Interviews (37)

Three years ago I interviewed Stan Hansen for my website and one of the questions I talked to him about was about a possible induction to the WWE Hall of Fame as this was a few years removed from inducting Antonio Inoki to the aforementioned Hall.  Without being disrespectful to the WWE Hall of Fame, he spoke of his induction into the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, which was then based in Amsterdam, New York.  For Stan, gaining entry into the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame meant so much because as he stated “this one is done by my peers”.

He isn’t the only one who feels that way.

There are many athletic and entertainment Halls of Fame in North America however most of the inductees are decided by writers, and very few solicit actual past participants.  The ones that do have ex-players rarely consist of half of the voting body.  As Stan Hansen stated, that is not the case with the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, whose voting committee is predominantly former professional wrestler, with a sprinkling of wrestling journalists and historians.

While the WWE Hall of Fame has inducted past wrestlers who had limited action in their organization, it is still governed by one promotion, and essentially, one man, their owner, Vince McMahon Jr.  The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame is not part of any specific past or present wrestling organization and as such, brings no bias to the inductions. 

As per the mission statement the Hall’s “purpose is to enshrine and pay tribute to professional wrestlers who have advanced this national pastime in terms of athletics and entertainment” and over the past fifteen years they have done exactly that and have created the only brick and mortar Hall of Fame dedicated towards the art of Professional Wrestling. 

That special place is in the process of making a 1,628 mile trek to Wichita Falls, Texas.

I spoke with “Cowboy” Johnny Mantell, the former wrestler and president of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame who is spearheading the move.

Considering how busy Johnny has been of late, earning a few minutes of his time wasn’t easy as the work to unveil it’s new home in Northern Texas.  Johnny’s passion towards this project was undeniable and afterwards I found myself looking forward to pay a visit to that part of the country myself.

After speaking with Johnny, I know it will be worth the time!

What brought on the move of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame from Amsterdam, New York to Wichita Falls, Texas?

“To be quite honest with you it was created from the city of Amsterdam.  The last four years the Hall of Fame itself has been in Amsterdam, but we had to hold our banquets, trade show and functions in Johnstown, which is about 18 miles away.  The weekend was becoming discombobulated for the people coming in.  All the activities were going on in one town and the museum part was in another town. 

The Hall, since it’s inception was only open three days a week, Friday Saturday and Sunday.  The group that started it, Tony Vellano and the board of directors did a great job of setting the blueprint and getting this thing up and running but all of the people involved up there were all full time business people, so basically they ran it on the weekends. 

Let’s take the birth of a child as a metaphor here.  The child first learns how to crawl, then walk and then run.  That’s how it is with this Hall of Fame.  It had gotten to walk, and it needs to take the next step and we felt that a move to someplace in the middle of the country was the best prescription for the Hall of Fame, so they approached me about looking for a new home.

I went to the Dallas/Fort Worth Area, to Denton, Decatur, Oklahoma City, Tulsa to look for the right spot.  Wichita Falls kept calling us back. 

One was the city itself.  It was the inner workings of the city wanting something like this to help with tourism and revitalization. 

Two was that they have their own television stations within the realm of Dallas/Fort Worth, but are not completely fighting the Cowboys, the Mavs and the Stars.  Wichita Falls does not have any pro sports.  They do have an Arena Football Team, and they are doing ok, but they are a new star in town.  We just felt like it was a perfect mix of the size of the city, which is 110,000, a military base, which rotates about 75,000 people a year and a viewing audience of the TV stations of about 900,000 people.”

How has Wichita Falls embraced the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame thus far?

“Incredible.  The TV Station comes by every day to see how things are progressing and how much closer we are getting ready to opening up.  The newspapers have written numerous articles.  I am being bounced around town to different locations.  There is the Patterson Auto Group that owns dealerships in North Texas and Southern Oklahoma and I spoke at their leadership meeting the other day where they bring in the managers from all of their departments. 

They are very excited about it and I find that everywhere I go.  We have already gotten involved in the community.  We have made church appearances; we have given some tickets away for some scholarships at the schools.  The Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor of Wichita Falls, have all been supportive.

They are all excited about the history of wrestling. 

There is a significant history of professional wrestling in Wichita Falls.  Until you dig deep in it you don’t realize it.  All the greats have been through there.  Leroy McGuirk out of the Mid-South office ran it for eighteen years.  In the barnstorming days, there were two or three promoters who would run matches, Gorgeous George, George Hackenschmidt, they have all wrestled there at some point in time.  It felt like a perfect fit. 

I tell most people that our goal with the move is to move this Hall of Fame to the next level is to make it the Cooperstown or Canton of Professional Wrestling.

We are the only brick and mortar building for Professional Wrestling.  I say this because the Amateur Hall of Fame in Iowa has a room where they display some pro wrestling stuff but this is the Hall in which the men and the women of the business are really going to get behind because our mission is to preserve the history of people who were involved in it. 

We have material that goes back all the way to the Civil War, showing how wrestling was going on in circuses, carnivals and tough man contests.  I think that is what is needed in the world today is for a Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame to stand alone”

I think that certainly makes it special is that it certainly the only one of its kind.  Two other things automatically came to mind for me that makes this special.  The first is that your Hall is not associated with any specific wrestling organization, but what I think is very important is that your Hall of Fame has a large and diverse committee, of which you are a member that consists of not only former wrestlers like yourself, but of writers and historians form around the world. 

I don’t mean this as a shot at a WWE, which is essentially decided by one man, but there is a lot of thought that appears to go on as to who gets inducted.  In my mind this definitely sets you apart.

“It’s not about selling tickets, and I’m not going to pick on anybody either.  Most of the other Halls of Fames around the country, and there are a group of them popping up around the country, are not quite like ours.

We have a voting committee that works on the ballot that sifts through hundreds of letters from fans and family members who want their respective wrestlers to get into the Hall of Fame.  This committee will send a ballot and it will go to the Board of Directors to be approved and the ballots go to the voting committee. 

Like you said, the voting committee is made up of historians, hall of famers, wrestlers that spent their life in this business, some AP people, so with that vote then the highest voter in each category goes into the Hall of Fame and much like any other business or any other kind of entity after its been up and running for sixteen years, there is always something that needs to be adjusted.

So with our fifteenth year and next year’s inductions it will have a little bit of a different look to it.  I will just give you something that we are looking at is that here we are in our fifteenth year of inductions and we have yet to have a referee inducted.

For me, I don’t take that very well because for me the third man in the ring when I was working was very important.  I think that with the move down here and with myself and Terry Funk and with Greg Pearson, whose Global Wrestling still plays on ESPN Classics we have a real thought and a real process about the business of pro wrestling and how and what was done. 

The Board of Directors is a very diverse group from a University of Texas-Arlington Professor to a tax collector to a President of a bank.  We have a great group of people who are really passionate about making this (Wichita Falls) the Cooperstown or Canton of Professional Wrestling.

We are going from a facility of 6,000 Square Feet to 7,500 Square Feet with the possibility of adding two floors available to us.  The people who are upset form Amsterdam about the move I think will be happy about it’s direction when they come and see it, as will the wrestlers around the country. 

There have been so many who have contacted me and talked to me about this who are excited about the Hall of Fame being in the middle of the country.  We are getting some new names who are starting to get involved with it and as we go through the months here we will announce them on the website.

We are also looking at it in another aspect as with the end of the territories and all of the different places that employed professional wrestlers to work, with that there has been this advent of independent companies starting to pop up.

I’m going go to give you an example right here in the state of Texas.  There used to be four territories here with the Von Erichs, the Blanchards, the Funks and Paul Boesch.  When everything shut down all of the sudden there was a group of independent companies that opened up and over the last ten years there are about ninety companies that opened up and ran some kind of wrestling show.

Now there are all these independent guys and I’m not going to say that they are all professional wrestlers but if that’s what they want to do and they are selling tickets, this fits under an umbrella of that wording.  We are going to reach out to as many of them as we can and get their stories through different displays that rotate in the hall.  We’re going to tell as many of those stories as we can so that we can give the people that walk into the Hall of Fame a history lesson. 

We want to show them everything.  We want to show them the good and the bad, the pretty and the ugly.  We want to show the territories that ran seven nights a week and the ones that run once a month for two or three years.  People need to know about Herb Simmons in Kansas City who has been promoting wrestling for thirty-five years.  People need to know that Gary Hart ran the Metroplex and brought in big stars to work there.

There’s a group in Southern Louisiana really doing very well drawing good house shows and bringing in a lot of people to watch professional wrestling and from what I understand doing it the old-fashioned way.  Nobody else, unless you are in Southern Louisiana knows about that group.  We need to tell that story if we want to tell the truth about professional wrestling and we’re looking to do that.”

Out of all of the exhibits or items that you have, which one is your favorite, or one that you can’t stop staring at?

“There are so many pieces but I’m going to tell you that the other day one of the items that was shipped here of this picture, and I don’t know if I ever saw it Upstate New York.  It is a picture that Dr. Oliver Bateman says is from around 1910 and it’s Frank Gotch and Joe Mankiewicz and they are standing on a stage and there was a banner behind them that said one dollar for every minute that they could stay in the ring with a world champion wrestler.  A five minute minimum.  There is a lady (in the picture) that you can tell is the cashier because behind her was the curtain where they would take people to try to take on Gotch or Mankiewicz.

Good luck to them!  I wish them the very best but I don’t think there were many dollars paid out.  That picture keeps looking at me.  Whether some people want to say that was the start of MMA or the professional wrestling days.  That stands out to me.

We have a ring that was donated.  They say it was built around 1900.  This was one that they used in the Polo Grounds in New York.  It was made for boxing or wrestling and it has the hooks on it for three ropes or four ropes.  If you look back in history and all of the fights in the Polo Grounds and it happened in this ring, it is a really cool deal. 

Another great piece came from Mick Foley, who is a huge supporter of this Hall of Fame.  He donated the original transcript from his first book.  There are so many great pieces and it’s really unfair for me to single out one, two, three or four of them. 

I think the biggest thing I see and my wife and I have been going up to New York the last five years during the induction weekends is when I see people walk into the Hall and see something that reminds them of their youth or reminds them of when they got into professional wrestling.  You see them smile or chuckle or tell you a story about it.  I think we are going to see a lot more of it in Wichita Falls. 

Wichita Falls has such a great wrestling history.  The city leaders here grew up watching it.  Danny Hodge, Bill Watts, Ken Mantell, Skandor Akbar.  All these great guys came through this town.  Their fathers worked the venues.  There is such a connection between wrestling and Wichita Falls.  There is such a love here for the sport that I feel that we have found home.”

When is your grand opening in Wichita Falls?

“I wish I could tell you it was tomorrow.  We’re working on it every day.  We are going into a building that has not been open in a few years, and there is some catch-up work we had to get done and there is nothing but butts and elbows in there right now. 

I am really hoping that we can get this open by mid-March and that way we will have a couple of weeks of it open and running before Wrestlemania.”

And you also have your big induction ceremony in May.

“Absolutely.  But we would really like to have it open in a few weeks, again prior to Wrestlemania in Arlington.”

John, thank you so much for your time, I wish you the best on this move! 

Often when I conduct an interview for, I have a fairly good idea where I want to take the interview.  With former New York Giant and current Hollywood actor, Jarrod Bunch, I was able to ask everything I wanted, but as it unfolded our conversation went to places I was not expecting and I received an education on an industry that I had never explored before.

Considering how Jarrod Bunch has been defying stereotypes for decades, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Jarrod Bunch had a dream to play football for a storied Division One school and make the National Football League, and he did, playing Fullback for the University of Michigan and becoming a first round draft pick of the New York Giants.  That in itself is impressive, and makes him the envy of most armchair warriors, but if you have read other interviews that I have conducted there is far more to Bunch than what he accomplished on the gridiron. 

A quick look on his personal website gives you a laundry list of accomplishments:[ii]  After that I knew I had to find a way to play professional football.  That was where I knew I wanted to be a professional athlete.  To do that I knew I had to get to a college that gave me that opportunity. 

My main objective was to get to a Division One College and to get a scholarship to play there.” 

So when was the point in your career where you planned you’re post-playing career?

“My thinking was that I was first going to play professional football when I interviewed him (Kinicki).  I told him that I wanted to play pro football but that I only wanted to do it for three or four years.  Even at that age I knew that you would get injured.  I wanted football to get me started to do something else.  I wanted to use the connections that I made in professional football to get into other things and into another career.”

Was acting something that you thought of early on?

“Not necessarily acting.  Maybe reporting, or being a commentator at games, and I did do that for a little bit.  Right after I was done playing I was working for Comcast doing high school games, but that wasn’t my thing.”

Is it safe to say that you wanted to embrace more of the creative process?

“Yes, for sure.”

“I have read a couple of times, and I didn’t realize it at the time, that you were in one of my favourite HBO Films, Only In America, the Don King biopic, where you played George Foreman.  You were great in that.

“I got some good feedback on that.   That was the project that made me an actor who played football as opposed to a football player who acted.  That was huge.  It is hard for some people to get past me being a football player. 

I had to battle many other actors to get that job.  The auditioning process that I went through, that helped make me an actor.”

I have heard former athletes turned broadcasters say that one of the most flattering things that they can hear is when younger viewers are surprised that they were former players.  I imagine there is a parallel for yourself as you transitioned to actor and producer.

Granted with your size, I assume people naturally assume that you were or are an athlete at some point.

“Yes, you are absolutely right!  Actually, that is more of a compliment too!  I’m 47 years old and I still look like an athlete!  (laughs)

I am a few years younger than you, and I do not look like an athlete!  My natural Botox of thirty extra pounds helps me look younger!

“(laughs) I take it all as a compliment now.

What helped you channel George Foreman?  Foreman’s career has always been vey interesting to me.  When he fought Muhammad Ali in Africa he wasn’t known as the charismatic boxer he would become later.  At that time of his career, he was very much angry.

“What made it simple was the situation.  He was the biggest and baddest man that was boxing at the time.  I trained and made my body look really tight to play him.  I looked the part and it helped making the scenes in the ring really easy.  It was a look and a feeling of that person.

When it came to playing him (Foreman) in Africa it was real you know?  I know his brother personally.  His brother had a show in New Jersey when I was in Atlantic City and I did his show.  We stayed in contact and that made it really easy knowing his brother and being a professional athlete myself, knowing some of the feelings he might have on fight day or being a winning or losing fighter.  I just used those feelings.”

In that film, you were cast with some very experienced actors, Ving Rhames being the lead of course.[iv]  I said yes and they told me who it was and that he was a jiu-jitsu person.

The injury that put me out of football put me in touch with a guy who was a martial artist and we did training for years but not competitive fighting.  It was tai-chi for my knee and it was great for my health.  They thought I was trained in martial arts and I took the fight knowing that the guy knows jiu-jitsu, but I am a tough guy.  I have won tough man competitions and knew the fundamentals of boxing, but the guy got me in a chokehold.

Afterwards, I am thinking what is this jiu-jitsu stuff about and I went to go train in jiu-jitsu and it would become another thing I did every day, sometimes twice in a day.  I started competing in it.  It made me think about doing more MMA fights.  I took that fight without really knowing what I was doing, but I didn’t want to get cut up for the little money they were paying and risk my face for auditions or not get acting jobs because I have this injury or that injury, do I just do jiu-jitsu and I started winning all the tournaments. 

I got my black belt in five years.  I still fight in tournaments at 47 years old.  I won the Pan-Ams last year.[vi]  I trained him for a couple of years as his strength coach, and that was when he was heavyweight champion and he is still heavyweight champion!

I have met a lot of people through just jiu-jitsu, MMA and it’s like tree branches.  It reaches out and multiplies.”

One of the biggest roles you had recently was in Django Unchained, so much so that if you Google your name that is one of the first things that comes up.

“If you look on IMDB I have 30 some credits in movie and television.”

I spent some time on your IMDB page prior to contacting you.[viii]  Before this project started I was trying to get in on that.

It was frustrating for me though because a former football player couldn’t get in on a football movie, but there were times when I would audition for other things they would say ‘Oh, he’s a football player!’  It makes you wonder what the hell do I do?”

I could argue that Terry Crews takes all your roles!

“Terry’s a great guy and he works his butt off too!  I know him.  We talk, though we haven’t talked in a while, he hasn’t had the time to talk!  He is a hard worker. 

When you have somebody that really likes you, they’ll push you.  He’ll tell you that.  Stallone is always pumping him up to somebody from when they first did the Expendables, the first one.  When you have a buddy like that, and when you also have (Adam) Sandler it helps.  Sandler loves him because he’s a good guy. 

Then he goes on and does TV Shows and hosts shows.  There are some people who you are glad that they have done well.”

I have to ask, what was your favourite sports film?

“Off the top of my head the original with Warren Beatty, Heaven Can Wait.  North Dallas Forty, The Longest Yard, the original one with Burt Reynolds.”

That is one of my all-time favorites for sure.  

“I don’t know if you consider this a sports movie, but my favorite movie is Let’s Do It Again with Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby and Jimmie Walker plays the boxer.  Actually, it was that movie that inspired me to be a licensed hypnotherapist.

[ii] Kinicki had a nine year NFL career, seven of which were with the Cleveland Browns.

[iv]That player was former seven year NFL veteran Wide Receiver, Michael Westbrook.

[vi]Werdum is a two time World Champion in Jiu-Jitsu and is currently ranked #5 in the pound for pound rankings from UFC.

[viii]That doctor would be played by James Woods in the movie.

         To get to the play in the Super Bowl you obviously have the necessary skill to first compete in the National Football League and the luck to be on a competitive team.  Former Tight End Orson Mobley not only played in the Super Bowl for the Denver Broncos, he was at the big dance three times.

         As a Professional Football player, Mobley caught 84 passes for 1,019 Yards with four Touchdowns and as a member of three AFC Championship Teams he had a pro career to be proud of, though it was he accomplished off of the field long after he retired from the gridiron that he is most proud of.

         Mobley would be suspended in 1989 for drug use and would be out of the league the year after and would for years deal with substance abuse issues; a topic he has been open about in interviews, but more importantly with young athletes so that they do not fall into the same pitfalls that befell him when he was young man.

         Rather than focus on what he has done wrong in his life, Orson Mobley has chosen to mentor others and has done work as a motivational speaker.  We had the opportunity to talk to Orson about his college career, his time with the Denver Broncos and how he has worked with youngsters to help them understand how choices in life can have ramifications in the future. 

         The first thing I would like to ask you is what drove you to try motivational speaking?  Clearly, you have a unique story to tell, but not everyone who does, elects to try their hand at that. 

         “Just the simple fact that back when I played and when I got to the NFL it was made clear that the organization and the coaches were going to make sure that I had everything I needed to be successful on the field and when it came to off the field stuff, I was left to my own devices. 

         Growing up without a father figure, and I don’t know if you would call it a curse, but being very good at athletics in high school I was pretty much allowed to do whatever it was that I wanted to, which was not always the best thing for me.

         When you’re a young kid, and you don’t know a whole lot and you don’t listen a whole lot, people allow you to do what you want to do and you grow up thinking that’s the proper way it is. 

         When I look back on life on the decisions I made and the things I did and how it is now affecting me today, I want to give young athletes the opportunity to see things really are and make better decisions.”

         You were a highly recruited athlete coming out of Miami.  You chose Florida State.  Was (the University of) Miami and Florida going after you too?

         “Yeah.  A lot of that too was because I played baseball and a lot of schools were interested in that.  I was recruited heavily by Florida, Florida State, Miami and some other schools, but those three were the main ones.”

         What made you choose Florida State?  

         “I had never been anywhere and I did not want to stay in Miami and the first thing is when I showed up (at Florida State) and I was a big fan of Ron Simmons and on my visit I pretty much hung out with him.[ii] 

         He had to keep his word on that but then I got injured and he (Bowden) kind of made me quit, so I really didn’t get the opportunity.  Some of it was my own doing with the academic stuff.”

         You then transferred to Salem.  How did that come about?

         “I wasn’t doing anything.  I was looking at getting back into baseball and I had a couple of calls from a couple of professional baseball teams to come and work out.  I got a call from Terry Bowden[iv]

         How was that living in Salem?  That was in West Virginia right?

         “Yeah it was…(laughs)…it was different.  It was a shock.  I can remember driving into town and I was watching this guy cutting his yard, and he had a big long string at the end of his mower so that he would let it go down the side of the mountain and then he would pull it back up again.  I was looking at that thinking ‘where am I?’”

         I remember driving through West Virginia thinking the same thing.  I have always said their state color must be camouflage.   There was certainly credence, to Terry Bowden’s pitch.  You weren’t the only person to come out of Salem to go the NFL.[vi]

         That’s got to be so different for a kid from Miami.

         “Yeah for sure”

         When you were drafted in the sixth round going to Denver, did you have a mindset of I don’t care who drafts me, or were there teams that you had a preference for or desire not to play for?

         “My thing was just to get to the NFL.  I screwed up my chances to be a first round draft pick when I flunked out of Florida State and they were talking about pushing me for an All American, but my main goal (at Florida State) was to make it to the NFL.  Class wasn’t important, school wasn’t important and that is what I talk to the kids today about.

         That was one of those decisions I made without really thinking about it and how it would affect me.  When I talk to young athletes about having character and discipline and how you produce discipline is doing the things you don’t like when you’re supposed to do them.”

         And you are doing that in schools in South Florida right?

         “Actually in Jacksonville.”

         Oh, in North Florida.  So to the schools there I presume.


         And the reception has been pretty good?

         “Yeah, I have a good friend who was a Running Back with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Anthony Johnson who I knew in my short little stint with the Colts.[viii]  We found an apartment complex close to the practice facilities so we both got apartments there.  We were pretty tight, as was (Wide Receiver) Vance Johnson and (Wide Receiver) Ricky Nattiel, but I mostly hung out with some of the Defensive Line.”

         I imagine you are asked about playing with John Elway on a regular basis.  How did you find working with him?

         “The one thing is that John liked throwing the ball down the field and the routes that we had for Tight Ends weren’t very great.  The Tight End is used much differently now, and are more featured now, just looking at Rob Gronkowski and a lot of times he doesn’t have to be open; he just swallows up defensive backs because he is so big, but back then John liked to throw downfield, but he could also scramble, so I knew that any time that there was a time when that happened there was an opportunity for me to catch the ball even though my name wasn’t called.”

         You are segueing into something that I really wanted to ask you.  The NFL has altered a lot of the rules, and in terms of concussions they have become more aware of the danger that can occur to players.  I would like to know what you think of the recent rule changes to protect receivers?

         “I like the changes.  The guys are so much bigger and faster now.  You got guys who are 260 pounds running a 4.4 or 4.5 or something like that.  I think it is good to try to protect these guys.  When it is all said and done it is still football and guys are flying around out there trying to stick your shoulder without putting your helmet in which I am pretty sure has been a hard change for many of these players to do.  I think overall it is what is best for the game.”

         In terms of the concussion lawsuit, was that something you joined in or is it even something you can talk about?

         “I can’t really go into any details other than I know that for a fact that back when I played a lot of my concussions weren’t on record.  You get hit, you go on the sidelines and they ask you how many fingers they are holding up and if you don’t get it right, they hold you out of the game for one minute and put you back in there. 

That was the concussion test back then.  Now it’s a lot different.  You go through a battery of tests and they can’t get back on the field until they pass it.  Concussions are a tricky thing, because once you have one you are susceptible to having another one.”

We certainly know a lot more about concussions than we did back then.  I was on your website ( and you told a great story about your former teammate, Tom Jackson.

“Oh yes! (laughs)  Tom was a great guy.  When I was a rookie, we had a coach who was all about practicing the way you played and every opportunity was a chance to get better.[x]

“He was fortunate, I mean he was a great Linebacker and was part of the Orange Crush, but he really didn’t have that superstar name.  Most of the guys they get now are Hall of Fame guys, you know really big names, guys like Ray Lewis, but some of those guys got in before that was a criteria.[xii]  I was seeing for the first time was the consequences of my actions and that I still had some growing to do. 

About seven or eight years ago I got an infection in my foot from being a diabetic in my blood stream.  It was really serious and I almost died from it.  It was then that I decided to give my life to Christ and view things differently and I haven’t looked back since.”

What is next for Orson Mobley?

“One of the things that I am looking to do but I haven’t set it up yet is with a Huntington College and they were looking to hire me as a scout/mentor so I’m really looking to God to open the door to mentor these rookies and help where I can.

[ii]Bobby Bowden is one of the most successful coaches in college football history with a record of 327 – 129 – 4 with 20 bowl wins and two National Championships.

[iv]By transferring to a non Division One School, he would be allowed to play and not sit out a year. 

[vi]I checked after our conversation.  The 2012 census had the population at 1,586 people. 

[viii]Denver had two 6th Round picks that year.  Mobley went 151st overall and Jackson went 161st overall.  Jackson would play nine seasons in the NFL, the first seven with Denver.

[x]Jackson joined ESPN in 1987, and has been with them ever since. 

[xii]This is the website for the church:  

It was about two years ago that I had the pleasure of interviewing, Brian Blair, known mostly to wrestling fans as one half of the 1980’s World Wrestling Federation tag team, The Killer Bees.  It seemed only fitting that I made an attempt to talk to his tag team partner, “Jumpin” Jim Brunzell.

Like Brian, Jim Brunzell accomplished far more in professional wrestling than just what people saw in the late 80’s under Vince McMahon’s juggernaut of a promotion.  A former football player for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Brunzell would star in the American Wrestling Association for years as both a tag team wrestler and solo competitor and was known for his scientific mat wrestling skills and likable personality.  

The likability that he always showcased in the wrestling ring and in backstage interviews was no façade as I found “Jumpin” Jim to be one of the nicest men I have ever spoken too, but also one of the more candid.  I spoke to Jim about his time in the AWA, the Mid-Atlantic territory where he was their Heavyweight Champion and of course the strange booking he suffered in the WWF, where he and Brian are regarded as one of the best tag teams to never hold the Tag Team Championship.

Jim also spoke to me about his current feelings toward the product, which is not something he watches on a regular basis anymore.  What impressed me the most about my conversation with Brunzell is how self-aware he was in regards to how is opinions on professional wrestling reflect an “old-timer” point of view.  

I really enjoyed my conversation with Jim and our post interview conversation where we spoke about hockey, Winnipeg and just life in general.

Jim, thank you so much for your time!  Are you familiar with WWE’s Tough Enough?


It is a reality show that the WWE is doing to find new talent.  You were in probably the ultimate “tough enough” group there ever was in Verne Gagne’s camp.  That was in 1972 right?

“Yes it was, right.”

I think almost from that group had a very good career.  

“Yeah, I think the only one from that group that didn’t was Bob Bruggers who was a great football player at the University of Minnesota and was also a great basketball player.  He went on to play professional football for two different teams.  He wound up in a plane crash in South Carolina and never wrestled again.  He broke his back and though he couldn’t wrestle, he could finally walk again.

There was Khosrow, The Iron Shnook, or the Iron Sheik.  Kenny Patera, Ric Flair, myself and Greg (Gagne) all had great careers.  We were very fortunate.  Verne Gagne was rather hard to work for but he instilled in us so much at his camp.  He really didn’t smarten us up to the business.  He made it real rough and I think that it helped us.  I think it gave us all an edge.  Going through what we did for two and half months for six days a week for six hours a day.

Billy Robinson, who was the British Empire Champion was with us every day and it got to the point where we could do 1,000 free squats a day, run a couple miles and do all the calisthenics.  We were in great shape, but we didn’t know how to work! (Laughs)

How did you get into that camp?  I read somewhere that you were friends with Greg Gagne long before.  

“Actually, Greg and I were walk-ons as freshmen on the University of Minnesota football team.  He was a Quarterback from Mound High School who walked on without a scholarship and I did the same as a Wide Receiver from White Bear Lake.  He and I became good friends and actually clicked and we did very well as freshmen on our football team.  

In my sophomore year, they moved Greg from Quarterback to Safety and he wanted to play Quarterback.  After his sophomore year he transferred to (the University of) Wyoming.  I continued to play at Minnesota and after I was done at the University of Minnesota I was offered to go to the tryout camp at the Washington Redskins in 1971.

I got out there and it was only for two or three days and they didn’t ask me to come back, so I went back to school, I had a few credits left, and Kenny Patera had just competed in the Summer Olympics in Munich and Greg had called me and said, ‘Hey, my dad is going to have a wrestling camp.’ and he wanted to know if I wanted to try.   I said, ‘Greg, the only wrestling I did were intramurals in high school’, and he said we’d start from the very beginning.  

I thought here is an opportunity for me to do something athletic.  When I was seventeen and eighteen years old if anyone told me that I would have a twenty-five year career in professional wrestling I would think they are crazy.  It just happened that I was athletic enough to catch Verne’s eye and I was persistent enough to compete in Verne’s camp and I thought what the heck?  It’s not Pro Football, but it’s the next best thing.  

I remember my first match.  It was funny because it was December 27, 1972 and it was up at Moorhead, Minnesota at the armoury and I wrestled another Verne Gagne protégé named Dennis Stamp.  He was an amateur wrestler who was broken in by Verne who wrestled in Oklahoma and Texas and what have you, and he never really made it too big.  I worked with him up in Morehead and we went to a fifteen minute draw and I was exhausted.  I came in (in the back) and I was really sophomoric and I kicked this dog gone garbage can and who was there standing right in the hallway was Dusty Rhodes!  

Dusty looked at me and said ‘Jimmy, just relax.  This was your first match.’  I looked at him and felt like a fool.  I had such competitiveness at whatever sport I partook in as an amateur and all of the sudden I felt like I was underwater.  It’s just like any other job; you have about a two or three year learning curve.  Unless you’re a Ric Flair who is a natural, who comes to it like a duck to water.

You know it took me about two or three years to really get it, and Verne had me in the AWA for a little bit and then he sent me down to Kansas City in ’73 and I worked for Bob Geigel and Pat O’Connor and I worked a lot!  I worked six and seven days a week.  Most of the time I worked twice a night.  I worked the opening match and would come back in a tag match.  

That was the first time I met the Funks and the Briscos, Harley Race, so it really enabled me to see the different styles of pro wrestling and I picked what I thought would advance me and my physical talents to hone my skills.  Also I had a great partner down there by the name of Mike George and we hit it off.  We were 22 years old and we did very well for the small little territory of the Central States Territory that wrestling was.

I was there for ten months and Verne said to me that it was time to go home and just before I was to come back they told me that they had an opportunity for me to go to Japan.  

So in 1974, I went to Japan on a tour and I didn’t know anybody on it and I was over there for five weeks, and really didn’t know what the hell I was doing.  You know you’re in the ring with these Japanese guys who want to kill you and you’re fighting for your life every night!  It was quite an experience for me and I was over there with the Brute from Florida, Tony Marino and I was with Tex McKenzie, Argentina Apollo and Eddie Farhat, The Sheik.  Sailor Art White from Montreal was there.  It was one hell of a crew!

Honest to God it was one hell of an awakening!  The third night I am over there I am in a cage match!  I had Sailor Art White as my partner, and we got through the match and it was a real experience for me and I got back and its funny that after five weeks in Japan where after you are fighting for your life every night that you go back to Hawaii.  I was just settling in, thinking I have four days to just relax.

The first day I am there (in Hawaii), and I just checked in and Wally Karbo calls Ed Francis who gets a hold of me and I had to go home the next day to make TV in Minneapolis and I was just pissed off.  They were setting Greg and I up as the High Flyers, but I was in Honolulu for only twelve hours!  I flew the red eye, got to Minneapolis and made TV and the High Flyers was born.”  

Can I ask you a couple of questions about Greg?


Going back to something that you mentioned before how you were never smartened up during the (Verne Gagne’s) camp.  Was Greg smart to the business at that time, or did Verne protect it from him too?

“Oh sure!  He still keeps it from me! (Laughs)”

I always thought that Greg was an underrated wrestler who got a lot of flak from fans thinking he got a push because he was Verne’s son.  In the ring, he had great timing, but he didn’t look like a star because he did not have the physique that so many of you had.  Backstage, were their political ramifications for you being his friend/partner?

“Well, here’s the deal.  Greg was a brilliant worker in the ring.  He had great timing, did great interviews and the only drawback like you say was that physically he just wasn’t big enough.  He only weighed about 200 pounds but our team worked good because we had great talent in there that flew for us but we never had the opportunity to go elsewhere.

We went to Atlanta for two weeks in 1976 or 1977 to work with Dick Slater and Bob Orton Jr. and the Briscos.  We had some great matches down there.  

You know when you are the son of a legendary promoter who was probably disliked by a lot of wrestlers and promoters throughout the country it can’t be easy.   Verne didn’t compromise.  He was a dictator.  All the guys who came to the AWA more or less realized that this was the way it was going to be.  You’re going to be here and you’re going to make money working fourteen days a month.

Greg never really had a chance to see what it was to wrestle anywhere else.  Let me tell you, that Greg had a chip on his shoulder and he would fight anybody!  He fought Ken Patera at camp one time and I thought he was crazy! First of all Greg slapped Ken right in the jaw and Ken went back a couple steps and Ken went down but came up and kicked him in the face.  

Greg was tough as nails.  When you are the son of a promoter it is very hard to make it in the wrestling business if you don’t venture out.  I think Mike Graham felt the same thing in Florida.”

I think that is definitely true.  I know that with the Von Erichs, they would eventually venture out.  I think that David Von Erich had quite a run as a heel in Florida early in his career.  

“He probably did.  The only Von Erich I knew was Kerry who came into the WWF when I was there.  He was also a great physical specimen and I was also with him in Japan.  He could work too.  

There was something lacking there mentally that sort of stunted him from really achieving greatness.  It was a shame because Kerry was really a nice guy.  I don’t know if he was that spoiled or what his upbringing was.  I remember in Japan and all of these Japanese guys wanted his autograph and he would sign his autograph and put ‘Fuck You’ on it.  I’d say ‘Kerry, what are you doing?’ and he would just laugh saying he was just joking.  I said these fans aren’t going to think it’s a joke when they realize what FU means!  He was very naïve.  Physically he was so big but mentally he was like a little boy.”

Legacy wise you are known mostly for your two tag teams with Greg and Brian Blair, but you had a lengthy run as the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion.  I think you traded the belt with some people who were with you in Verne’s camp, Ken Patera and Khosrow.  You won the belt from Ray Stevens right?

“Yes, I won it from Ray Stevens then Ken Patera got it from me and then I got it back and then Khosrow stole it from me, and then I never got it back.  I have a story about that will be in my upcoming book, Matlands: True Stories from the Wrestling Road.  I tell a story in their about Khosrow and I in Mid-Atlantic.  He had wrestled me on TV and at that time he had that loaded boot.  

He had beaten me in a match with the boot on TV and we had another where I beat him clean with a sleeper hold.  I took his boot off and I ran over to the interviewer, I think it was Rich Landrum and the next week we had a double shot, Norfolk, Virginia in the afternoon and Khosrow and I were in the main event.  I took that boot and said I was going to win back the title because I was going to wear that boot and that there was no way that he could beat me without his boot.  

We had a good crowd there and Sandy Scott who was working there with his brother George who was the booker there comes to me fifteen minutes before the card was to start and asked me if got the finish.  I said no.  

‘George wants you to do an hour broadway’

I looked at him and said ‘What?’

‘George wants you to do an hour broadway.’

I said ‘Sandy, what the hell?  I got the loaded boot and I can’t beat Khosrow in an hour?’

I was steaming.  You might as well have dug a hole and buried me in the middle of the ring in Norfolk, Virginia and hold a funeral for ‘Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell.  Anytime a babyface has a gimmick of a heel and can’t win it’s horrible.  It’s a horrible, horrible finish.  Even though I liked George Scott, I thought he was a horrible booker.  He ran out of ideas and he worked the dog shit out of us in North Carolina, seven days a week and twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday.  

That night after Norfolk I had to wrestle Khosrow again with his loaded boot and we went forty-five minutes and I got disqualified.  If you’re really a wrestling fan and are hip to what’s going on in an area you could really see that George Scott had no future plans for me.  It was shortly after that I refused to do an hour broadway with Khosrow again and he fired me.”

So that is how you departed that territory.

“Yeah, he fired me.  I went to Atlanta for six weeks in 1980 I believe and Jim Barnett was the promoter.  He invited me over to his apartment and he had a Rolls Royce and he brings Gerry Brisco and me there.  He said to me:

‘Jimsy, what do you want to do?’

I said I have aspirations of being the World Champion because the World Champion makes the most money.  He said he realized that and asked again what I wanted to do.  I said I think I want to go home (Minnesota) and go back to the AWA.  He said to me that it would be the worst decision I would ever make.  Well, I went back to Minneapolis and that year in 1981 it was the best year I ever had.  I made 80,000 bucks and it was a great reuniting of the High Flyers and we were good for another four years.”

The AWA was a very hot territory then.

“I’ll tell you, I was very lucky.  There was such great talent when I was in the AWA.  When I was there was Dick Murdoch, Dusty Rhodes, “Superstar” Billy Graham, Wahoo McDaniel, Baron Von Raschke, Nick Bockwinkel, Bobby Heenan who I consider the greatest, Larry Hennig, Don Muraco, Rene Goulet.  It was incredible.  We had big towns and a few small towns that Verne booked during the week and we never worked more than seventeen (or) eighteen days in a month.  Shit, when I moved to New York (WWF) I worked twenty-seven days a month for three years.

He (Vince McMahon) killed us.  He killed everybody when he took over.  He had three towns running a night and we criss-crossed the whole country I don’t know how many times.  It was bizarre.”

You came to my hometown of Toronto quite a bit.  I became a wrestling fan in the mid-80’s and by then Toronto was in the WWF umbrella and was the only wrestling on television.  I saw you at Exhibition Stadium opening up the card against the Funk Brothers.

“Oh yeah!  There were about 70,000 people there.  As matter of fact, they had a picture of my dropkick against Dory Funk in the Toronto Sun.  It was the best dropkick picture that I ever saw, and I saw thousands of them.  Hulk Hogan was against Paul Orndorff that night and it was my picture that was on the cover of the paper.”  

Nobody has done that dropkick better than you have.  The dropkick was your finisher but did you ever feel that because so many wrestlers used in their matches but not as finishers that it watered down yours?

“Not really.  It is because in my era compared to now and compared to the last twenty-five years I see so much in the ring that really doesn’t mean anything.  It’s just one thing after another, and sure there is a lot of athleticism but the timing and the meaning of what they are doing isn’t where it should be.

I watched the WWE a couple of different times (recently).  Actually I brought my grandkids to a RAW show in Minneapolis last December and I was very thankful to the WWE for giving us good tickets.  The backstage staff was great.  My grandkids took pictures with Hulk (Hogan) and Ryback and they just had a great time.  But when I watched, and the trouble with the whole wrestling scene right now, and this is just my own opinion is that everything is so precisely setup and choreographed that it takes away from the contest in the ring.  It doesn’t look real.  You watch these constantly the wrestlers do these moves and nothing means anything.  They have four or five different false finishes, they go outside of the ring, go into the table, and then get disqualified.  

I know what Vince is trying to do.  He’s created totally a different concept of what the wrestling fan appreciates.  He’s created his own new wrestling style and changed the perception of what people will accept.  There are a few good workers.  I always thought that in my era that Bob Orton Jr. was one of the best, Jake Roberts was incredible and Ricky Steamboat was good and Randy Savage was good.

Now, Bob Orton’s kid, Randy is very good.  You know I see a guy like Roman Reigns who is a great physical specimen, very handsome, but he doesn’t have the timing.  He doesn’t have enough experience.  You can see these guys who don’t have it, but are getting pushed and sure they are going to make some money but as an old timer and you think ‘holy smokes’, but more power to them!”  

When the WWF first signed you in 1985 did you know that they were going to pair with you Brian right away?

“No.  I thought I was going to be a single, and I was hoping I was going to be a single.  I wanted to go there, show what I could do and do my best.  I’ll never forget the first time I did an interview the first day in Poughkeepsie.  I think it was June 15th or June 20th or something.  I flew into LaGuardia and then I get on a plane with Hillbilly Jim Morris, the first guy I met in the WWE.  He had just come off of a dislocated knee and he was out for six months.

I get there, I meet Vince and do an interview and then Vince turns around and says, ‘Oh, my God, another Bob Backlund!’  That’s what he said.  I always cut a babyface promo and he wanted to have so many characters and that wasn’t Jim Brunzell.  I stayed the same and knew the way I felt I wanted to present myself to the fans.  I knew right away that wasn’t going to be good enough and Vince and I were not going to get along! (Laughs)”

So who brokered your deal?  It wasn’t Vince?

“Actually, George Scott did.  Terry Bollea (Hulk Hogan) told me that if I wanted to leave the AWA there would be a spot for me.  At that time, Vince was trying to get everybody he could because he wanted to decimate everybody he could, and he (eventually) did a great job of it.  When I got there, I thought I will just do the best that I can and all of the sudden they came up with an idea of having Brian and I together and then the idea of the Killer Bees and then eventually the idea with the masks.  I thought that (the masks) was great!  I thought if they went with Mask Confusion, we would have something, but Jeez, they didn’t do anything with it.  They could have milked that and we would have made some money with it with any of the teams whether it be Valentine & Beefcake, the Harts or anybody.  I’ll never forget one time they had an eight-man tag and it was in Lake Placid, New York and it was Brian and I and Koko B. Ware and George “The Animal” Steele.  At the end of the match all four of us had our masks on.”


“I thought that’s the end of the Killer Bees!  It was Vince’s way of saying that we (the Killer Bees) were here for some laughs.  That’s what it was.”

The funny thing was in regards to your tag team with Brian, I always felt that you were given so many stop and start pushes and you were positioned so many times to win the titles.  I remember right before the Hart Foundation won the Tag Team titles, you defeated them on Saturday Night’s Main Event where it was billed as a number one contender’s match.  


So if the Harts beat the Bulldogs, and you have a high profile win over them, it stands to reason that you would receive multiple title opportunities.  Now you did get title shots, but they never pulled that trigger to make you that number one face team.  Dynamite Kid rushed back from injury, the Can-Am Connection coming in, and later as Strike Force were certainly factors, but I always wondered why they never gave you that opportunity.  

Obviously, I am not in the business, but as I look back the way that you were booked.  Shortly after the Hart Foundation won the Tag Team Titles, you won the Frank Tunney Memorial Tournament that I saw in Toronto.  

“I’ll tell you what the deal was.  Vince just didn’t like us! (laughs) Right at the very beginning there was a litigation that I had with Vince.  What happened was before I left the AWA Greg Gagne signed my name on a doll contract.  I want to say it was with LJN and they manufactured a tag team doll set of the High Flyers.  It was right when Brian and I were starting together.  

I can’t remember if it was Toys R Us and I went in there and there was a High Flyers tag team action figures.  I thought ‘Shit, I never agreed to this!’  I found out that Greg signed my name before I left because he said he wouldn’t produce them without my name on it so he signed my name and I found out I was supposed to be given $12,000 as an up front charge.

What happened was the WWF said that Jim Brunzell works for us so we get the money.  So Vince takes this money from me so I said, ‘Hey, this was before I joined so I should be entitled to that money.’  Sure enough, my lawyer stepped in and I got the money from the WWF and I think that pissed off Vince right off the bat.”

From everything I ever read about Vince he is a very competitive man.  I don’t know so much that it was the $12,000 but that he lost.

“Well yeah.  I tell you this, and I don’t know if Brian mentioned it but we signed a couple of different contracts with Vince and a couple of them were worded in favor of us in terms of royalties and I always figured that if you signed a contract you’re going to do your best to honor that contract which we did and I expected the WWF at that time to do the same.  

What happened is that we had signed this contract for “x” amount percentage of the gross and we found out that Vince was paying way less of that percentage.  He was paying on the net.  When Brian and I finally got fired and left we sued Vince and he was pissed off.  This was around the time when he was investigated for steroid distribution and he was really mad.  He prolonged this litigation for three or four years and we had this contingency plan with this lawyer in Chicago and what happened?  This lawyer from Connecticut named Myra Gebard who was solicited to represent Brian and I, now this was three and a half years after the litigation started, right before we were supposed to go to court the lawyer settled out of court.  

To this day, Vince McMahon has never forgiven me.  He has been cordial to me a couple of times.  I saw him at Curt Hennig’s funeral and a couple of different places but I know he hates my guts.  (laughs)  That’s okay.”

One of the things I did talk to Brian about was that one of your big wins was at the inaugural Survivor Series where you and the Young Stallions (Paul Roma and Jim Powers) were the winners.  There was never any follow up to the win.


“Looking back, I have to wonder why they gave you the win at all.  Every other match at that pay-per-view saw follow up booking.  Andre wins so that they can set up Hogan/Andre 2, the Honky Tonk Man takes off to build Randy Savage as a top contender for the Intercontinental Title and those two matches saw them keep Bam Bam Bigelow, Rocky Steamboat and Jake Roberts strong.  Even the women’s match saw the Jumping Bomb Angels win to set up a program with the Glamour Girls.  They put the four of you over and do nothing with it.  They even had a babyface tag team champion, and no real plan to turn either one of your teams.  

“Actually, Brian and I were supposed to win on our own.  Paul Roma and Jim Powers were supposed to come in second.  At the last minute they changed it, which was just another kick in the teeth to us.  Vince would always say you guys are going to this and you guys are going to do that and he had promised us the (tag team) belts three different times.  

I think the very first time that we wore the masks we were in Buffalo, New York and I remember at the Aud and it was hotter than a bitch.  There was no air conditioning in that place and we wrestled the Harts and we used the masks and we beat them 1-2-3.  The people went absolutely crazy.  Heels use that (tactic) all the time but the Bees used it and the belts go back to the Harts.  I said to Brian, ‘Holy Christ, there are going to fuck us’ and that’s what they did for the next year and a half.”

I never understood a lot of the booking in regards to the two of you.  I remember Wrestlemania III when you were going against Sheik and Volkoff and you lost by disqualification to “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan’s interference.  

“That premise was such a stupid finish.  We’re against Nikolai and Khosrow and we’re supposed to be happy that he (Duggan) got us disqualified.  Him jumping in the ring with the 2x4 gets us disqualified and I thought ‘What in the world is going on?’  

The whole premise of Vince’s promotion was to saturate the television market and he figured I’m going to entertain the people in whatever town with the superstars of pro wrestling.  The continuity of the matches don’t mean a damn thing.  That’s exactly what he did.  I remember in different towns one time Hulk would be in there and have a great match and there was no continuity or build up to the next card.  I couldn’t understand what they were doing.  I was so geared for what wrestling had been and I was thirteen years into my career.  You build different programs, you milk them for all they’re worth and then at the very end you have a blowoff whether it be a cage match or whatever and then you go your separate way.  Vince never did that.  He never had any continuity.”

This isn’t related to what you just said, but whose idea were the tennis shoes?

“That was both of our ideas; those Nike dunks with the black and yellow.  Listen to this!  We had written to Nike and told them that we were an up and coming tag team in the WWF and we would like to wear your black and yellow dunks.  You know what they said to us?”


“They said that pro wrestling was below their standards.  They did not want to have anything to do with us.”

That sounds like a missed marketing opportunity right there.

“Oh God!  Now, Vince would have loved it.  Three or four years later, Nike would have loved to have done that!  You know though, they were a little hard to wear in the ring as they just didn’t give you that comfort that boots did.  They more or less sort of gripped more than you wanted to on the canvas.”

Nobody else was wearing that at the time!  Nowadays you see many different wrestlers wear different kinds of footwear.

“I know.  It was a great idea.  We tried to market it the best way we could but no matter what we tried Vince poo-pooed it.  I remember in 1982 I wrote a song called Matlands, which was a take off on Brice Springsteen’s “Badlands”.  It was about wrestling.  I had made this picture disc, and I don’t know I spent about $5,000 on it and it was really nice.  It was a great cover.  It was a 78 RPM and the song was good!  I had some popular musicians from the Twin Cities work on it.  I remember giving this to Vince and this was when he was starting to do the Rock and Wrestling thing and he had Cyndi Lauper and Meat Loaf and I thought ‘Gosh, he’ll love this!’  

I gave him this record and I heard he put it in the back of a limousine and he left it in there, where it was 90 degrees and it curled up like a clam shell. (Laughs)”

Yeah, but you did get to be in the Land of 1,000 Dances Video!”

“Oh but what a joke that was!  I mean we were standing around mouthing the words to that song.  I can’t remember how many hours we were standing in this studio in New York doing this in this recording studio.  As matter of fact, Bruce Springsteen was downstairs doing parts of “Born in the U.S.A.” at the same time we were doing this thing.”

(Laughs) I am trying to picture that!  

“Actually, Hulk saw Bruce in the stairwell.  It was quite the deal.  Vince had so many guys there and it was a real collection of characters.”

I can’t even imagine!  Going from the 1987 Survivor Series to the 1988 version, Brian was initially placed on another team from you and then he left.  Did the WWF separate you before he left the promotion, or how did that all come about?

“Well, here’s what happened.   Around that time, they fired a mess of us.  They wanted Brian and I to do a job for Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson and Brian refused and left and then quit.  I still needed the money and I told Pat Patterson that ‘How can you fire me without two weeks notice?’  He told me to just hang on and little did I know that they would put me with Lanny Poffo against Tully and Arn and they were insistent that I do the job.  Vince said ‘Beat Brunzell.’   That was the first time that I thought at least well, we had a pretty good match.

In the interim, Vince had fired me two or three times and hired me back when people would get hurt and then what he would do was use me to work on TV to get good matches with the heels.  

It just killed me because I thought I deserved a lot better fate than doing jobs on TV.  I didn’t mind doing them on house shows but I thought I had a good enough career where I didn’t need to put someone over on TV on a regular basis.  That really pissed me off.  What a son of a bitch!  There was a time in there where I seriously contemplated letting Vince have it.  

He did this to a lot of different guys.  He didn’t realize that even though he controlled them in terms of their livelihood, a lot of guys had pride in what they did.”

If I remember right, this was when you moved from wearing black and yellow to tie die.  Was that to shed the Killer Bee gimmick or just to try something different?

“Yeah I thought I would try something different.  I think I had four or five those easter egg type outfits.  I thought there was no sense in being a single Killer Bee, so I thought I would let people remember them as a tag team.”

I remember you also worked for the UWF briefly.


I know they had that one Pay Per View, though I don’t think it did particularly well but it did unite you and Brian where you brought out the Mask Confusion gimmick.  

“Yeah, we were down at the MGM.  I can’t remember the name of that guy who ran it.”

Herb Abrams?

Yeah, he was a crazy bastard.  We worked a couple of shows with him and he spent a lot of money and he tried to combat Vince.  He had some good guys down there.  He tried.  Thank God our cheques didn’t bounce!  I can’t even remember who we worked with on that show.”

I want to say it was a set of twins.  I have to apologize for this though.  That was back when my dad had an illegal satellite hook-up and I watched that one at no cost.  

“(Laughs) That’s ok.”

If it’s okay with you I would like to do a word association.  When I name someone, just say the first thing that comes to mind.


The Blackjacks.

“Old School.”

Adrian Adonis.

“Great timing”

Jesse Ventura.


He was a great talker though.

“He believed everything he said!  That’s how come he became Governor, but he couldn’t work a lick!  He was scared to death that he was going to get hurt!  


“Oh God, yes!”

Did that make him unsafe to work with?

“No, I never ever considered him someone who could hurt me.”  

Rick Martel.

“Great Worker.”

Tito Santana.

“The best Hispanic star ever.”


“They worked hard.”

You had some pretty good matches with them also.

“I see Bill and Barry often.  You know when you have a team that came in and looked like the Road Warriors it’s pretty hard to gain steam.  They were the second coming of the Road Warriors.  I think it took away from their ability, and honestly, they were better workers than the Road Warriors!

You know I like Mike and Joe, and God bless Mike who died way too young and when I think of those guys…I mean how easy is it for you to say ‘I’m going to beat the shit out of you’ on TV and then go in the ring and do it every night?  There’s not a lot of work involved in that.  They had the easiest damn job in wrestling!”

I will give you a few more.  Sgt. Slaughter. 

“Great guy.”

Pat Patterson.

“A real character.”

Don Muraco.

“Brilliant worker.”

Roddy Piper.

“A real tough guy.”

I will finish off with the Ultimate Warrior.

“Very lucky.”

Oh, I have to ask you one more thing.  I saw you on an interview on Fight Network and I have to ask you if you ever age?

“Well, I tell you I do age.  I have had a number of surgeries; total knee, total shoulder and partial hip and I have had some scrapings.  Other than that my doctor has always said and I am a firm believer in supplements.  I have taken thousands of dollars worth of supplements throughout my life.  My doctor said I have the most expensive urine in White Bear Lake.  

I still workout.  I worked out tonight.  I can’t lift much, but I still do a lot of cardio.”

Jim, thank you so much for your time!  

A preview of Jim’s book can be found here:

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  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.

[iv]Here he is singing at the game:

[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:

[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.

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 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. 

“Very true.”

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. 

[v]This is their website: 

[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:  

[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.

[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.”

         That’s incredible!

         “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.”

         That’s amazing.

         “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?

         “Oh yeah!”

         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] 

         “Yeah, true!”

         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?

         Lawrence Taylor.

         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,, 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, my personal website, and my Facebook page which is”  

         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:

[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: 

[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:

[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]

         “(laughs) Okay.”

         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”

         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”

         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:

[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.