time that they missed a pay check. We would normally get paid every two weeks and we didn’t get paid one time at the end of the month. That was frustrating, not knowing if it was going to last. As players, we didn’t know if we were going to put into a draft or be traded or where we were going to be.
There was one time when the team was going to fold and we were at a press conference and we were all sitting at the tables, and I put our pencils in there and said ‘three for a nickel’ or something. Let’s get some money to keep the team in Cleveland! We all knew at that point that this was going to happen until the league took care of the insurance. We had to play that night. Buffalo was in town and we had no idea whether the game was on or not until we finally got a phone call that said insurance was taken care of.
Those things were really frustrating as a player. You didn’t know where you were going to wind up, you didn’t know if your teammates were going to be with you, and that was exactly what happened. In the second year (in Cleveland) we merged with Minnesota.”
I believe that’s the only time in NHL history when that happened. You were only in Minnesota for a brief time until you returned in the mid-80’s. It’s funny how you think of the state of Minnesota, hockey is a sport synonymous with it, but the North Stars did have to relocate eventually. I am curious what your early memories were with the North Stars.
“I was told I was going to be traded in the summer, that they were going to stay with their centre and Lou Nanne (the North Stars GM) was looking for a first round pick for me. It went all summer and then he (Nanne) told me to come to Minnesota and that the people are going to love you.
I of course talked to my lawyer and found that there was a couple of teams were interested in me and that something was going to happen soon. I went to training camp and would only have one or two shifts in the games. After the second game of the season I was traded to Washington.[viii]
Would it be safe to say that this is the team you still identify with today?
“Yes, very much so. Washington, and Minnesota when I was traded back there from ’83 to ’89 and we had a strong club there. There were some great players there; Dino Ciccarelli, Neal Broten, Craig Hartsburg, Don Beaupre in net, Brad Maxwell, we had a good team. We made the playoffs and we did well in the Norris Division against St. Louis, Chicago, Toronto and we just couldn’t get by the Edmonton Oilers.[ix] They (the Oilers) were so powerful and strong in the mid-80’s and won all those Stanley Cups. It was very exciting to be in the playoffs and have an opportunity to win a Stanley Cup.”
A lot of people are not aware that you hold the single season scoring record for the Washington Capitals, a record that most people probably think is held by Alex Ovechkin. You actually hold that distinction by a wide margin.[x]
“Well, records are made to be broken. I was skiing in Aspen, Colorado when he broke my (single season) goal scoring record of surpassing 60 goals. He had 65 that year and he’s a great goal scorer. I’ve met him a few times and as matter of fact, I’m going to Washington this Saturday to be honoured as one of the top forty players of all time.[xi] That’s going to be my night, and that will be really nice.
He (Ovechkin) told me that there would be no way that he would get my Point total. That year I had 76 Assists along with 60 Goals, and of course I said that records are made to be broken, but maybe that one will be there for a long time.”[xii]
You also hold the distinction of being the last member of the California Seals and Cleveland Barons to be a member of the NHL.[xiii]
“Right. Longevity. That’s great I guess!”
I think so! Actually, you answered a question that before that I was going to ask you, which was what relationship you still have with the Washington Capitals, and obviously it’s a pretty good one.
“Yeah, it is pretty good. I go down there periodically and watch a few games. I will be going down there for the Winter Classic, where they play Chicago. They’re (the Capitals) are big in my heart, and I had great seasons there. They were extremely helpful in my situation and took care of me and I have a lot of respect for the Capital organization. Of course the teams I cheer for are Washington, Minnesota now Dallas and the Toronto Maple Leafs.”
And you just got a major mention in pop culture too! Your name was used on the show, “The Americans”.[xiv]
“(Laughs) Yeah, it’s kind of funny. My daughter and a lot of people were calling me about that. My daughter lives in Los Angeles and she’s got a Screen Actor’s Guild card and we made contact with them (the producers) and they said any time you are in New York to come by the set.
I said if you need a former 60 goal scorer for a cameo appearance let me know! It is always an honor when your name comes up, and then you hear it from other people and then there was a mention in the Washington Post about it.”
Actually, I could see you having a cameo as a Soviet spy!
“(Laughs) Yeah, with my fu manchu! That would be fun. I spoke with someone there, Joel Fields was his name, and the people there on set wanted me to send some autographed pictures and hey you never know!”
One thing I wanted to ask you is something I find a common thread in the NHL, where the league constantly doubts undersized players. You are 5’ 8’’, and you were overlooked to a certain level much like Theoren Fluery and Doug Gilmour who became stars, after posting huge numbers in Junior and then doing the same in the NHL. Did this add additional motivation for you to excel in the National Hockey League?
“It goes back to when I was 18, and I thought I was going to get drafted then, but they said I was too small but then my last year in junior I won the Red Tilson Award, which is the Most Valuable Player in junior and I had great numbers.[xv] I had 66 goals or something like that and then when I went to Oakland and they told me that I was going to play in the minors because I was too small and that I needed to get stronger and beef up.[xvi]
It just pushed me harder. There was an exhibition game against Los Angeles where I was matched up mostly against Marcel Dionne and I scored a couple of points and at that time I had no contract and I was told I was not going to be on the team and sent to the minors and (one of the executives) late Munson Campbell and the GM, Bill McCreary told me when we got back to Oakland that we would sign a new contract.
There you go! I always had to prove myself right to the last day and it was because I was a small guy that I had to prove it over and over. Things didn’t come easy. You had to work for it, you had to hit, you had to be aggressive at a time in the game when it was very aggressive hockey and to survive I had to do all that kind of stuff. That’s how I got respected. Not only could I score goals and make plays, but I could dish it back even at 5’ 8’’.
I always love asking athletes what they would do if they would wake up one morning and were the commissioner of the league. Asking you that question, what would you do if you had that role?
“(Laughs). As of today the one thing that the game is too wide open. I would go back to the rule where you can have interference. I don’t mean clutch and grab but slow a player down as it is too wide open. These guys are powerful and young players and they are so fast.
I would definitely go to three-on-three, come back with centre ice, I don’t like that long pass where a guy can go to the blue line and tip it in, you know, and start over again. I think they need to come back over the red line and come back that way. Bring back the center ice where there are more plays in the neutral ice and then go three-on-three when there’s a tie. It would pretty exciting to watch. I’ve done three-on-three before in games. It’s fun, there is going to be a goal and it would cut down on shootouts.”
Do you like the shootouts?
“I like the shootouts, there’s no doubt about it. I was involved in it years ago when I was coaching in the minors. I think as a fan it is entertaining, you have the great players going against top goalies, but I think again they really need to go right into the three-on-three.”
Is there anything that you are doing now that I can promote?
“I’m involved with a company called Drenchit. It’s a product that cleans equipment and gets rid of the bacteria and fungus. I’ve started up with that and it is a great company and we have been working with York University and taking care of their equipment. We’ve started working with different arenas and it’s going well. They are on line at www.drenchit.ca.”
I checked that out before our interview. It is one of those things that made me think, ‘how come nobody thought of that before?’
“It’s amazing. It’s a vegetable based product that is safe to use. One wash pack and your gear is bacteria and stink free for five weeks. The kit comes with a maintenance spray that can be also used on the skates and helmet and they include a mouth guard spray to keep the bacteria and yeast out of the mouth guards. The kit lasts five months and is great for fundraising for associations. Things are going very well with it.
I also have a hockey school in the summer called “Winning Techniques” just outside of Huntsville (Ontario) for five weeks of the summer; I’m there for the last two weeks of July and first three weeks of August. It is at www.winningtechniques.com.”
Thank you so much for your time!
[i]Incidentally, I had just watched Slap Shot prior to calling Dennis and saw the 30 for 30 Shorts on John Wensink taunting the entire Minnesota North Stars on December 1, 1977.
[ii]The California Golden Seals were part of the first wave of expansion in 1967. They joined the NHL along with the Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues.
[iii]That was in the 1975 NHL Draft.
[iv]Dennis finished third in Calder Trophy Voting that year, finishing behind Bryan Trottier (who won) and Glenn Resch both with the New York Islanders who were building a team that would dominate the NHL in a couple of years.
[v]“Krazy” George Henderson would gain fame as a professional male cheerleader. Living in the Bay Area, Krazy George was a staple at Seals games. He alleges that he created the “wave” which remains a popular activity done by fans to this day. This is a piece on him done by local television: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALuYj3ewRMQ
[vi]BART stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit, a name that became known to sporting fans during the 1989 World Series between the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants when an earthquake transpired during the Fall Classic.
[vii]History proved Dennis right. Eventually, the Bay Area had a proven franchise in the San Jose Sharks, and Cleveland has yet to support a NHL franchise.
[viii]Maruk would in fact be traded for a first round pick, which was one acquired from Pittsburgh which was 10th overall. That choice would be used on Tom McCarthy who would eventually be a teammate of Dennis in Minnesota.
[ix]The North Stars made the Conference Finals in 1984 where they lost to Edmonton.
[x]Maruk had 136 Points in the 1981/82 season. Ovechkin’s high is 112, which he accomplished in the 2007/08 season.
[xi]This is coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the franchise.
[xii]Here are the other single season records that Maruk has with Washington: Assists (76), Goals Created (53.1), Assists per Game (0.95), Points per Game (1.70), Goals Created per Game (0.66), Total Goals on Ice for (168). It should also not be noted that when Ovechkin broke Maruk’s goal record he took 446 Shots on Goal compared to Maruk’s 268. As a Capital, Dennis Maruk never had a Shot Percentage less than 16.8. Alex Ovechkin’s most efficient season in that category was 14.6.
[xiii]Even though Maruk was only there for three years, he holds the all time Points record for the Seals/Barons franchise.
[xiv]The Americans is a show on FX, set in the early 1980’s in Washington D.C., where there are Soviet spies who are living in D.C. as a regular family. The father on the show bonds with son over their mutual love of Hockey and the Washington Capitals.
[xv]The Award is for the MVP in the OHL. This was won by such legends as Frank Mahovolich, Rod Gilbert, Stan Mikita, Glenn Hall, George Armstrong, Doug Gilmour, Yvan Cournoyer, Gilbert Perreaut and Eric Lindros. Not bad company!
[xvi]Maruk had exactly 66 Goals that year in London and 145 Points.
Countless football analysts have always stated that games are won in the trenches; though the battle between Offensive and Defensive Lines never show up in highlight videos or on stat sheets. These are players who always praised for what they do, though never showcased on our screen, at least during the game anyway.
Personally, when I watch a game that I have no rooting interest in, I try to spend at least a quarter only watching what happens at the line. Television, even in this High Definition and Multi-Camera angle era can never do justice to the brute physicality that happens there at every play.
The Offensive Linemen, the men who protect their Quarterback and carve holes for their Running Backs to go through are rarely profiled on television, and when they are singled out it is usually for a holding penalty. They don’t get the endorsements nor do they don’t get the interviews on the NFL pre shows.
This is not to say that those in the know do not give them what is due. It was not that long ago when former Offensive Lineman Jonathan Ogden signed the richest contract in the National Football League and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio has its fair share of representatives from the O-Line in their establishment.
Still, the Offensive Line has never, and will never be a glamour position, though we doubt that the men who play there would want it any other way. I can’t imagine that Kyle Turley, the two-time All Pro Offensive Tackle from San Diego State played the game hoping for recognition on ESPN.
Saying that, Turley found his place in National Football League folklore, when during a game against the New York Jets, he ripped the helmet off of Damian Robinson and threw it across the field that had grabbed the facemask of his Quarterback, Aaron Brooks during an offensive play. Turley, was praised by some for defending his QB, though lauded by others for initiating a penalty, cemented his place in NFL history, but anyone who served in the NFL trenches, or any football trench for that matter, understood Turley’s actions.
That maybe what Kyle Turley is most known for in the NFL, but we here at Notinhalloffame.com cover a lot more than professional football. After Kyle’s career ended on the gridiron, he embarked on a career in music, a field of endeavour that intrigues us even more. With that equation, how is it that we could not hope to talk to a man who was proved to be successful in both sports and music?
Focusing on a blend of Country/Rock (with Heavy Metal infusion) Kyle Turley became one of the few men in history to carve a successful path in both athletics and music, and it was the music of Turley that necessitated our need to reach out to him.
With a blend of legendary Country/Rock superstars Lynyrd Skynyrd and Thrash Metal gods Slayer, Kyle Turley put together a unique blend of Rock and Roll that was inspired from his own experiences from his life, the gridiron, and society in general.
Saying all of that, our interview with Kyle Turley unveiled a man who was not only who excelled in the trenches of the National Football League but one who survived the wars of the music industry. If you have seen, heard or read interviews with Kyle in the past, you already know that he is known for his candid nature. It was the same with us, as we loved our conversation with the multi-faceted former New Orleans Saint, which we hope all of you will enjoy reading.
I have spent a lot of time in the last couple of days prior to this interview listening to your music through YouTube and other sources of online media.[i] Musically, I would like to ask you the same question that I have asked other musicians, and this is one I am sure you get quite a bit. What would be the album or the song that changed your life?
“Slayer, Seasons in the Abyss.[ii] Right off the top of the head for that question.”
After hearing that album, was there something in you that told you that you wanted to go into music at some point in your life?
“No. It was just such powerful music that it changed my life instantly as soon as I heard it. It’s quite unique and I’m actually going to see them tonight in concert at the Forum.”
“Yeah man, I’m a metal head at heart. I grew up on old school country and my dad was a truck driver. I grew up in a lot of rural areas and country was huge. I grew up with a really good mix of everything. I moved to Southern California when I was 10 and I got into heavy metal, punk rock and other stuff.”
Is it wrong to say that I hear a lot of Johnny Cash in your music?
“No, Johnny is definitely one of my favorites. If I have three albums to take with me on a deserted island it would be Slayer, Johnny Cash and Bob Marley. That’s my perfect blend of music right there.”
Very eclectic taste, I love it! I would love to see what’s on your I-Pod one day for sure.
“It’s all about Pandora now for sure. All the bands that I knew growing up and all the live bands now are all there. I am getting introduced to all kinds of new music. I am really stoked on music.”
For me it’s Slacker Radio. It has brought me to a lot of albums that I could not afford to buy as a kid.
I have always heard about music in the locker room and multiple athletes pursuing musical careers. I am curious about the locker rooms that you have been with, in terms of what music dominated the locker room, be it with the New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs or even at San Diego State?
“What music dominated the locker room?”
“Well, most coaches were particular in that they did not want to hear any music. It should be personal. It wasn’t until I got to Kansas City, and that team was a wreck anyway, and they let anybody play music in the locker room.
You know, you don’t want to impose anything on anybody in the pre-game. I never wanted to do that. Now, maybe I thought that Slayer would hype our all team up, but that’s my opinion.
Some guys like to listen to country some guys like to listen to Hip-Hop. For what it is for me, it is not going to be for the other guy. Good Coaches will always be very adamant that they didn’t want to hear anybody’s music. If you listened to music, you listened to it in your own headphones. Get in your zone, you know?”
Transitioning into a music career, I would like to ask you when it was in your career that you decided that you would look to pursue a music career. Were you still playing in the NFL, was it after, or anytime before? The reason I want to ask is that as we know, there have many far too many cases where a lot of athletes don’t have the foresight to do something else.
“Music has always been a big part of my life. You know, it is a passion! I had a bunch of money to screw off with and it was easy to start a record company.
I had some friends in the music industry and I kind of got bamboozled a bit at first and had to learn the hard way in the music industry and how to do it and do it right. But it was something that I was very interested in, and I was able to gain some friends in the industry. I used the football card to get backstage and meet some people and give them Saints or Rams or Chiefs gear and hang out with them and let them know I’m a big fan.
I was able to sit down with some buddies who were in bands or had side bands or things that they were working on. It was something that I always wanted to do. I was able to test the waters and it turned out to be something that lasted, miraculously, but through a lot of hard work, sacrifice and a lot of lost money. We finally understand the game and we’re trying to play it as best we can. It’s ever changing and always will be through social media and etcetera but overall if you’re passionate about it, and it is like that for any industry you learn your lessons and do the best you can.”
One thing that I want to mention is on your website and social media, you have a logo that I think is fantastic.
“I appreciate it.”
I can see by that logo that you are still a Saint at heart?
“Yeah. I was an art major in College, and that was part of the reason that I wanted to go into music I think.[iii] I design all my logos. I try to put something in it that means something you know? The same goes for all of my tattoos. I’m not the kind of guy who goes out to get a tattoo just to get a tattoo. It has to mean something to me. With the logos, you have to put a lot of thought into it and know what you want people to draw from that image. It’s one of those things that if you do it right you don’t have to change anything.”
In a lot of the songs that you have, it is clear that you draw from your own experiences, be it on the football field or other aspects of life. You have been very open about changes that you would like to see in the NFL, and you have this interesting dynamic of being thought of as a musician/ex-football player.
“You know, I’m kind of marked as that. It is what it is. I was in an arena that few people get to step into to. That definitely marks you and you are forever an ex-football player. I ended up doing something in my football career that I became famous for. I was known for throwing the helmet, so now I’m the “helmet guy”. Whatever it is you made it to the public eye for will stay with you.”[iv]
I am actually a diehard Saints fan myself.
“Oh right on man!”
I remember being bummed out as I missed watching that game, as I had to go to a wedding that day. It was a Jewish wedding, so it was on a Sunday. Frankly, I don’t know who schedules a wedding on a Sunday during the NFL season but (laughs). I think that a lot of your songs show the war in the trenches that you had.
“Oh definitely! That’s the position I played, and it was a war every play. It was a battle. It was a hand to hand combat fight and you had to have the mentality of a warrior to go into that situation and come out victorious. I took great pride in that I was always ready to do that. I believe I accomplished that through my career and that it speaks for itself.”
You have been outspoken on changes that you would like to see in Football. On your website, you have the banner of the Sports Legacy Institute from Christopher Nowinski, who has been leading the study on concussions in sport.[v] Concussions are a big hot point in not just Football, but in sports in general. Do you think that they are going in the right direction in preventing these issues from coming up in the next generation?
“No, they’re not. They’re clearly not. We saw an issue with Michael Vick this season, and every year we see the same situation over and over and over again, where you see a complete lack of protocol and they just put Band-Aids over it.[vi]
Media wise they have rules that they have come up with, with defenseless players and that’s helped a lot with Receivers in going over the middle; it’s helped with those really bad concussions that they can get. Outside of that, Football is Football and they have done nothing to address the concussion issue. They have done anything to address how the concussions are treated.
We saw that just recently with Michael Vick getting a serious concussion and taken to the locker room and put back in the game. If there’s a doubt you shouldn’t go back in. If there is a doubt, than it is a serious concussion and you shouldn’t be going back in. The player would be not dizzy, disoriented, they would be able to walk fine, they would be able to talk fine, they would be able to tell you that they were fine and tell you what happened in their day, and their situation and where they are at.
The reality is that when you take all these thing into account, they then ask the one question that they should never ask, which is ‘do you think you can go?’ That is the question that still goes around that fumbles out of NFL doctor’s mouths pre and post game. They are sitting there wondering how the game is going to turn out for them pending the opponent.
But that’s the business, you know? If that’s what it is then give us lifetime medical or guaranteed contracts. That’s the way to solve it. Call it what it is. If you want it to be a blood sport and you could care less about our bodies and our brains and families and what it will all do to us down the road, than here is a bunch of money so all of you come out here to try to get it.”[vii]
There is a lot to what you are saying here. I use my wife as a litmus test for just putting perspective on sports. She is not a sports fan at all, but she puts up with living with a sports fanatic. On Sundays when I am watching the National Football League, she doesn’t have to be a sports fan to recognize that this is the biggest league in North America. When I told her one time that this was the only major sport with no guaranteed contracts, she couldn’t understand it. In her mind, that defied all logic based on the sheer money she was generated from the product.
“It’s because of our failed union. We have a joke of a union that has failed every step of the way. All the benefits that the player’s union gloated about obtaining, any agent could have done that. What they have failed to do is hear the voices and the words of the players that scream in the union meetings and in the locker rooms that we need guaranteed contracts and lifetime medical. That’s all it is.
It levels the playing field; players’ careers will definitely be longer. If you want to address the issues than that’s what you do. Have both parties have a responsibility to make sure that either the player is healed or you’re willing to give up that money that he goes out there in that one game that you really need him for risking all the others and pay him just like you do those (baseball) Pitchers that make $100 million dollars, or whatever, when they throw out their arms. It happens all the time (in baseball).
You see situations where these baseball guys sign these massive contracts and everybody’s fine with them. Their union has been able to negotiate guaranteed contracts when they have just as high a risk of throwing out their arm and getting Tommy John Surgery and may never pitch again like they used to as it is in the NFL for Running Backs to blow out a knee.[viii]
That’s a reality. We just have a failed union that has prided itself on all of the money that has built up in their war chest and seem to never use. We got Workers Compensation benefits taken from us in California. We’ve got a benefits system that is structured horrifically that guys are denied left and right for earned benefits that have clear injuries that are disabling. They’ve really been the issue. The NFL has been the money grubbing old white men that everybody says they are.”
Do you take flack from other players for speaking your mind, or do they pat you on the back?
“A bit of both. You have the company guys who will sit there and spew the company line and defend it to the end, and you got the guys who know the real story. I don’t know why there are guys on the other side. Personally, they must be void of compassion and void of an understanding of what their brothers went through during their careers, or they are just taking their money and keeping their mouth shut.
Look at the situation with the NFL concussion settlement. You can take to a man, every person that’s on TV that talks about of football; none of those guys were involved in the concussion lawsuit. Zero. Everybody’s got a price tag. They run their lives that way. Unfortunately, you run into a guy like me; I would have played this game for a dollar, because it was a dream of mine, and the majority of guys I believe are like that. All we wanted in return was for them (the NFL) to honor their word. That we would be taken care of after the game was over and that just hasn’t been the case.”
In terms of image problems with the NFL, so much has been made of the Ray Rice situation. Roger Goodell has certainly taken a big hit for denying that he saw the video. I certainly have a strong opinion on it but whether he did or did not see it is not something I am going to say here.
“(Laughs) You can guarantee he did!”
Yeah, he probably did. OK, I gave my opinion! The domestic violence policy that although existed in the NFL, which was never enforced is now front and center. The difference maker being that we all saw the tape. Are these issues that the NFL should have looked at harder and been proactive on?
“It’s a huge deal. Since all the information has come out on how many cases where there have been cover-ups, that’s a big deal. When the NFL, which is actually dominated by women viewers, a group that buys a lot of merchandise, business wise that is a huge deal demographically. Whether they consider that insignificant seems to be the case. There was Roger Goodell basically laughing and pumped his chest out and laughed and said ‘I’m not fired, hah!’[ix]
It was a joke to them (the NFL) and it was a joke to him. The only concern they had in the Ray Rice situation was what image it was going to portray in the public, or how much was it going to hurt their team by not having their player. At the end of the day, that’s what its all about.
What if there’s a video that popped up about Michael Vick? I’m sure that they are out there? You don’t think that in all of that investigative work and the undercover work that was done that there isn’t any video that helped to bring the dog kingpin down?
I’ll go out on a limb and with that still being the cell phone era, and with video cameras, and I am sure that there were guys videoing these crowds at these dog fights that these investigators surely had to have some type of video evidence! They had to have more than just breaking into his house and finding a bunch of dogs in kennels. So, imagine if that had come out! Or even if it does today! The visual part of that occurring is definitely necessary.
In my situation I had a serious back injury, which is a perfect example of how the NFL chooses its priorities. My career was extremely sidelined by because of a serious back injury and I got into it with Mike Martz and got into a fight with him in his office.[x] We got into a yelling match, he tried to say that I threatened him and this and that.[xi]
It was all over my injury. I wasn’t being treated right. The organization, the team doctors, it was all just fumbled beyond belief. The team was allowed to release me while I was rehabbing and nearly ready to make a comeback. I ended up having to be under a league minimum contract in the last two years I played football, which was with the Chiefs.
I had just signed a six year deal with the Rams and I did everything I could to make it back to play football again. I was allowed to be released, let go and I tried and tried to go to the union and get them to help with the situation and the answer back ultimately was that they were too busy trying to get Michael Vick off and that they couldn’t go to battle for my case.
It’s because they have these high profile players that mean a lot to them, you know, good publicity or bad, you would think that the NFL does not like bad publicity. The NFL doesn’t believe in bad publicity. The NFL is a media machine that believes that any press is good press. It shows in their ratings. They’re proven right. The whole thing with Ray Rice; I’m sorry and this might not be the right thing to say, but the women of the football world sat down and took it.
At the end of the day, where are these four ladies that are supposed to be in these positions to deal with these situations? Where’s the FBI? I am sure that there are some female investigators who would love to have their hands on this. What happened to Gloria Allred? She said that an accusation was about to come out, but nothing happened. Obviously somebody got paid off in that situation. She let that one die; she didn’t take that one any further. This situation just went away. There have been no consequences whatsoever.
That’s because of the NFL’s power and the people that support it. Going back to what you said about having other players against me? There are people that buy into this that think that football is God and if they think or believe that it’s going to hurt the game, which I don’t believe, which is why I talk freely about it.
I know that it’s not going to stop. I know that our society loves violence and this is one of the greatest sports period that has ever been invented. Anybody who has ever played it gets attached to it! It’s an amazing game to play. It does have some serious negative things around it that don’t necessarily need to be there. Unfortunately in some of those cases will probably be there forever.”
Do you still watch football on a regular basis?
“Oh yeah! I watch it all the time! I still help coach camps. I love football. Football is a passion and has been since the day I decided to play it. It is one of my greatest loves ever to strap on a football helmet and play football. That will never die no matter what. Nothing in this world would ever equal the feeling or the adrenaline that is the rush you get from playing football. To make it to the National Football League; I wouldn’t trade it even with all of the damage done.”
Going back to music, where would like to see your band in the next five years?
“The music industry is so crazy and it’s all based on a lot of different factors. Ultimately it’s whether or not you put the work in. It’s gone back to the days of old and unless you become an overnight sensation with a pop hit, you have to get out there and beat the streets. I’ve done that the last four or five years and I’ve opened up for everybody under the sun in the Southern Rock world. I’ve got a small little metal project that I am working on. You know, I don’t really think five years out. I know that five years from now I will still be playing music but at what stage that will be? I don’t know. Hopefully some opportunities will come.
Unfortunately, I can’t get out as much any more due to injuries and the surgeries that I need done from the game of football that are starting to surface. I’m right at that age where that finally catches up to you. I’m close to 40, and that is around where everything starts to fall apart. It’s when you have to get it all fixed and fused, get bolts and plates, it’s the reality of football.
I can’t perform as many shows. I have to focus instead on quality instead of quantity. I’ve got to lay low for awhile as I ran my body pretty hard for awhile touring across the country back and forth for the last four or five years. I drove my own tour bus for at least two years straight. The music industry is a tough cookie to crack, but still at the same time, I have the passion for it and it’s not like football where I can’t do it anymore. I can do it sitting down or standing up. Hopefully in the next five years my body will feel a little better and I’ll be in a better position to push the music. Right now, as I’m healing it is on the shelf for a little bit.”
Well, Jeff Healey made a lot of money, and I don’t think he stood up much in concerts![xii]
“(laughs) Like I said, you can do music anywhere. That’s the great part about it. Can you do it every night though? That’s the true test.”
Can you tell me a little bit more about the metal project you have going on?
“It’s just a little small project, it’s a doom metal project that me and my bass player from my country project that we have going.[xiii] It’s him playing guitar running through some crazy amps, pedals, we got a weird vocal thing going on. It’s called “Delta Doom” and you may see it.
We toured a little bit with Crowbar last year and that was a lot of fun.[xiv] We had a decent response from some good sized crowds. You never know. The music industry is like that.”
Is there anything that I can let people know where to find you?
“Gridirongreats.org is one. That’s the charity site for the charity I work with Mike Ditka on for retired players. That would be the one I would want to promote the most.”
Thanks so much!
You can follow Kyle Turley on Twitter @KyleTurley or visit his website at kyleturley.com.
[i]This is the YouTube Page for Kyle Turley’s label, Gridiron Records https://www.youtube.com/user/gridironrecords
[ii]That was the 1990 album from Slayer, and was widely acclaimed in the Metal genre.
[iii]Turley went to San Diego State where he was a consensus All American in 1997.
[iv]He isn’t kidding. The first thing that comes up when you Google his name is helmet.
[v]Nowinski was himself a former College Football player at Harvard and went on to a career in the WWE which ended due to concussions.
[vi]This is in reference to the Jets loss to Kansas City on November 2. Vick had a head injury in the fourth quarter and returned to the game.
[vii]Despite all the issues with concussions and domestic violence, on November 20, 2014 ESPN announced that 28 of the top 30 rated television programs this fall (starting from September 4, 2014) has been NFL games. The NFL is bigger than ever.
[viii]A recent article shows how Tommy John Surgery is on the rise.
[ix]This is Goodell responding about job security: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItvjfXMbsPM
[x]That happened on December 13, 2004.
[xi]Martz alleged that Turley threatened to kill him. Since the time of the incident, Turley has stated that he never threatened him and has maintained that ever since.
[xii]Jeff Healey was a blind Canadian Blues Rock singer. If you saw Roadhouse, he was Cody, from the bar band.
[xiii]Doom Metal is a slower, lower tuned based genre where both the music and lyrics are to evoke themes of (as you would guess) impending doom.
[xiv]Crowbar is a well known band in the Metal genre and considered to be very influential. Not coincidentally, the band is based in New Orleans.
As I looked up and down the roster of everyone who ever graced the ring in either the WWE and WCW and could not find anyone who ever came close to changing the narrative of what a professional wrestler was more often and on a more seismic shift than Diamond Dallas Page. In fact, I will go a step further and say nobody even comes close.
A common thread in athletics is that once you hit your mid-30’s you have likely hit you peak in your field of endeavour. This is not always the case, as some have postponed their decline a few years, but that is about it. Athletes make their professional debut in their very early twenties on average, but to do that at the age of 35? Not only does that seem unlikely, it seems impossible; or at least it did until Diamond Dallas Page decided that this was an unspoken rule that was made to be broken.
Prior to setting up the interview with Dallas, my head was spinning thinking about what this man accomplished, and did so when nobody thought he could. By 1997, Page had become one of the most popular wrestlers and this was not because he was booked to be so. Page, who was in his early 40’s, was recognized by the fans as someone who got to where he was because he outworked every one else and was legitimately one of best in ring workers in the business.
How can you not respect that? You didn’t have to read an interview with Dallas to know that he was spending day after day in the WCW Power Plant honing his craft. It was all there in the ring for fans to see. His offense was more diverse, he was in better condition than his peers and this is in all due respect to the Rock, who billed himself as the “People’s Champion”, it was Diamond Dallas Page who celebrated wins with the people in the crowd. It was Diamond Dallas Page who, without ever having to say it, showed the people that through determination and the belief of your own convictions that what you can accomplish is up to you.
Fast-forwarding to today, and Dallas is again changing perceptions. Now 58, though not looking much different than he did from when he wrestled, Page is one of a handful of people who can legitimately say that they have revolutionized the fitness industry. Prior to speaking with Dallas, I was aware of how successful it had become, but I had no idea what he had planned for it next.
In my conversation with Diamond Dallas Page, we discussed what he has on tap for DDP YOGA, talked about multiple Halls of Fame, and like many people who have had a chance to speak with Dallas left the conversation inspired and determined to keep my dreams going.
On your website, you discuss the process behind developing your DDP YOGA program. I am curious how you came up with the mindset to take this to another level after you retired from wrestling and make this your main focus?
“Well, the transition came because I needed it out of necessity for me personally. I had three doctors telling me that my wrestling career was over, my back was killing me and I lost all flexibility, and three months later, I’m back in the ring. At 42 they said my career was over, at 43 I’m the World Champ.[i]
I knew I was going to be doing this for the rest of my life. A lot of people do something to heal themselves and then they stop, and then they wonder why they get hurt again. For me, it became part of my life and as I moved on, I turned different people on to it. I did it when I was wrestling for a lot of years, and then I saw a lot of regular guys would do this.
I decided I would write a book about it and I did.[ii] It all took about eight years for it to really catch on; it was actually easier for me to get my wrestling career to go than it was for DDP Yoga. I started (wrestling) at 35 years old.”
Actually, I am glad you mentioned that, and I hope I am not speaking out of turn, I use yourself as an example as a bit of an inspiration for myself. As you mentioned, you became a champion at 43, a time when most careers are winding down. You weren’t just a champion, but one who was still elevating their game. I am 42, and as I push towards building up our websites and brand, it tells me that the best is still yet to come.
“I think that anybody who is inspired by what I have done, that’s the key you know? A big line I use in DDP YOGA is that if I can do what I do at 58 years young, what could you do? An example of that is the other day I broke my record for superhero push-ups. Do you know what a superhero push-up is?”
I don’t, no.
“You lay on your stomach and you stretch out your arms in front of you, lay your hands off the ground, you don’t bend your elbows, you position your toes on the ground, you adjust the palms of your hand to the ground and raise up.[iii] They are next to impossible for anybody in really good shape to do!
I did fifty of them when I was 57 and I decided about a week ago that I was going to break my record. I lost count as to where I was but I decided I was going to keep going and push myself and I did I got to fifty-nine. If I could do that, what could you do?
I looked at one of my top trainers who had done fifty-one prior to this, and I really put him on the spot and said if I could do this at 58, what could you do at 41? Matt Hancock is in top shape, and he blew out 130 of those mothers…I was so proud of him. It’s a really good example for yourself.”
I really like how you have taken the philosophy of DDP YOGA and you have used that to help other wrestlers in need, namely Scott Hall and Jake Roberts in what could be classified as a different kind of rehab. The WWE has been open about how they have spent a lot of money and resources on Scott Hall, but their sponsored rehab did not have the same success that you had.[iv] Do you think that you had success because you are also a former wrestler and a friend of both of them, or was it because of the strength of the program you created?
“We were all friends, but I think they were ready, you know? I think that timing is everything, and the WWE was there when they needed him. The WWE put them into the Hall of Fame, and that was a pivotal goal for both of them, and it allowed Jake to retire on their own terms. That’s what I was looking at for him.”
Do you think that it is something that can be transformed into rehab in general, or is it more of a lifestyle choice?
“I think the whole thing. The whole DDP YOGA Program it’s taking care of your body, healing your body, eating real food, and a mindset of not putting yourself down, focusing on Owning Your Life. We all go through ups and downs, different depressions. Obviously both of those guys had a lot of that. I go through it too, everybody does. It’s how you overcome that. Everyone knows the line ‘it’s not how hard you fall, but how you get back up’, but sometimes you want to pull yourself down; I call it emotional gravity. Sometimes you need your hand out and to have someone believe in you.”
As I look at the progression of DDP YOGA, I am curious where you see it going in the next few years. I ask this as I am fascinated when an athlete such as yourself can totally reinvent themselves to the point where their new career becomes what they are known for. Personally, I use my business partner in the site as an example. He is a very casual wrestling fan and when I told him that I would be interviewing you next his response was ‘that’s the guy that does yoga right?’ I think that is a testament to just how successful you have become at this, when this is the now the first thing that people think when the name of Diamond Dallas Page comes up.
“For the DDP YOGA!”
Yes, for the DDP YOGA![v]
“When he says DDP YOGA, then he knows that he’s totally paying attention! I said to Bryan Alvarez[vi], about five years ago he asked me where do you see yourself in five years. It (DDP YOGA) was called YRG at the time I said the DDP Yoga will eclipse what I did as a wrestler.[vii] That’s a bold statement if you watched wrestling in the 90’s. I was on top of the world, you know ’97, ’98 and ’99 and I said to him (Alvarez) that’s a bold statement, but I really believe it. Now it’s happening.
Last year I was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and it was more for what I did outside of the ring than inside the ring.[viii] This year I am being inducted into the Cauliflower Alley Club Circle of Honor. It’s their 50th year, they’ve been around for a long time. It’s the first time someone has received two honors in the same year. They’re giving me a wrestling award and a humanitarian award. So again, what I said five years ago is happening.
There’s a lot of people right now who only know me from DDP YOGA, and don’t know that I used to wrestle. I think five years from now, DDP YOGA, the way I’m structuring it, and it’s going to be probably, if not the biggest or at least top two or three workouts on the planet.
The main reason that’s going to happen is because that everything I do, I just bet on myself. What I am doing with the program, my lifestyle is what I believe in. Right now I am building a two million dollar facility. It will the home and headquarters for DDP YOGA which will have all our editing bays, because really we are a production company at this point.
What I mean by that is that we film everything ourselves. We produce everything ourselves. This building will have three sound stages within the DDP YOGA Performance Center. One is where we will do the workouts, which is one big room where we can film different things at any time so I can film my workouts.
Think of Netflix. Think of it like a network. What we are building is the Netflix of fitness so all workouts that we have, DDP YOGA for kids, DDP YOGA for Seniors would not be available on DVD. They would be on for lack of a better word would be on our network. The network we are building would be on your phone, or your I-Pad, or to your TV. We will be the first to do it. We should be up and running by April. I never do the same workout twice, and there will be all sorts of LIVE workouts scheduled that will be on the app where you can watch live. You would have today’s live workout, or this week’s live workout that you would be able to watch and do.”
Backtracking a bit, you mentioned the two Halls of Fame that you are going into. I have been an advocate, and so have others who have visited our site, that your body of work more than qualifies you for the WWE Hall of Fame. Is that something that you would like to be part of, or are you the mindset that if it happens, great, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t take away from what has been a great career?
“I think at some point it will happen. Steve Austin said to me the other day ‘No one ever did it the way you did it at such a success level’. He said to me that he was waiting for me to go in, and when it happens it happens. I’m honoured that the CAC and National Wrestling Hall of Fame inducted me, and I would be honoured if the WWE put me in their Hall of Fame.
I’m focused on what’s happening right now with DDP YOGA and last year to get to induct Jake and with Scott being inducted in the same year, and they both came out of my house, you know DDP’s accountability crib.[ix]
Wouldn’t having them inducted almost mean more to you than getting in yourself?
“Yeah, and it happened on my birthday!”
“When I gave Jake’s induction speech. It was a great night”
Could I ask you a historical wrestling related question about your career if I could?
In 1996, you won the Battlebowl where by the winner was supposed to receive a WCW World Heavyweight Title shot.[x] That never materialized. I have been curious for years as to why that was?
“The bookers never saw me as a top guy. They never believed in me, not until I got over without their help. They gave a dog a bone and took it away, which if you look at my career from that Battlebowl, which was in 1996, where was I seven months later?”
Having the feud of the year with Randy Savage.[xi]
“Right! So, they (the bookers) were wrong. If you go back and look, and you can do that as a lot of the WCW stuff is all over YouTube and Nitro, which is part of the WWE Network you can see what I have done. If anybody has a question about my career, or what happened in my career, it’s all there, and I’m having the run of a lifetime! No one ever did it like that.
No one ever went from a manager to a color commentator to a wrestler at 35 and got over at 40, and then got crazy over at 41! It never happened! You know, and I had a hell of a run on top!”
You definitely did. I remember watching you on the main event of a Nitro in Toronto against Hulk Hogan.[xii]
“I remember Steve Austin calling me the next day and saying ‘How did you pull that match out of him?’ (Laughs)
“Yeah, he called me the next night. Me and him have always been tight. In 1997 and 1998 the number one pro wrestler in the world from Pro Wrestling Illustrated was Steve Austin. The number four wrestlers in both years was Diamond Dallas Page.[xiii] So, surely, I was in the top ten. From nowhere to top ten. Obviously, the people who didn’t believe in me or were trying to hold me down were wrong.
When I first became a wrestler at 35 people laughed. Michael P.S. Hayes fell down laughing. He also called me up in 1996 after a match up with Sting and said he was never happier to eat crow in his entire life.”
I want to thank you so much for your time it has been an honor to talk with you.
[i]Page won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in a four-way match on April 11, 1999 at the Spring Stampede Pay per View in Tacoma, Washington.
[ii]That was released in 2005 entitled “Yoga for Regular Guys, the Best Damn Workout on the Planet!”
[iii]Here is an example of DDP doing this on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOufcaCotQg
[iv]This was the Scott Hall E60 piece where the WWE mentions the resources spent on Hall. This was roughly two years before Hall took up DDP Yoga.
[v]Before we went to our conversation, Dallas corrected me, as what he does is not Yoga. His product is DDP Yoga, a specific brand and product all on its own!
[vi]Bryan Alvarez is a respected sports writer and wrestling journalist.
[vii]YRG stood for Yoga for Regular Guys.
[viii]His inductor was Mick Foley.
[ix]DDP’s Accountability Crib was just that. Page had Scott Hall and Jake Roberts in his home and the journey was documented by DDP here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLLR8R1GKZsazOBW35JJ6Jnrfx2QMdlB1V
[x]That win was at the Slamboree PPV on May 19th, 1996. The Title shot was to have taken place on the next Pay Per View. On the next night’s Nitro the title shot was revoked when “WCW Officials” decreed that based on how we won the match (the finals were an eight-man Battle Royale) that his Battlebowl win would stand, but his title shot, would be granted to Lex Luger.
[xi]The fans of Pro Wrestling Illustrated voted the Savage/Page Rivalry of 1997 the “Feud of the Year”.
[xii]That was at the Air Canada Center on March 29, 1999.
[xiii]Page also had other accolades from Pro Wrestling Illustrated. In addition to the 1997 Feud of the Year with Savage, he was named the Most Improved Wrestler in 1995 and Most Hated in 1999. The latter award, a testament to how he was able to transfer his persona into a heel character.
Mixed Martial Arts Legend. Former WWE Superstar. UFC Hall of Famer. The World’s Most Dangerous Man. The Godfather of MMA.
All of the above have all been phrases attributed to Ken Shamrock, a former champion in virtually every promotion he competed for. Anyone who saw Shamrock compete either in shoot promotions like the UFC, Pride or Pancrase or in worked organizations like the WWE and TNA, where he was the upstart promotion’s first Heavyweight Champion, could not help but me impressed with his intensity and ability to strike fear in opponents and fans alike with his mere presence.
As much as those phrases all describe Shamrock admirably, I found myself thinking of a different series of adjectives while I was talking to the former multi-time champion. Innovator, businessman, mentor, historian all were coming to mind. Perhaps the most accurate word might be reflective, as Ken Shamrock, at 48 years old, though still looking like he could enter the octagon, has ended the stage in his life where he made his name with his fighting prowess, and now uses his intellect to guide his path, and history to understand his past, and that of the sport he helped to make famous.[i]
The UFC has evolved into a multi-million dollar empire, and as athletic entities grow, the pioneers who were there at the beginning generally see their legend grow.[ii] As a still relatively young man, and living in the digital age, it is easy to fans to watch the early matches of Shamrock and see the early stars of the sport and understand the evolution of a product that for many has replaced Boxing as the premier combat sport in North America. For many fans, Shamrock symbolizes when Mixed Martial Arts began, although if you ask Ken himself, he might give you a different view.
The labels he has been given might flatter Shamrock, but in our conversation, he is looking towards putting the correct historical perspective of his career, and the sport of Mixed Martial Arts as a whole.
With UFC dominating the current Mixed Martial Arts narrative, there is a common belief that it all began with that promotion, but modern history tells a different tale. Tough man contests had long been contested across the United States and there have been examples in the past fifty years of combining multiple disciplines in competitive contests.
Still, as much as traditional Greco Roman Amateur Wresting was a featured attraction in the Olympic Games since its inception, it never translated into huge dollars, thus the belief that a legitimate wrestling match would be too “boring” to draw money, and for a long time in the United States that was true. In Japan, however it was a completely different story.
In 1975, Muhammad Ali, the Heavyweight Champion of the World in Boxing took place in a “Boxer Vs Wrestler” match against Antonio Inoki, a legend in the world of Japanese Pro Wrestling.[iii] The match itself was considered a dull affair, with Inoki lying on his back for most of the match kicking the legs of Ali. The match, which was shown on closed circuit television, told many what they thought they already knew, that hybrid types of fighting wouldn’t work; though in Japan, the intrigue of these type of matches never went away.
Shamrock, whose first ambition was to be a Professional Wrestler, found his way to Japan, and was working for a company called Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi, an offshoot of the UWF promotion in Japan that employed a more realistic shoot style.[iv] The wrestling showcased by the new organization was still a work, however on a card at the Tokyo Dome on October 4, 1992 they would elect to have Shamrock would compete in a legitimate contest against a man named Don Nakaya Nielson, who was the World Kickboxing Champion at the time. The match only lasted a minute, when Shamrock tapped out Nielson in an armlock, but something very interesting occurred; the normally stoic Japanese crowd was into what they saw.
Almost instantly, along with Japanese wrestlers, Minoru Suzuki and Masakatsu Funaki, Ken Shamrock helped to form Pancrase, an organization designed promote all fighting disciplines within one sport. During its inception, Pancrase proved to be successful and Shamrock would become the first “King of Pancrase” in a tournament in 1994. More importantly, Pancrase shows were filling large size venues and proved that that there was money to be made for a new style of combat sports.
Meanwhile in the United States, Professional Wrestling, while still popular had seen its largest organization, the World Wrestling Federation, openly went to State Athletic Commissions expressing that their matches were predetermined to avoid paying them. Wrestlers evolved into “Sports Entertainers”, and those who still clung to the belief that Pro Wrestling may have been on the level were told the exact opposite by the product itself.[v]
Boxing began its wane in popularity in the U.S. as constant corruption and the lack of globally recognized champions caused its fan base to slowly deteriorate, a trend that continues to this day.[vi] Fans of combat sports needed a void, something that felt real, they were ready for the UFC.
For all intents and purposes, the UFC was the first major Mixed Martial Arts organization in the U.S., and almost immediately sports fans started to pay attention, and much like Shamrock had in Japan, he would become a champion again and generate fans. In the mid-90’s however, the UFC was facing financial issues due to successful lobbying to remove it from Pay per view.[vii] Shamrock, regarded by many as the biggest name in the sport, looked to capitalize on that with his first love, Professional Wrestling.
As a former Professional Wrestler, Shamrock did not have to make an adjustment to a worked style. Joining the World Wrestling Federation in 1997, Shamrock would make is eagerly anticipated in-ring debut against former WCW World Heavyweight Champion Vader, which saw Shamrock win in stiff and compelling fashion.[viii] Shortly after, the company embarked on what would be known as the “Attitude Era” where sexual innuendo ran rampant and pushing the envelope was encouraged. Although Shamrock did not participate in multiple risqué angles, he raised the bar in a different way, in the ring.
Subtly, the product changed. Following Shamrock’s lead, submissions were now rendered by tapping out. Other wrestlers would slowly adopt more realistic like submission moves as their finishers. Shamrock, who was known for his unparalleled intensity was rubbing off on others, and though the WWE does not often reference Shamrock, much of his influence can still be felt today, especially as they are entering what they call the “Reality Era” where television matches have been much longer and a higher premium is being placed on genuine athleticism and in ring ability; an era that Shamrock paved the way for.
In my conversation with Ken, we talked about he was justifiably one of the first members of the UFC Hall of Fame, and how he would like to see that institution, or a Mixed Martial Arts Hall of Fame look in the future. We also had a chance to discuss his legacy in Mixed Martial Arts, Professional Wrestling and how he transformed from a terrorizing in ring combatant into a soft-spoken public speaker.
The first thing that I wanted to discuss was your membership in the UFC Hall of Fame.[ix]
“I am in, yes.”
You have been vocal about your opinion on the status of the UFC now, and how the pay to the fighters has not exactly been reflective of the name recognition that of the company’s talent.
Currently, the UFC does not have a physical Hall of Fame in terms of an actual structure where fans can visit, similar to that of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada or the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Is this something that you hope will change in the near future?
“I get what your saying but I am not sure that the UFC Hall of Fame can get there. The Halls of Fame that you spoke of have that kind of credibility is because those Halls have people that actually know the history. In this case, we need someone who knows the history of Mixed Martial Arts. The thing that we are missing today is the actual study and understanding where Mixed Martial Arts came from, how it got to where it is today, the people who helped create it.
Right now, the only Hall of Fame we have is with the knowledge of people who are from this era: not necessarily digging and trying to find out the roots of MMA, so we have people in the UFC Hall of Fame, who maybe friendly to the organization (UFC) or from just the memories of what we know.
For instance, the UFC (Hall of Fame) does not have Frank Shamrock who was involved in their history, nor does it have Jerry Bolhander who was the very first person to hold any other belt than the open belts or the Heavyweight belt.[x] Jerry Bolhander was the first one to capture those straps.[xi] There’s no mention of him, and there has to be because it’s a first, even if may not have accomplished that much, it’s a first!
A lot of the history that we are seeing with this Halls of Fame (The UFC) basically have very limited knowledge with the people who are putting them into the Hall. You get people over in Japan who fought with me in the Pancrase organization, with all of the people from around the world with Bas Rutten being one of them, who have definitely paved the road for what we know today as MMA, which started three years before the UFC was even born.[xii]
For me, if there was a physical place for people to go and enjoy the Hall of Fame, you just can’t put up one like the Football Hall of Fame, or Baseball or Hockey or Golf because there hasn’t been enough study and enough education for people to enjoy it. Nobody’s really doing their homework to get people interested as to where all of this came from; the people that made it important, the people that made it what it is today.
To enjoy the people that get inducted today, you need to know that line that got us here. How can you put something up when you don’t have the right information or even the right people to do this? Every time someone is inducted (into the UFC Hall of Fame) it is always someone from the current era, but there’s no understanding where it came from.”
Who would you like to see spearhead that?
“Well, I would like to see the reporters who follow MMA have more of a role.[xiii] On top of that I would like to see some historians who would do a legitimate background search on where this (Mixed Martial Arts) came from and how it all started because we know it goes all the way back to the Olympic Games. It was hand-to-hand combat with two people with no skills or styles; just two people going in and one person would walk out.
In all honesty, I would like to see induction done by those who know the history, those who know the stats, and those who know what they meant to the growth of UFC. On the same level you also need a historian who could really make it legitimate of MMA, so that when people go to look at it, they are not just looking at what happened in the past twenty years.
Really, if you just look at that (time period), it is really quite boring, even though I know I was a part of that, and it was fun! But don’t you think that when a person walks into a place like that (a MMA Hall of Fame) they could get a feel where the sport came from, so they can understand how we got where we are today? It would make it a lot more interesting to see where people got to where they are at.
That’s my feeling. We have to do a whole lot more studying on the history of MMA before we think about putting up a building and have people come and view it.”
If this were to ever happen, would you want this to be independent from UFC?
“I think you definitely need something that is separate. When a Hall is controlled by one organization they can control who and who does the research. You want people who are going to write what they think without fear of not being invited to the next ceremony.”
Speaking of history, I personally feel that you did not receive the credit you deserve for bringing Mixed Martial Arts elements to the WWE. With all due respect to Dan Severn who was there at the same time you were, he didn’t have the same impact you did.[xiv] I will go on record that a match you had with the Undertaker on Pay Per View, was an underappreciated match where Taker was clearly showing he was influenced by what you had already done.[xv] Do you think the WWE has put your influence on their product in proper perspective?
“I don’t know if I can really speak to that. I do feel that I definitely deserve to be in their Hall of Fame based on the things that I did while I was there, being able to change that sport along with other people. I feel I earned that right based on what I was able to do there in a small amount of time.
I’m not sure that I can stand here and boast about that. The fans are the ones that really tell the tale and I think they speak very loudly about where I stand in pro wrestling. I don’t think that there are too many people who would tell you that I don’t deserve to be there.
Obviously, a lot of times the fans aren’t listened to, or their opinions are overlooked a lot. Today’s promoters just push them aside and don’t listen to what they want and they want fans to ‘shut up, sit down and enjoy the show’, because we are going to do whatever we want to do, like it or not, because you are going to come to the show.
I hear it all the time in the WWE. I hear about how fans would like to see certain wrestlers, and obviously you can’t give them everything they want, but you at least have to listen to them and I believe they are being completely ignored. I’ve always said that I think the fans are most important that you have when it comes to the entertainment industry. They are the ones that matter most and they should be heard.”
In terms of your legacy, you have been billed as the “Godfather of MMA” and the “World’s Most Dangerous Man”, which is not exactly a title you think of when you think of a public speaker. Yet, here you are in 2014, and have embarked into that field, and have done very well.
“The one thing that I want to mention so that it is understood. When I was fighting, there was a station that came on that called me that. They were looking at the World’s most dangerous food, or animal and of course, a person.[xvi] At the time, I was the bare knuckle/no holds barred champion and they (the producers of the program) looked at me for that. I was named the ‘World’s Most Dangerous Man’ through a show; I did not name myself that. It was given to me, and it stick with me.[xvii]
‘The Godfather of MMA’, it’s the same thing. I never named myself that; people just started calling me that. Once people start calling you that, especially if you’re a smart guy, you’re going to roll with what people say, or at least market it. Therefore, I just carried the Godfather name, and I thought it was very respectful and I was honored to carry that. I just want to make myself clear that I did not label myself that. You can’t name yourself, that has to come from other people.”
Understood. Again, though, your transformation from revered fighter to public speaker is very impressive.[xviii] I would like to know, and pardon my language here, can you tell me about the switch from ‘bad-ass’, to an eloquent public speaker looking to inspire?
“I was in trouble a lot as a kid. My biological mother was a go-go dancer at the time and wasn’t home a whole lot and therefore me and my brothers had to take care of ourselves. We were in Georgia, and then we moved to California, and then later she (my biological mother) tried to have us live a constructive life with rules, but by that time it was too late it didn’t work out because we were already rebels at that time.
I ended up in all kinds of placements, and just a lot of anger and a lot of disappointment was in my life. I ended up in a place called the Shamrock Boys Home and that’s where my life started changing around a little bit.[xix] The man who ran it would become my father. He showed me how to direct my anger in something positive, and that was through sports. Some of them in the home would be directed through acting, or singing or whatever it might be but it allowed the kids to vent their frustrations through different activities. Mine happened to be sports.
I have always said that through MMA my life became something positive. I was able to fight in Japan and release all that anger. As life goes on, as you get older, you realize that you don’t need to feed off that anger anymore. If you continue, it will eat you up inside. You have to learn to forgive yourself and forgive other people in order to move forward in life, in order to raise a family, and to enjoy yourself.
I was able to do that by speaking to others about my life and explain to others that you don’t have to hang on to that hate anymore. You’ve made it, and you’ve done the things you need to do and you don’t need to hit people or hate things and that guilt and anger that you’ve carried around for so long and let it go.
It was not easy for me to transition into learning how to fight and be that guy who did not stand on that anger. It was very difficult but I ended up figuring it out, and once I did, I was able to go into motivational speaking. I was able to go and speak to people in need to understand that it is ok what happened before, its ok to be angry about it, but you can’t hang on to those things because it will tear you apart later in life.
That’s where I am now. I am writing a book about my life and I have been able to make the transition and I have been able to let things go and still be successful, that it where my speaking comes from. You’d be surprised how many people are leading normal lives who have a lot of hurt or anger inside of them and they are still trying to figure out how to get rid of it”
When people think of Ken Shamrock, they think of automatically think of your exploits in the UFC and WWE. As a past star in both, is there anything you would change anything in either of those promotions?
“I would. In the WWE, I would push for them being to able have an outlet for the wrestlers for them to vent their frustrations, a personnel department where they could talk one on one and talk about what is going on in their lives. There’s nothing there right now. There are guys who are struggling in life and in certain situations and there is nowhere for them to turn. That is what I would definitely implement there.
For the UFC, the definite thing that I would improve there the most is the fighter pay.[xx] Obviously they (the UFC) have their stance on it, but I would implement an opportunity for these guys to negotiate their terms and their ways to move forward in MMA. There is definitely a personnel problem in those companies, there needs to place for guys to go and vent about on the job frustrations; a place where they go and speak their mind.
Is there anything that you want fans of Ken Shamrock to know what you are up to?
“I definitely do. I have a website, www.kenshamrock.com, which has all my social media sites on there, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, all of that. I stay connected with my fans as much as I can, as they were the ones that really drove me to be successful. I really wanted to make sure that when I was in the ring that they were entertained and was happy with what I was doing in the ring.
They really did help me to become successful, so I always like to stay connected to my fans, and I can do so through Social Media. So go on Kenshamrock.com, and be a part of the family and you can see what am I doing, or what appearances and podcasts that I am doing, or book me for whatever event that you may be doing.
Also too, I do a lot of ministry work and with troubled youth and will always be available to speak to young people. Other than that, you know, I’m just living life large and thank you so much for allowing me to speak to you.
Thank you, for your time and supporting us at Notinhalloffame.com!
[i]Ken last fought in 2010.
[ii]Ken has been outspoken in recent interviews about how the pay for the fighters have not been properly compensated for the increased revenue that UFC generates.
[iii]Inoki was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
[iv]The Fujiwara name comes from Yoshiaki Fujiwara, the head of the promotion who was regarded highly for his shoot style of wrestling.
[v]‘Sports Entertainment’ is what Vince McMahon, the owner of the World Wrestling Federation referred to his company as.
[vi]Basically, the horrendous business practices of Don King caught up to the sport.
[vii]The lobbying was spearheaded by future Presidential candidate and then Senator, John McCain.
[viii]Shamrock would actually appear a month earlier as the special guest referee in the highly regarded Bret Hart/Steve Austin “I Quit Match” at Wrestlemania 13.
[ix]Along with Royce Gracie, Ken was the first inductee to the Hall. It took place at UFC 45 on November 21, 2003.
[x]Bolhander, a member of Shamrock’s “Lion Den” won the UFC 12 Lightweight tournament.
[xi]In the early days of UFC, weight classes were essentially non-existent.
[xii]Pancrase, a Japanese promotion, was a precursor for the UFC. Shamrock was the “First King of Pancrase Open Weight Champion”. That occurred in 1993.
[xiii]In the major North American sports Halls of Fame, media plays major roles in Hall of Fame inductions.
[xiv]Severn may have had classic encounters with Shamrock and others in the octagon, but as a pro wrestler, Severn’s look and voice did not end himself to WWE success.
[xv]That match took place at the Backlash Pay Per View on April 25, 1999. Although it was not well received by some, the Undertaker would later adopt MMA moves into his repertoire. Frankly, I loved that match, and enjoyed it for being different than anything else that had been on WWE TV in some time.
[xvi]The station was ABC, and was done on ABC News.
[xvii]When Ken worked in the WWF, they billed him as such, though initially crediting ABC for that moniker.
[xviii]An example of Ken’s public speaking can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8coM29QvSSY
[xix]It was run by Bob Shamrock, who would have over 600 boys during his time running the Home. Ken, whose birth name was Ken Kilpatrick, would later be adopted by Bob, and take on the Shamrock family name as his own.
[xx]Ken has been a longtime advocate for this for sometime and has been very blunt on this topic on numerous interviews.
In the National Football League, the press generally goes to the skill positions, ie, the Quarterback, the Running Back and the Wide Receiver. Usually when the camera focuses on an Offensive Linemen, it is for a costly holding penalty. Linemen are respected, but never the stars; but that changed in the 1980’s coverage of the Washington Redskins games with the emergence of the “Hogs”.
Originally consisting of Russ Grimm, Joe Jacoby, Jeff Bostic, Mark May and George Starke, the nickname was generated not because of their large size but due to an innocuous comment by Joe Bugel, the Offensive Line Coach who told his line, “Okay, you hogs, let’s get running down there.”.
That one sentence was all it took and a phenomenon was born. The sophisticated Washington fan base latched onto this group and quickly realized that had more than just a tag line that John Madden extolled the virtues of on Sunday afternoons. This was a formidable group that made stars out of average football players, and did it over and over again. It also made a group of football fans celebrities, too.
Calling themselves “The Hogettes”, a group of a dozen men dressed up in pig snouts and dresses that would be worn old women and for many was as entertaining as the game itself. Appearing in the stands for Redskins home games for three decades, the Hogettes may have hung up their snouts, but there is one more task left to perform; helping their former great tackle, Joe Jacoby, receive a bust in Canton, Ohio.
We had a chance to speak with the Hogettes, who are pushingto add a second member from their beloved Offensive Line into the Professional Football Hall of Fame. As someone who watched the Redskins intensely for years and who has a relationship with Joe Jacoby himself, the Hogettes bring a unique perspective to this discussion and whenever we have a chance to chat with passionate football fans, it is a job we will always sign up for.
The first thing that I want to get into before we really get started, is that in doing my research for this piece, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Hogettes did so many charitable endeavors. I had no idea about it! I think that is incredible and I wanted to first commend you for it.
“Thanks, we appreciate that. That is something that not everyone knows about. We were more than just a bunch of crazy football fans, though it kind of morphed into that.”
And this has continued even though you don’t “perform” in the stands anymore?
“Yes. A lot of the guys still participate in it (charity work), and we still get invited often. We turn down any formal requests to get dressed up, since we are retired, but we are finding that we are still asked to come out.[i] We were just out at Mark Rypien’s golf benefit and a lot of the fundraisers we have done in the past.”
Your current push, and I notice that this is a focal point of your official website, is to get Joe Jacoby inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His line mate, Russ Grimm, was enshrined some time ago.[ii] Jacoby has received a lot of respect throughout the league, and from Grimm himself who stated that he should be there.[iii]
I am sure you are asked often why Joe should be in the Hall of Fame. Do you have a quick sum up that you usually go to, or a set of intangibles that you go to that explains why he should be in the Hall of Fame?
“What I kind of go to is when you look at the Redskins as one of the great teams of the 80’s when Joe Gibbs was coaching, Joe (Jacoby) played Left Tackle, the glamour spot of the Offensive Line. When you think about the Washington Redskins (of that time period) you think of that Offensive Line.
There are great lines out there, but there are only a few that were so great that they transcend time. The ones that come to mind are (1970’s) Oakland[iv], Pittsburgh back in the day[v], and the Houston Oilers (in the 80’s)[vi], they have had two Linemen enter to Pro Football Hall of Fame, and rightfully so, but the Hogs are right there with them.
We could argue all day about who was the best (Offensive) Line of all time, and of course we’re partial to the Hogs, but what really sets them apart is that they went to four Super Bowls, won three with three different Quarterbacks and three different Running Backs.[vii] To me that speaks volumes about what was the one constant on all of those Super Bowl teams, and that was that Offensive Line.[viii] Jacoby was the anchor of that line and Jacoby held it down during the glory years.
I just feel that this line was so good, and no matter who you talk to, they will tell you that they were in the top five of all time and they should have two players inducted.[ix] Russ got in in 2010 and there should be another. Sometimes when one member of a line gets in they feel that the entire group has been honored. We feel that this line was so good that they deserve two.”
Why do you think so far that he has not gotten in? Thus far he has only made it to the Semi-Finalist Round. Do you think it is a political thing, or due to the glut of talent eligible or is there another factor that maybe we are not thinking of?
“I think a combination of a lot of it. It is very political. Like I said, because Russ is in, they can say that they recognized that. The other thing I think that really plays itself is in the last decade you have seen the NFL push the rules towards the offense and you see offensive (skill players) put up really big numbers. You are seeing some phenomenal numbers from Receivers and Running Backs and of course some advances (statistically) in the Passing Game. Indirectly that takes some of the shine off the Left Tackles and other Offensive Linemen.
There are some players in recent memory, like for example going back to Walter Jones who got in last year.[x] You can make a great argument that Joe should have gone in before him. I’m not taking anything away from Jones. He was a great player, he went to one Super Bowl, didn’t win any. Jacoby was the premier Left Tackle on the great line, and that line again transcends having more than one man (inducted).
Going back to the Redskins, they have only one retired number, that of Sammy Baugh.[xi] Saying that the organization has a tradition of “unofficially” retiring number, Joe Theismann being one of them.[xii] I don’t believe they have given that honor to either Grimm or Jacoby.
“I’ve seen 66 or 68 worn since.”[xiii]
Would that be something that you would push for in the future?
“The Redskins don’t have a history of retiring numbers for whatever reason. They do have a history of not giving them out. That is how the Redskins have chosen to handle that. Other teams have certainly done that (retired numbers frequently).”
What kind of relationship does this movement have with Joe Jacoby himself?
“We wanted to make sure Joe was O.K. with it. Joe did not ask us and he is one of the most modest guys you will ever meet. He has no plans in politicking for himself, like Harry Carson did.[xiv] Joe has no desire to do that. Joe is coaching the Offensive Line foe Concordia University, and he is happy doing that. He is a humble guy, extremely grateful that we decided to do this.
When we were at Mark Rypien’s golf tournament, and we told him what we were thinking. Mikey T, the head of the Hogettes has been talking about this for the last few years and as we were approaching retiring (The Hogettes), we discussed how Joe is the one guy we really needed to help get into the Hall. We wanted that to be our swan song. Anything we can do to keep his name on the forefront; that is our goal.”
There is still a lot of time.
“There is. He retired in ’93 and still has another nine years before he has to go the Senior route.”[xv]
Having said that, the Senior route is what got Ray Guy finally inducted.[xvi]
“Yeah, I’m not saying that this would be the worst thing, but you’re talking about another nine years. I’m pretty objective when it comes to this, I know I am a homer in regards to the Redskins, but I just feel their Offensive Line was too good to ignore. When you look at the Cowboys and the Niners they had a great supporting cast, they had Montana. Who did we have? We had Theismann, Rypien and Williams. It was always a different cast of characters around that O-Line.”
They certainly made Joe Theismann a star, and as much as he remains a public figure and well known to the next generation of Football fans, nobody is pushing for Joe Theismann to be in the Hall of Fame.
“Right, and no one is pushing for Mark Rypien or Doug Williams either. Riggins got in, which is good, but it was the O-Line that made those teams go.”
Do you think that the Hall of Fame committee puts too much premium on Pro Bowl selections? Jacoby only had four, but perhaps they don’t look at the bigger picture?
“I think that can happen, especially lately. The good side is that I am a firm believer that you don’t have to have won a bunch of Super Bowls to be a Hall of Famer. I look at the Buffalo Bills who went to four Super Bowls and didn’t win, but they are still one of the best teams I have ever seen. I think some times they can put too much weight on that as well. I could see that being a little too much weighted but I can see that those who don’t have Super Bowl rings being penalized, where Joe has three. I don’t worry about that argument a whole lot. I think it was thirteen different Running Backs that at least had one 100-yard game with that Line, which is pretty phenomenal.
If Jacoby becomes a Finalist, generally they don’t revert back to being just a Semi-Finalist. It would be huge for him just to make that leap, even if he does not make it to the Hall this year.
“Yes, he made it to the Semis. If we can get him to that last group, then maybe we can get that one last step. Russ (Grimm) was great some believe that Joe should have gone in before him. Still, both of them should be in.
Thank you so much for your time!
[i] The Hogettes officially retired in 2013.
[ii] Grimm was inducted in 2010, after being a Finalist the five years previously.
[iii] Grimm has said this on many occasions to many media outlets.
[iv] They produced four Hall of Fame inductees, Art Shell, Bob Brown, Gene Upshaw and Jim Otto.
[v] That team was anchored by Center, Mike Webster.
[vi] Mike Munchak and Bruce Matthews entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame from that roster.
[vii] Joe Theismann and John Riggins in Super Bowl XVII, Doug Williams and Timmy Smith in Super Bowl in XXII and Mark Rypien and Earnest Byner in Super Bowl XXVI.
[viii] Of those six above players, only Riggins is in the Hall of Fame. The other five have never been considered for Canton.
[ix] This is a logical argument. Even diehard fans of the Dallas Cowboys would have a hard time disputing that.
[x] Jones entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014, his first year of eligibility.
[xi] Baugh was the Redskins Quarterback from 1937 to 1952 and was a member of the first Pro Football Hall of Fame Class in 1963.
[xii] The other former Redskins who have had their number “unofficially retired” are Sonny Jurgensen, Darrell Green, Charley Taylor, Larry Brown, John Riggins, Bobby Mitchell, Dave Butz, Sam Huff and Art Monk.
[xiii] These were numbers worn by Grimm and Jacoby respectively.
[xiv] Carson was inducted in 2006. He was very vocal about being snubbed for years to the point where in 2004 he asked for his name to be removed from the ballot.
[xv] Annually the Pro Football Hall of Fame announces one or two candidates from the Senior Committee. They automatically earn a spot into the Finalist round.
[xvi] Guy entered in 2014, his first year on the Senior Ballot. He was a multi time Finalist in the past.