The Non-Football Jobs of 12 Coaching Legends
You see them stalking the sidelines every time you flip on a game, but how well do you know where some of the game’s top coaches got their starts? Most coaches spend their entire lives coaching in some capacity, but a few of the all-time greats have gotten some interesting paychecks outside of football. Take a look at some other jobs coaches have held.
1. Tom Landry
The dapper former Dallas Cowboys coach saw some serious action in the Army Air Forces during World War II. As a second lieutenant, Landry served as the copilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress in Europe and completed 30 combat missions. On one mission Landry’s plane ran out of fuel, and the future Hall of Famer had to make a crash landing in Belgium.
2. George Halas
The man who owned the Chicago Bears and coached the squad from 1922 to 1967 was quite an athlete in his own right. He was the MVP of the 1919 Rose Bowl while playing for a team representing the Great Lakes Naval Training Station; the big win earned everyone on the team discharges from the military. After getting out of the armed forces, Halas picked up baseball and bounced around the minors for a bit before eventually getting called up to play for the New York Yankees.
A hip injury cut his big-league career short after just 12 games, but baseball probably didn’t lose a future star. Sure, it’s a small sample, but Halas only squeaked out two singles in 22 at-bats during his MLB career, good for a less-than-sterling .182 OPS.
3. Buddy Ryan
The former NFL head coach and brilliant defensive coordinator served in the Army during the Korean War before getting into coaching. He rose to the rank of Master Sergeant. How did the service affect the coach? His son Rex, the current head coach of the New York Jets, once said of his father, “I don’t pretend to be as tough as he is. I didn’t grow up in the same fashion. He was a master sergeant in the Korean War when he was 18 years old.”
4. Mike Holmgren
After playing quarterback at USC, Holmgren went on to become a history teacher/football coach at his alma mater, San Francisco’s Lincoln High School. The Big Show spent nine years teaching high school before he took a college coaching job at San Francisco State in 1981.
5. Vince Lombardi
Football almost didn’t get one of its legendary coaches. When Lombardi was 15 he enrolled at Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception; if he had finished the six-year program, he would have become a Catholic priest. Lombardi eventually left the school, though, and after earning his spot in college football history on Fordham’s “Seven Blocks of Granite” offensive line, he got a gig teaching Latin, chemistry, and physics at St. Cecilia, a Catholic school in New Jersey.
6. Bob Stoops
Oklahoma’s head coach became a graduate assistant at Iowa after finishing his playing career as a four-year starter for the Hawkeyes. While he was learning to work the sidelines, Stoops had another gig, too: he was a volunteer firefighter.
7. Brian Billick
The former Baltimore Ravens head coach has spent most of his life in football, but he did find a way to earn a little TV face time in 1977 when he was a contestant on the Match Game.
8. Lou Holtz
When Holtz was a struggling young coach he got a job selling cemetery plots to pick up a little money on the side—despite his wife’s warnings that he couldn’t sell anything. Holtz later joked, “She was wrong. By the end of the summer, I’d sold our stereo, our car, and our television.”
9. Pete Carroll
USC’s coach has only had one non-football job in his life: after failing to catch on with any pro teams after college, he took a job selling wood products for CertainTeed, a building materials manufacturer. Carroll later told the Orange County Register, “It didn’t last long. It wasn’t because my heart wasn’t in it. It was because I botched it up so bad that I didn’t have any future in it.”
10. Marv Levy
The hard-luck coach who lost four Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills played college football at Iowa’s Coe College, but he didn’t immediately head into the coaching world. Instead, he earned a masters in English from Harvard before working his way up the coaching ladder.
11. Paul Brown
The offensive genius and longtime coach of the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns was a sharp guy, too. Brown actually won a Rhodes Scholarship in 1930 but decided to stay home and take a job as a teacher and coach at a prep school to support his wife.
12. Marty Schottenheimer
After a six-year career as a linebacker for the Bills, Patriots, and Colts, Schottenheimer retired from football in 1971 and switched to a very different industry: real estate. The swap didn’t last long, though, as he got back into football in 1974 as the linebackers coach for the World Football League’s Portland Storm.
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