Former Chicago Athletes: Where Are They Now?

What do star athletes do after their playing days are over? We tracked down a onetime Bears cornerback who’s now a practicing dentist and a missionary; a former Blackhawks star who copilots jetliners; an ex-Cub who became a jazz trumpeter; and more

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THEN Wide receiver, Chicago Bears (1983–87)
NOW “Freak of nature,” showman, dealmaker

Willie Gault was once a young man in a hurry. In 1983, he ran on a four-man team that set a world record in the 4×100 meter relay. And in football he was arguably the fastest wide receiver in the NFL—a blur who averaged 19.9 yards per catch in his 11-year career.

But today, at the ripe age of 50, Gault has hardly lost a step. In 2006, he set a world record for men 45 to 49 when he sprinted 100 meters in 10.72 seconds (the world record for any age is 9.58, by Usain Bolt). Two years later, at 47, Gault set the 200-meter record for that age group, with a time of 21.80 (Bolt’s 19.19 is the fastest on record).

A “certified freak of nature,” according to Ken Stone of, Gault works out at least four mornings a week—typically two hours of weightlifting followed by two hours of sprints on the track. At meets, he often beats guys less than half his age. What’s his secret? “Think young,” he says. “Eat right. I never drank or smoked a day in my life. Exercise. Treat people the way you want people to treat you—that helps you live longer. I smile a lot. I love life.”

Gault is a whirlwind off the track as well. Retiring from football after the 1993 season, he took up acting, appearing for three seasons on The Pretender and landing spots in several episodes of The West Wing and nearly a dozen other shows and movies. Now he and his wife, the actress Suzan Brittan, have developed a screenplay and several television projects. They sold one to a production company and are hoping to strike more deals.

In financial circles, Gault participates in high-stakes deals—he invested in the bankrupt Aloha Airlines, for example. And he devotes ample time to the Athletes for Life Foundation, the charity he started after several NFL players, including his former Bears teammate Todd Bell, died of heart attacks. The work of the foundation, he says, has “saved many people’s lives. That’s as rewarding as winning the Super Bowl or a gold medal.”

Recently, Gault has hinted he’d like to try to play in the NFL again. Even at 50, he’d probably be among the fastest receivers in the league, but he says he’s not pursuing it. Besides, he has plenty to keep him busy. The driving force behind the music video for 1985’s “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” Gault is spearheading an effort to reunite his teammates from that championship season for a Chicago celebration this summer, featuring entertainment and fan participation. And he has other items on the to-do list. Among them: “to break all the records in my age group,” he says. “And stay healthy—I want to live forever if I can.”


Photography: (Gault, then) Chicago Tribune; (Gault, now) Gregg Segal



3 years ago
Posted by Thane Of Cawdor

You'd think this guy growing up in Gary, Indiana and playing for the White Sox and he appeared as being a small town guy who found suucess and that he would be a decent guy but from all the accounts I've heard this guy is a total a**hole! Jerk!!!

3 years ago
Posted by OneTimeBlue

It's interesting that I came across this article, because it had recently crossed my mind as to what had become of some college athletes. In particular, Mark Aguirre, Teddy Grubbs and Terry Cummings from DePaul's NCAA glory days. Maybe you could do a follow-up story on these guys and other college and high school phenoms that did not complete a pro career, but were still a part of Chicago's sports history. As for this article, I am very impressed and pleased at the way you have taken several excellent role models for young athletes and shown them in a positive light. Please continue the good work.

3 years ago
Posted by left out

What about Tom O'Hara, the first native of the U.S. state of Illinois to break the four-minute barrier for the mile run. He accomplished this feat in 1963 when he ran the mile in 3:59.4.

He also held the world record for fastest mile in indoor track, which was set when he ran the mile in 3:56.6 on February 13, 1964. He later beat that record on March 6 of the same year with a time of 3:56.4, a world record that stood for fourteen years.

3 years ago
Posted by kjbsawb

THANE OF CAWDOR: you are a buffoon. An individual as uneducated (look at your grammar) and uninformed (White Sox?) should not be permitted to post comments to any blog. Carmen was a fan favorite and player's player because of his generosity and fiery competitiveness, among many other great qualities. It is obvious you have some personal ax to grind, and I doubt you you have ever held as much as a minimum wage job. Carmen was the ultimate in class as Cub, and he is certainly all of that as a human-being. Several friends of mine and I know this from personal experience.

3 years ago

@THANE OF CAWDOR...u must be talking about a different Steve Trout...the one I know who pitched for the Cubs/White Sox/Yankees and Seattle,is a classy gentleman and one of the nicest guys I have ever met. One I am proud to call a friend!

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