First, can you let readers know what you did career-wise post your NFL playing days?
I’m just retired now. I play golf and handball a couple times a week and my wife and I like to travel when we can.
After the NFL, I came back out here and went into the silver recovery business. I’d buy x-ray film and litho film from printing companies with my cousin. I rented a cargo van and we’d go from place to place and sell it back to the silver refineries. I did that from eight or nine years – it was fun. Then I went to work behind the bar at a friend’s restaurant – Frankie’s on Melrose. I did that for seventeen years and then I got tired and retired. It was just too much. I got involved in a couple other restaurants but that is about it.
How hard was the adjustment to life after football for you – how did you do it?
It wasn’t that hard to adjust. I didn’t have any problems. Everyone says it’s a problem but I don’t know. You miss having beers with the guys after practice, that sort of thing. But I had a lot of friends out here…
You also had short acting career can you let readers know how that occurred and what you thought of the experience?
Well it happened in a crazy way. It was for a reality tv show call Forever Young – we had ten people over 70 and ten under 25 and we all had to stay together in a house for a month.
A friend of mine was at the mall with her twins – who happen to be my godchildren. A woman stopped her and asked if she wanted to have her twins on a tv show. They didn’t get on the show, but she saw the woman again in the mall two or three months later. The woman told her she was looking for 70-year olds with a big personality for a new show. She told the woman she had the perfect guy for her and gave her my number!
She called and sent me something in the mail. My wife thought I was crazy – I put it away, but called her a couple of days later. She had me come down for an interview – it was near Hermosa Beach. They called me again a few days later for another interview. I had to get a medical doctor exam – a complete physical to make sure everything was ok. I guess they didn’t want to get sued if something happened. I went through all of that with no problem.
I got a call a week later from her. She said she had good news and bad news. The bad news is you have to come down here tomorrow – you leave tomorrow for the show. The good news is you made it! My wife was screaming at me – she had to go shopping to buy me new clothes that night because we weren’t allowed to wear anything with labels.
The next day, I found out the place we were going to stay was only thirty minutes from my house. It was in a little town near Burbank – an actor’s house they rented for the show. It has a nice pool, a lot of rooms….we stayed there for a month then went to Palm Springs for a weekend. We all had to compete – they’d pair us up with one of the younger kids and we’d compete against each other. It was a lot of fun. We went to Vegas to shoot the finale of the show. It showed about a year later on tv. It got good ratings – we were hoping they’d do it again!
You were the first round draft pick of the Giants in 1960 but ended up playing for four teams in your first four years. What happened to cause all of that and how frustrating was that for you?
The first year I was traded to San Francisco for Y.A. Tittle. I had no intention of leaving – I didn’t want to be traded. I grew up in Jersey City. But the coach in San Francisco saw me play in the college All Star game – I won the MVP of the game as a defensive lineman. They needed a defensive tackle in San Francisco and the Giants would only trade for Tittle. Going to the 49ers was fine – I knew a lot of guys there – I played with some at the All Star game. But San Francisco was a bad move for me. I went out too much, drank too much, and partied too much. And I didn’t like the coach – Red Hickey. He was not a good guy. He traded me – he knew I didn’t want to be there. He traded me to the Rams.
Waterfield was the coach there. I knew other guys there too. But I got into a bout with Waterfield – I can’t tell you what I told him. He was such an introvert – he never talked to the players. He was so quiet – not like a coach should be. So he cut me outright the next day.
How did you end up in Pittsburgh and how did you feel about the move?
From there, I went back to California. My mother called me and she said she was so happy. She said she had heard on the tv that I was picked up by Vince Lombardi in Green Bay. Then the phone rings and it’s Buddy Parker – the Pittsburgh coach. He said Pittsburgh just picked me up on waivers and I should go to Pittsburgh. I told my mother that she must have heard wrong. She just said “Oh…ok”
I was in Pittsburgh for two years – really 1 3/4 years – I got there about the third game of the season. I loved it there. Parker and Bobby Layne were the two real coaches there. It was a great group of guys. Buz Nutter, Ernie Stautner, Myron Pottios….we became close. I met my first wife in Pittsburgh!
I loved it there. When Big Daddy Lipscomb died, I took his place on the line. Me and Ernie played next to each other. When they let me go a year later, I laid out of the game for three years. Then I went and played in the Continental League for the Rhode Island Indians. Then I went back to New Orleans – that was the first year the Saints were in the league, in ’67.
I called them for a tryout – they trained in San Diego then so it was close. They said to me – “Listen. This is your last shot. Keep your mouth shut and play.” And that’s what I did. I had a good exhibition season and they put me on the taxi squad. I thought that would at least give me a shot to play. I needed a fifth year to get a pension and you had to be active at least three games in the year for it to count. In the second game, Earl Leggett, their defensive lineman, got hurt and was placed on injured reserve. They activated me for the Giants game in New York. I was really looking forward to playing in that game and had a really good game.
So, I stayed there for two years. My knee was screwed up and they let me go. They didn’t give you any money then for an injury – and that was the end of it. I stayed in New Orleans and opened up a bar in the French Quarter for ten years, but one day woke up and said it’ll be the death of me if I don’t get out of here. I sold the bar two days later and moved back t California.
What did you think about that Steelers team then?
Buddy Parker was a great guy. We used to get together every Friday night. Stautner and Layne rented a house outside of Pittsburgh and would have seven or eight guys over and we’d play poker until four of five am. We’d have food sent over from Dante’s on Route 51. That was our favorite place. Our watering hole when we went to go get something to eat and drink. I used to go there with Stautner and other guys and play poker at the bar and eat and drink until five am.
What were some of the funniest/most memorable moments you had on those Steelers teams?
I remember one game. I was playing next to Big Daddy Lipscomb. We’re lining up, getting into position and there’s a worm on the field – there in the dirt next to him. He hated anything like that – we used to put fake worms and bugs in his locker to scare him. Well, he see it and jumps back five feet and starts yelling that there’s a worm on the field! The officials blew the whistle – they couldn’t believe it. We were all laughing so hard – the offensive lineman busted his balls all game.
After the games in the Winter, we’d all run back to take showers. They’d turn off the hot water on you when you were in the shower so we’d all try to get back first. It was a fun group of guys.
When I got cut by Pittsburgh – that was a good story too. Our first exhibition game that year was in Canton, Ohio versus Cleveland. I had a good game but we got the shit beat out of us. But it was an exhibition game… Well, we all got beers after and were sitting around talking, and we were told not to say anything to Buddy – he got crazy after the loss. Later, Myron Pottios and me are sitting together on the plane back and Pottios tells a joke and I laughed so hard… Well, LaVerne Thompson walks back to tell me that Buddy wanted to talk to me when we landed. When we did, he cut me. He wouldn’t tell me why at first, but I was laughing too hard after we got the shit beat out of us and that upset him.
Did you talk to him again about it?
Well, I was waiting to see if I’d get picked up by another team so I stayed around a couple of days. I was in the back of the film room the next day with everyone watching the film of the game. Buddy would ask – who made that play – and it was me….He’d ask again – and it was me again. The players kept telling him that that was the guy you just cut coach! I was just sitting there…
A reporter shortly after asked me when we were at Dante’s together why I didn’t just call him and see if he’d take me back. I did, but he was too upset. I took a shot.
Any other thoughts on your career and time in Pittsburgh?
I really enjoyed Pittsburgh. And San Francisco and New Orleans. Those were my favorite spots. I never hung out with the guys in New York. After practice I’d take the train home to Jersey City. My house was a few blocks away from the station so I’d walk home from there. I basically just stayed home.
It was a great career. If you can stay healthy you should be able to last ten seasons. I would have if I wasn’t such a screw-up!
Did you ever think of coaching?
I coached the fire and police department teams and played sometimes – it was semi-pro ball. Semi-pro ball helped keep me in shape. Then I got into handball in new Orleans and would play hours every day, seven days a week. I lost forty pounds in six months – I was 265 pounds when I left football. Now I go to the gym every day, lift some, go to the steam room, play handball a couple of days a week.
I also was the President of the local NFL Retired Players Association, L.A. chapter for a couple of years and still keep in touch with that too. I have been married to my current wife Karen for twenty-seven years and we have one amazing granddaughter who keeps life exciting every day!
That’s about it. That’s my life!
Read more by former Steelers via the book Steelers Takeaways: Player Memories Through the Decades. To order, just click on the book: