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

STEVE TROUT »
Clem Haskins, then and now

CLEM HASKINS

THEN Guard, Chicago Bulls (1967–70)
NOW Farmer

Even as a young point guard, Clem Haskins was preparing for his exit from basketball. In 1968, after his first season with the Bulls, Haskins bought a parcel of farmland in central Kentucky, where he had spent his boyhood starring in hoops and also working a mule-drawn plow, cutting tobacco, hauling hay, and milking cows. “I was almost raised under a cow,” he says.

“I always had tremendously strong hands and wrists. I got that from milking 15 or 20 cows every day.”

After an NBA career of nine seasons, the first three in Chicago, Haskins became a top college basketball coach, taking the University of Minnesota to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament in 1997. But two years later, his legacy was forever stained by a case of academic fraud involving several of his players. The scandal cost Haskins his job and caused the NCAA to banish him from coaching for seven years.

By then he had amassed more than 600 acres of gently rolling farmland surrounding the property his parents had once sharecropped, and there he found solace and purpose. Today, Haskins, 68, tends a herd of 200 Black Angus cattle and grows soybeans and corn. Each day during the winter calving season, he checks his herd for heifers in labor, puts out hay, and makes sure the animals have water to drink. “If you keep your farm in tiptop shape, like I do, there’s something to do 365 days a year,” he says.

“I enjoy getting my hands in the dirt. I enjoy watching things grow—corn, tobacco, my animals, even the grass.”

Haskins says he doesn’t look back on the scandal at Minnesota, though it’s clear that the memory haunts him. “It’s not easy when you’re accused of things you know didn’t happen, but there’s nothing you can do about it,” he says. Late in 2009, he was invited back to Williams Arena in Minneapolis for a celebration honoring the 1989–90 team he led to the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight. Unsure of the reaction he’d receive, he went anyway. When his name was announced, the crowd erupted in cheers, and his former players urged him onto the court, where they embraced him. “I’ve shaken hands with presidents in the White House,” Haskins says, “but that’s one of the highest moments of my life. I was crying like a baby.”

 

Photograph: (Haskins, then) Paul Shane/AP; (Haskins, now) Tamara Reynolds

 
« CLEM HASKINS TERRY SCHMIDT »
Clem Haskins, then and now

STEVE TROUT

THEN Pitcher, Chicago White Sox (1978–82) and Chicago Cubs (1983–87)
NOW Entrepreneur, writer

Steve “Rainbow” Trout might be best remembered for something he didn’t do—at least according to him. In 1985, Trout wound up on the disabled list, supposedly after falling off a stationary bike. But Trout says that story is apocryphal, the result of an erroneous published report. In fact, he says, he injured himself when he skidded on a patch of gravel and fell while biking with his family.

Trout, 53, who lives in Chicago, hopes fans remember instead his glittering performance in the 1984 National League Championship Series against the San Diego Padres. In the wake of his finest season—he had gone 13–7 with a 3.41 ERA that year—Trout started Game 2 of the playoffs and throttled the Padres, putting the Cubs within one win of their first National League pennant since 1945. Cubs fans know the rest of the story: the nightmarish unraveling that prevented a rematch of the 1945 World Series against the Detroit Tigers, which would have had special meaning for Trout. “My dad pitched for the Tigers in 1945 and beat the Cubs,” he says. “My mom and I were getting phone calls for interviews because of the great baseball story: ‘The son of the great Dizzy Trout is going to pitch for the Cubs against his father’s old team.’”

After his retirement in 1989, Trout penned a memoir, Home Plate: The Journey of the Most Flamboyant Father and Son Pitching Combination in Major League History. He just completed his second book, John’s Journey, about his travels through India, an attempt to reconnect with his deceased brother. He made personal appearances and coached baseball, most recently at a high school in Hawaii after answering a newspaper want ad. Lately, he has taken an entrepreneurial turn, inventing two training aids. One is called the Lesson Ball, a baseball emblazoned with 20 essential tips for pitchers. The other, Focus Training Plates, includes a series of home plates of varying sizes and colors to be placed at different distances from the mound. “Shortening the distance and shrinking the target keeps young pitchers from trying to just throw the ball as hard as possible, and instead gets them to work on their mechanics, control, and focus,” he says. “I don’t have a patent for it yet, but I like the idea.”

 

Photography: (Trout, then) Bob Fila/Chicago Tribune; (Trout, now) courtesy of Steve Trout

 
« STEVE TROUT WILLIE GAULT »

TERRY SCHMIDT

THEN Cornerback, Chicago Bears (1976–84)
NOW Dentist, missionary

As a Bears defensive back, Terry Schmidt constantly worried about getting burned by wide receivers. “If you made a mistake, you lit up the scoreboard,” he says. But he worried more about something else: “My biggest fear was that I’d retire and the next year the team would win the Super Bowl.” After nine seasons with the Bears, Schmidt called it a career in the spring of 1985, soon after the Bears lost the NFC championship game to the San Francisco 49ers. He had studied dentistry as an undergraduate, so in September of that year he enrolled at the Loyola University School of Dentistry. Simultaneously, the Bears’ 1985 season began—eventually ending in Super Bowl triumph. As he watched his former teammates captivate the sporting world, Schmidt recalls thinking that maybe he could have played one more year. “But physically it was time for me to retire,” he says.

He graduated from Loyola in 1989 as co-valedictorian of his class. Today, he is chief of dental service at Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville, North Carolina. Besides rebuilding bridges and crowns at the hospital, he goes on evangelical missions, bringing modern dental care to the Third World. Last year he traveled to a remote village in the African nation of Togo. He has floated down the Amazon River in Brazil and has been to Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. This July, he’ll embark on his 18th mission, leading a team of dentists and physicians to Honduras.

“I would encourage every person to go at least one time on a foreign mission trip, because we are so blessed in this country and take so much for granted,” he says. “I’ve met people in Third-World countries who are happy to have a meal each day, a roof over their head, and their wife and kids with them. It helps me appreciate what is really important in life.”

For fun, Schmidt has recently taken up fly-fishing. “I’m hooked,” he says. And he closely follows the Bears. “I still bleed blue and orange.”

 

Photograph: Matt Rose

 
« TERRY SCHMIDT ERNIE BROGLIO »

WILLIE GAULT

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 MastersTrack.com, 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

 
« WILLIE GAULT ARTIS GILMORE »

ERNIE BROGLIO

THEN Pitcher, Chicago Cubs (1964–66)
NOW Private pitching instructor, grandfather

To Cubs fans, the name Ernie Broglio signifies the franchise’s unending marriage to disappointment. In the spring of 1964, Broglio was a well-regarded pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals—an 18-game winner the previous season and, four years before that, the National League leader in victories, with 21. In June 1964, the Cubs acquired Broglio principally in exchange for Lou Brock, a fleet-footed but underachieving young outfielder whose .251 batting average whispered mediocrity. Fans on the North Side were pleased with this fleecing of their archrival—until reality, in all its cosmic cruelty, set in. Broglio won just four games that season for the lowly Cubs. In St. Louis, Brock exploded, batting .348, stealing 33 bases, and helping the Cardinals to the World Series, in which they beat the New York Yankees. In his long career, Brock batted over .300 eight times, made five All-Star teams, set a major-league career record for stolen bases, and ultimately played his way into the Baseball Hall of Fame. After 1964, Broglio lasted two more injury-riddled seasons with the Cubs, winning only three more games and ensuring that the phrase “Brock for Broglio” would enter baseball’s lexicon as a synonym for an absurdly lopsided trade.

Today, Broglio, 75, acknowledges he was damaged goods when the Cardinals pawned him off on the Cubs. “I had a little arm problem,” he says. “It’d be different now. You gotta go for a physical, so [the trade] probably would have never occurred.” After retiring, Broglio coached high-school and Little League baseball in California’s Bay Area for many years. Now he gives private pitching lessons from his current hometown of San Jose and spends time with his wife of 56 years, Barbara, three children, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. He has no illusions about his infamous place in Cubs history. “I had a guy ask me, ‘Who do you think is more popular [in Chicago], you or that guy who interfered with catching that foul ball [Steve Bartman]?’” Broglio says. “I think [Bartman] is probably more popular.” Then he looks on the bright side. “I’m happy people remember me,” he says. Meanwhile, his love of baseball is undiminished. “I’m still a big St. Louis Cardinals fan,” he says.

 

Photography: (Broglio, then and now) courtesy of Ernie Broglio

 
« ERNIE BROGLIO TURK WENDELL »

ARTIS GILMORE

THEN Center, Chicago Bulls (1976–82, 1987–88)
NOW Assistant to the president at Jacksonville University

In his six full seasons with the Bulls, Artis Gilmore was a dominant offensive and defensive force. Averaging 20.1 points and 11.5 rebounds per game during that span, the seven-foot-two A-Train, as he was known, revitalized a franchise that had performed poorly the year before his arrival, leading the team to the playoffs in his first season.

Since retiring from the NBA in 1988, Gilmore has built a diverse resumé: partner in a cleaning solvents business founded by Roland Garrett, a fellow former Bull; project developer for minority companies at a mechanical contracting agency; partner in an insurance claims adjustment firm. In 2008, he joined his alma mater, Jacksonville University, as special assistant to the president. Gilmore’s principal duties include raising money for the school and providing basketball radio commentary. “I feel nothing but pride,” he says. “I’m glad I can come back to the place where it all started for me and be able to contribute.”

Gilmore, 61, first gained national attention at Jacksonville as a hoops sensation, averaging more than 20 points and 20 rebounds and leading his team to the 1970 NCAA championship game (a loss to UCLA). He spent his first five years in the pros as a star with the Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association, and his combined ABA and NBA stats suggest he should have been a lock for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. But after more than 15 years of eligibility, Gilmore still has no plaque bearing his name in Springfield, Massachusetts, which he sees as a disheartening oversight.

George Karl, who played against Gilmore in the ABA and now coaches the Denver Nuggets, thinks Gilmore belongs in the Hall of Fame. “I don’t think he ever got the credits or the accolades he deserved,” Karl says. “He was always one of the top five big men [in the game].”

“I don’t have any idea what the criteria are to be a Hall of Famer, but all indications are that my statistics say I am,” Gilmore says. Then he quietly adds, “I have no control over it. It’s nothing to get emotional about.”

UPDATE: Gilmore was inducted into the Hall of Fame on April 4th.

 

Photography: (Gilmore, then and now) courtesy of Artis Gilmore

 
« ARTIS GILMORE AL SECORD »

TURK WENDELL

THEN Pitcher, Chicago Cubs (1993–97)
NOW Rancher

A career reliever, Turk Wendell saved 18 games and posted a 2.84 ERA in 1996, his best season for the Cubs. But his eccentricities on the field were what captivated fans. Before leaving the dugout to pitch, he’d stuff five pieces of black licorice in his cheek; then he would leap over the foul line on his way to the mound. Once there, he would draw three crosses in the dirt, slam down the rosin bag, and point to the center fielder until the other guy waved back. Returning to the dugout, he’d jump over the foul line again. He brushed his teeth between innings. Oh, and he never wore socks.

His antics inspired Men’s Fitness to name him the most superstitious athlete of all time. “We as humans are very habitual,” he explains. These days, his habits involve daily chores at Wykota Ranch, a 210-acre spread in Larkspur, Colorado, that he named after his children, Wyatt and Dakota, and calls “the Redneck Country Club.” Wendell, 43, grows millet, sorghum, corn, alfalfa, and sunflowers, among other crops, which he does not harvest—instead returning their nutrients to the soil to promote land conservation. He breeds game birds such as pheasant, quail, and chukar partridge—future quarry for when he hunts. He also raises goats, chickens, and turkeys. At first glance, it might appear that the ranch is a going business concern—on its website is an elaborate pricing schedule for hunting trips. But closer inspection reveals that only the connected need apply—the bottom of the page says that the trips are solely for family, friends, and friends of friends. And the price for them? According to the site: “What kind of asshole would charge his family and friends?” Grooming and manicuring the land, shoveling and plowing in winter, and general maintenance are all Wendell’s responsibility. “I’m busier now than when I played, for sure,” he observes. Sometimes he gets calls from former teammates who complain about insomnia in retirement. “You can’t sleep? That’s ’cause you ain’t working hard enough,” he tells them.

 

Photography: (Wendell, now) James Chance

 
« TURK WENDELL RON KITTLE »

AL SECORD

THEN Left wing, Chicago Blackhawks (1980–87, 1989–90)
NOW Airline pilot

As a teenager in the 1970s, Al Secord spent his summers fighting forest fires for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. When the alarm sounded, he would board a helicopter or bush plane, fly over miles of trackless Canadian wilderness, and land on a lake nearest the fire to battle the blaze. “I thought it was such a cool thing, taking off and landing on water and watching the water bombers come in and dump their loads,” Secord, 53, recalls from his home in Dallas. From then on, he yearned to fly.

Chicago hockey fans may remember Secord as the first Blackhawk since Bobby Hull to score more than 50 goals in a season. Along with offensive acumen, he brought his formidable pugnacity to the ice—he’s the only NHL player ever to score more than 40 goals and log more than 300 penalty minutes in a season. Secord admits he liked to project a “physical presence” when he played. “I tell people it was the Christmas rule,” he says. “It’s better to give than to receive.”

During the off-season in 1985, Secord took flying lessons at DuPage Airport. After earning his pilot’s license, he says, aviation became an addiction. Following his retirement from the NHL in 1990, he found work as a cargo pilot and built up experience. In 1998, American Airlines hired him as a first officer. Today, Secord and his wife, Tracy, also a pilot, fly for American, arranging their schedules so that at least one of them is home with their hockey-playing sons, ages eight and nine. About copiloting DC-9 Super 80s to cities all over North America, Secord says, “I enjoy flying just as much as hockey.” Then he adds, “I enjoyed the hockey paycheck better.”

 
« AL SECORD CARMEN FANZONE »

RON KITTLE

THEN Slugger, Chicago White Sox (1982–86, 1989–91)
NOW Craftsman, motivational speaker, Sox ambassador

“If they had Ritalin when I was kid,” says Ron Kittle, “I would have needed three doses a day. I used to keep going until I dropped.”

Doesn’t sound like things have changed much. Out of baseball for 20 years, Kitty (as he was known) rises most mornings at 4 a.m., walks Harley, his soft-coated wheaten terrier, for an hour or so while brainstorming, and then embarks on one—or all—of the many activities to which he devotes his time: maybe some woodworking or ironworking, a little charity fundraising, or writing the follow-up to his 2005 book, Ron Kittle’s Tales from the White Sox Dugout. “I’m the only guy who ever wrote a book who never read a book,” he says.

No surprise that, as an artisan, Kittle—whose 35 home runs in 1983 won him rookie of the year honors—loves to manipulate baseball bats. His handmade benches (pictured below), including models called the Southside and the Northside, incorporate more than a dozen bats in their design, and he is at work on a bed whose headboard will showcase the tool of his former trade. He makes granite and steel ashtrays that look like home plates, as well as cigar humidors—White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen recently presented a custom-made Spanish cedar model to Bobby Cox, his former counterpart at the Atlanta Braves—and he markets a line of baseball-themed note cards. “I grew up as an ironworker,” says the Gary native (he still lives in Indiana), “and I always had an inclination to make things.”

In memory of his father, who died of cancer in 1994, Kittle, 53, donates the profits from his creations to hospitals and other organizations battling the disease. Cancer-related causes are also the chief beneficiaries of his Indiana Sports Charities, which holds its 22nd–annual celebrity golf outing on May 23rd at the Briar Ridge Country Club in Schererville, Indiana. (For more about the event and Kittle’s charities and wares, go to ronkittle.com.)

Plagued by the aftereffects of injuries from his baseball days—a broken neck after a catcher fell on him in the minor leagues and the bad back that ended his career—Kittle, the father of two, still puts 5,000 to 10,000 miles on his motorcycle each year. And his triumph over physical adversity makes a good backdrop for the dozens of motivational speeches he delivers annually. “I lived a life [in baseball] when I was told I couldn’t have one,” he says. “I battled back from challenges all the time. And though I knew I was good, I also knew I could always get better. That’s the key to building most people’s confidence level.”

 

Photography: (Kittle, then) Paul Gero/Chicago Tribune; (Kittle, now) courtesy of Ron Kittle

 
« RON KITTLE ERIC NESTERENKO »

CARMEN FANZONE

THEN Utility infielder, Chicago Cubs (1971–74)
NOW Musicians’ union representative, jazz trumpeter

When Carmen Fanzone became a Cub, he realized he’d be enjoying plenty of games from the comfort of the dugout—he was primarily a third baseman, the same as Ron Santo, the Cubs’ perennial all-star. “I knew that I wasn’t going to play regularly,” recalls Fanzone. “I was always trying to do better so that they would find a hole for me somewhere.” In 1972, Santo was sidelined with a fractured wrist—a break, it turned out, for Fanzone, who went on to have his best season: In 86 games, he set career highs in home runs (8), RBIs (42), and runs (26).

But his most memorable moment that season came before a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, when he played the national anthem on his trumpet at Wrigley Field. A trumpeter since childhood, Fanzone spent his nights and off-seasons as a jazz musician, blowing his horn in Chicago clubs such as The Back Room and Wise Fools Pub. “If I was not doing very well in baseball, at least I had an outlet at night to forget about the game,” he says.

When Santo came off the disabled list, Fanzone returned to his role as a utility player. Following his brief major-league career, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his musical dream. “That was the thing I was trained for,” he says, “and that was the thing that I’d spent all of my life preparing for.” He toured with Lou Rawls and spent two years with the Baja Marimba Band, appearing on the 1982 album Naturally. He has also played on albums by his wife, the jazz singer Sue Raney, a four-time Grammy nominee.

Today, Fanzone, 69, works as a representative for the Professional Musicians Union, handling grievances filed by movie and TV soundtrack artists. He still practices trumpet at least an hour a day, and occasionally he sits in with club bands around Los Angeles. The transition from professional athlete to musician came naturally for him. Baseball and music, he says, “are completely different, and yet the disciplines are alike. You just have to dedicate yourself.”

 

Photography: (Fanzone, then and now) Courtesy of Carmen Fanzone

 
« CARMEN FANZONE ANDREA JAEGER »

ERIC NESTERENKO

THEN Forward, Chicago Blackhawks (1956–72)
NOW Ski instructor

Eric Nesterenko was a stalwart defenseman for the Blackhawks for 16 seasons, earning two All-Star berths and helping the team win the 1961 Stanley Cup. Yet it’s been so long since he suited up that he finds it almost hard to believe he used to play. “It’s so far removed from my life,” he says from his home in West Vail, Colorado. “People know me very much as a skier now.” And that’s fine with him. “If you’re an ex–professional athlete, people are always asking about this game and that game, and you have a bit of a celebrity tinge,” he says. “I don’t find the role that interesting.”

After hanging up his Blackhawks skates at 38, Nesterenko spent a season coaching semi­professional hockey in Lausanne, Switzerland. While there, he and his family took up skiing, and he fell in love with its beauty, speed, and freedom. Over the next five years, he tried his hand at other pursuits, including teaching, but he couldn’t shake the skiing bug. Finally, in 1979, he left Chicago for Colorado. “I wanted to do something new and different,” he says. “I basically became a ski bum.”

First he worked ski patrol. After a few years, he started giving lessons. He spent 30 years as a full-time instructor, cutting back to part time recently. At 77, he admits, his body is slowing down. After knee-replacement surgery three years ago, he gave up ice-skating. Still, he remains vigorous. “If we don’t move, we die,” he says. In winter, he skis every day. “The mountain is my gymnasium,” he says. “And I say this not as a braggart but as a categorical statement: I can ski most men half my age into the ground.”

Perfection for him is a powder day. “Here I am in my late 70s,” he says. “I wake up and see it’s snowing in the morning, and I am genuinely excited. I am genuinely thrilled. How many guys my age are thrilled?”

 
« ERIC NESTERENKO VIRGIL LIVERS »

ANDREA JAEGER

THEN Teen tennis phenom (early 1980s)
NOW Advocate for children in need

Andrea Jaeger burst from the suburban Chicago tennis scene onto the world circuit with the velocity of an overhead smash. Growing up in Lincolnshire, she turned pro at 14 and at 16 was ranked second among the world’s female players. But in truth Jaeger didn’t fit the mold of a tennis phenom. She agonized at the sight of the heartbroken opponents she had vanquished. She even admits that she “didn’t try” against Martina Navratilova in the 1983 Wimbledon finals because she knew victory mattered more to Navratilova. “My dad didn’t say a word to me afterward,” Jaeger recalls.

After an injury cut short her career when she was 18, she began to explore her deepening religious faith and desire to ease the suffering of seriously ill children. Soon she began giving away her $1.4 million in winnings to hospitals in Florida, and she sold her Mercedes to buy toys for children with cancer. “If God gave me this gift to play tennis, this money isn’t really mine to keep,” she recalls thinking.

In 1990, Jaeger cofounded the nonprofit Little Star Foundation to benefit young victims of illness, poverty, abuse, and natural disasters. Soon after that, she began studying religion, eventually earning a degree in theology and ministry training. In 2006, she joined the Episcopal Church’s Anglican Dominican order. “For me, becoming a nun was a natural step, one I was grateful to do,” she says. But running a charity and fulfilling her vows proved challenging. In the fall of 2009, when foundation duties prevented her from attending a quarterly convocation, Jaeger decided to leave the church. “My way to honor God was to be in the sisterhood, but then I realized God didn’t need that,” she says from her foundation’s Rancho Milagro (Miracle Ranch) in Durango, Colorado.

Today, Jaeger, 45, raises millions of dollars annually for children in need. Each year, Little Star hosts 25 retreats for sick children and their families, enabling them to enjoy adventures ranging from swimming with dolphins to attending shows on Broadway. “I didn’t need to be a professional tennis player to make a difference in the world,” she says. “And I didn’t need to be Sister Andrea Jaeger to help children and share God’s love.”

 

Photography: (Jaeger, then) Bob Fila/Chicago Tribune; (Jaeger, now) Jerry McBride/AP

 
« ANDREA JAEGER DENNIS HULL »

VIRGIL LIVERS

THEN Cornerback, Chicago Bears (1975–79)
NOW High-school principal

Virgil Livers could have moped after suffering a devastating knee injury in a Bears preseason game in 1980. Instead, while recuperating from reconstructive surgery, he prepared for life after football by getting a master’s degree in guidance counseling at Roosevelt University. His NFL comeback fell short, and after two seasons playing for the Chicago Blitz in the upstart United States Football League, Livers took a job teaching physical education and coaching football and track in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He wanted to make an impact on kids’ lives the way his former teachers and coaches, including those of the Bears, had influenced his. “Without the mentoring and leadership they gave me to be the best I could be, I never could have accomplished what I did,” he says. “I wanted to do the same thing for young people. I wanted to give back.”

In time, Livers concluded he could make an even bigger impact higher up the food chain. After earning a certificate in administration, he became an assistant principal at Bowling Green High School, primarily helping students with behavioral or academic problems get back on track. When students lose their way, they don’t get called to the principal’s office. Instead, Livers shows up in class. “When I go in and call a kid out to talk to me, the other kids see that and know that I’m serious,” he says. “That sends a message to the rest of them about their behavior. When I bring kids out, I keep it positive and take the time to talk to them about their behavior. And then I give them a consequence. So it’s not me jumping and screaming. I’d rather do it that way than to have kids afraid of me—‘Oh, here comes Mr. Livers! Run and hide!’”

It’s just as well kids don’t try to bolt. Livers, 59, runs and lifts weights nearly every day. “You’d think I’m getting ready for the upcoming football season,” he says. When he’s not keeping fit, he devotes his free time to directing the gospel choir at his church. But his day job is, well, his principal calling. “I could retire in one year, but I see myself going longer than that,” he says. “I love what I do. I wouldn’t do anything else.”

 

Photography: (Livers, now) Courtesy of Virgil Livers

 
« VIRGIL LIVERS LUC LONGLEY »

DENNIS HULL

THEN Left wing, Chicago Blackhawks (1964–77)
NOW Comedic public speaker

As the younger brother of Bobby Hull and the uncle of Brett Hull—two of the greatest players in NHL history—Dennis Hull may indeed have been the third-best hockey player in his family—if not even worse, according to his 1998 memoir, The Third Best Hull (I Should Have Been Fourth but They Wouldn’t Let My Sister Maxine Play). But he was an excellent player, a five-time NHL All-Star who helped spur the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup finals in 1971 and 1973 (both losses to the Montreal Canadiens).

After retiring in 1978, Hull became a 34-year-old college freshman, majoring in history and geography at Brock University in Canada. He spent four years as a high-school history teacher, then ten years back in Chicago as the athletic director at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Meanwhile, he maintained an interest in a 150-acre farm east of Toronto, which he had shared with his brother Garry since his playing days. A few years ago, the two sold their herd of Hereford cattle, but Hull still spends his summers on the farm, growing corn, wheat, and soybeans. (He and his wife, Janet, split the winter between homes in Naples, Florida, and Palm Desert, California.)

While Hull, 66, isn’t the best hockey player in his family, he is surely the funniest. He has nurtured a livelihood as a public speaker who makes audiences laugh. His famous family is prime fodder: “In Pointe Anne [in Ontario], there’s a huge billboard [that] says, ‘Pointe Anne, the birthplace of Bobby and Dennis Hull.’ Bobby’s name is in ten-foot letters, and I pencil my name in every time I go home.” So is his own experience: “I’m playing blackjack, and [the sign] says, ‘If you have a gambling problem, call 1-800-GAMBLE.’ So I call and I say, ‘Listen, I have a jack and a nine . . .’” He’s even got a lawyer joke: “How come lawyers never get it right? How come [they] always have to practice?”

Hull speaks to corporate groups, trade associations, and sports teams about once a week. He seems to enjoy it. But, he says from his Palm Desert home as he prepares to leave for an engagement in Manitoba, “if I won the lottery, I’d never do it again.”

 
« DENNIS HULL FLOYD BANNISTER »

LUC LONGLEY

THEN Center, Chicago Bulls (1994–98)
NOW Stay-at-home dad, environmentalist

Luc Longley retired from basketball in the fall of 2001 due to a lingering ankle injury, one of many maladies he suffered during a ten-year NBA career—including a separated shoulder from a surfing accident and two scorpion bites sustained one very bad day. Longley, a native of Australia, planned on keeping his family—his wife, Kelly, and their two daughters—in the United States. “Then September 11th happened,” he says. The family relocated to Australia within the week. “It’s safe down here, a long way from trouble,” he says from his home in Fremantle, on the country’s western coast.

Yet trouble found him anyway. In April 2007, Longley awoke at 3 a.m. to find the ceiling of his home in flames. By then he and Kelly had divorced, and Longley had begun dating Anna Gare, a celebrity chef on Australian TV. In fact, Gare and her two children had moved in with Longley and his daughters just weeks before the fire broke out. He hustled everyone to safety, but the house and its contents were destroyed (his three Bulls championship rings survived).

Today, Longley, 42 and resettled in a new house, classifies himself as a “hat juggler”—investor, kids’ basketball coach, and environmentalist. He has joined campaigns to preserve the Ningaloo coral reef from development and to stop the spread of the invasive cane toad. In 2009, he won an eBay auction to name a newly discovered species of shrimp, paying $2,900 to christen it Lebbeus clarehanna after his elder daughter, Clare Hanna, for her 15th birthday. “She loved it—it’s cute, a really small little shrimp, white with pink dots,” Longley says. He’s a stay-at-home dad to four teenagers, while Anna, now his wife, judges dishes on the show Junior Master­Chef. Last year, Longley took Anna on her first trip to the United States, which included a stop in Chicago and a Bulls game. Recalling his first championship with the team, Longley says, “I got the crazy goose bumps—near fatal goose bumps. I just felt electric.”

 

Photography: (Longley, then) Charles Cherney/Chicago Tribune; (Longley, now) Lucas Dawson/Getty Images

 
« LUC LONGLEY ARLENE LIMAS »

FLOYD BANNISTER

THEN Pitcher, Chicago White Sox (1983–87)
NOW Manager of a photography studio

In the early 1990s, after his career as a major-league pitcher had wound down, Floyd Bannister took another path: He went yard.

No, the once-dominant strikeout star didn’t suddenly turn into a home run threat. Instead, Bannister retired to his home outside Scottsdale, Arizona, and transformed his backyard into a Little League paradise. He installed a pair of batting cages, laid down artificial turf recently removed from Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium, and started training kids. “I basically threw ten years of batting practice,” he says, a feat he could accomplish only after surgery cleared up the shoulder injury that plagued his final years in the big leagues.

The lefty’s backyard enterprise eventually led him to his current line of work. As an investment, Bannister had bought a large building on the outskirts of Phoenix, in which he created an indoor pitching area as a refuge from the intense summer heat. Local high-school hurlers used the place, and Bannister not only helped the young players hone their skills but also videotaped their performances to help them gain more exposure—and potential scholarships—at colleges and universities. After his son Brian graduated from college with a degree in photography, he convinced his dad to transform part of the building into a photography studio, known today as Loft19 (after Bannister’s number with the White Sox).

Today, Bannister rents out his three large studios and acts as a producer for photo and video clients from around the world. (On the day we spoke with him, he had just helped oversee a photo shoot for Rolex.) “I love to be hands-on,” he says. “My favorite part is building sets and creating an environment. I’m there to help the photographers”—who are often accompanied by scores of hairdressers, grips, caterers, clients, and, of course, the talent. “I have to wear a lot of hats.”

In his spare time, Bannister, 55, likes to get away with his wife, Jana, to the Flagstaff house they built 20 years ago. They are often joined by their three sons: Brian (a former pitcher for the Kansas City Royals who now pitches in Japan), Brett (a former minor-league pitcher), and Cory (who pitched at Stanford). “And I’ve got my first grandson on the way in June,” says Bannister. “I’m already looking forward to working with him in the backyard.”

 
« FLOYD BANNISTER  

ARLENE LIMAS

THEN First American Olympic gold medalist in tae kwon do (1988 Summer Olympics)
NOW Fifth-degree black belt, co-owner of martial arts studio

As a five-year-old living in Humboldt Park, Arlene Limas didn’t crave glory or medals when she implored her parents to let her try martial arts. She just wanted to be like her four older brothers, who had learned kicks, blocks, and chops at a local studio. Over the objections of her father—who thought little girls should take up ballet or a musical instrument—Limas got her mother’s consent. “I thought she would quit after a couple times,” says Diane Limas, whom this magazine recognized in 2008 as a Chicagoan of the Year for her affordable housing activism.

Turns out Arlene was born to spar. The only girl in her martial arts school, she was competing against and beating boys by age eight. At 13, she was challenging women at the national level in tae kwon do. And at 22, she was a member of the U.S. team at the Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea—where tae kwon do was making its Olympic debut.

Competing as a welterweight, Limas advanced to a semifinal match against the reigning world champion. “I was really nervous, but I feel like there is a sense of peace when you’ve done every single thing to prepare,” she says. Limas won, setting up a gold medal showdown against a South Korean—before a partisan crowd in their national sport. Tied entering the third round, Limas secured victory—and the first-ever U.S. Olympic gold medal in tae kwon do—with a deft face kick. “They didn’t anticipate the U.S. winning,” she says, recalling how officials struggled to locate the U.S. national anthem. As the flag rose, says her mom, “we just started singing. People she didn’t even know were excited, like Arlene was part of their lives.”

In 1993, after graduating from DePaul University and moving east, Limas co-founded Power Kix Martial Arts in Stafford, Virginia, today serving 350 students. “We started with 1,200 square feet and one kicking shield,” says Limas, 45. “Now we’re 12,500 square feet, with 30 kicking bags and 50 kicking shields.”

Meanwhile, she has stayed connected to the Olympic idea. When Chicago vied for the 2016 Summer Games, she campaigned for her hometown—work that led her to the White House and bonding with the Obamas (Michelle was three years ahead of her at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School). Though disappointed that Chicago’s bid failed, she still hopes to return to the Olympics someday—this time as a coach.

Share

Advertisement

Submit your comment

Comments are moderated. We review them in an effort to remove foul language, commercial messages, abuse, and irrelevancies.

Note: To serve its readers better, Chicago has migrated its comments to Disqus, a popular commenting platform. Please feel free to contact us with any feedback.