When Hall of Fame member Sam Huff made contacts in his first career as middle linebacker for the Washington Redskins and New York Giants, it was for keeps.
Today, Huff is still making timely connections, but now it is for the Marriott Corp. as a vice president in charge of market research.
For 14 years, Len Hauss anchored the Redskin offensive line snapping the ball to Sonny Jurgensen or Billy Kilmer during the glory years of George Allen's "Over the Hill Gang." Now, Hauss is back home in Jesup, Ga., using his law degree from John Marshall Law School at the American National Bank as a loan officer and vice president of personnel.
Many former Redskins have successfully made the difficult transition from the spotlight as players in the 1,500-member National Football League to becoming members of the working community.
The players who have made the switch from the locker room to the corporate boardroom with the least amount of stress, it seems, are the ones who began preparing from the start for the inevitable, yet often ignored, day when the legs give way and the desire to play wanes.
"The one thing all professional athletes must remember is that it is a very short career," said former defensive tackle Bill Brundige, 34, now a car salesman in Winchester, Va.
"You must be productive the rest of your life," said Brundige, who, in Super Bowl VII, blocked Garo Yepremian's field goal attempt, which was returned by Mike Bass for the Redskins' only score in the 14-7 loss to the undefeated Miami Dolphins.
Brundige, who needed 2 1/2 years to recover fully from foot injuries suffered during his professional career, said, "The major portion of your life is after athletics. It is great while it lasts, but it can't last forever."
For the majority of players, the transition is very difficult, Brundige said.
"Unless you are a superstar with tons of money, you go from a high income . . . to the real world of knocking on doors looking for a job," he said.
For Huff, 48, the end came too soon, even after 12 years of terrorizing quarterbacks around the NFL and earning six trips to the Pro Bowl.
After the 1967 season, he decided to retire, mainly on the advice of friends who encouraged him to walk away while he was still a star.
"Get out while you're on top, my friends kept telling me," Huff said. "That's bull! Play as long as you can."
Huff could only sit out one year, and when the late Vince Lombardi came to Washington as head coach in 1969, Huff put the pads back on and began the climb to get back into shape.
He played one more year before the fact that it really was time to retire became painstakingly clear during a film session.
"I really knew when I was finished, when Vince Lombardi said--Lombardi never knew anyone's number--said during a film, 'Who the hell is that number 70? We have to get rid of him next year.'
"I said, 'That's me!' and he said, 'Oh, I'm sorry.' "
Huff had prepared for a second career during his football days, working the off-seasons for three years with Philip Morris Tobacco Co. in advertising sales and public relations and for seven years with the J. P. Stevens Co.
Huff, who also does radio broadcasts of Redskins games with another Hall of Fame member, Jurgensen, and Frank Herzog, won his present job with Marriott the same way he played football--aggressively.
When Huff wanted to advance his proposals to help Marriott gain a larger share of athletic travel accounts, he decided to bypass the lower management levels, where he feared his ideas would be pigeonholed. He went straight to the top, arranging an interview with Bill Marriott Jr.
"He was very surprised when I came in with a here-is-what-I-can-do-for-you approach," Huff said.
That was 12 years ago this month. This past season, the Redskins stayed at Marriott hotels 18 out of 20 weekends. The one noticeable exception was during the Super Bowl, when the Miami Dolphins were booked into the Newport Beach, Calif., Marriott by the National Football League, while the Redskins stayed at the Westin in Costa Mesa.
In 1971, Marriott had no marketing plan to attract athletic teams and their fans as guests, although a few teams stayed in Marriott hotels in Dallas and Atlanta, Huff said.
Huff's comprehensive plan has since landed contracts with every team in the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, the NFL and with most of the teams in major league baseball. Marriott also focuses on colleges, television crews and other professional sports such as golf, tennis and soccer.
The athletic market brought in $15 million of Marriott's $1 billion in revenue last year, Huff said. He was hired as sports director and promoted to vice president in 1976.
"Of the overall business in Marriott, it is very small," said Huff. "What is important is when it comes. The Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights are the tough nights in the hotel business," and weekends are when teams tend to place their reservations. nother former Redskin now working in the business world is Jean Fugett Jr., former All Pro tight end here and for the Cowboys. He is a lawyer in the firm Lewis & Clarkson of New York.
Fugett and his brother, Reginald F. Lewis, senior partner in the same law firm, lead an investment group that has just purchased radio station WCRN-FM in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The group, Caribbean Basin Broadcasting Inc., also has a contract to buy WSTX-AM in St. Croix.
If the Federal Communications Commission approves the acquisition of the AM station, CBB will operate the only AM/FM combination in the Virgin Islands, Fugett said. Fugett got involved with broadcasting while he was still a football player.
Fugett, who retired after the '79-'80 season, said the greatest change in his new career is realizing he has to go to work everyday. "I was used to having six months off," he said.
He was also surprised at the pressures of the corporate world.
"Strangely enough, I was surprised to find how much pressure is involved in representing a very big corporate client," said Fugett.
The loss of camaraderie with the other team members is one aspect sorely missed by most of the ex-players. The feeling of togetherness experienced on a football team is hard to duplicate in the business world, said most of the players interviewed.
"I really don't miss the game," said Hauss, who, starting in 1964, played in all of the 196 games possible during his 14-year career despite six off-season operations. "I miss the relationships you develop with your teammates. I miss some of the guys and the good times we had."
A five-time Pro Bowl player, Hauss said the togetherness teammates felt was manifested in concrete instances that are not possible in the non-athletic world.
"There is nothing more tangible than an August training camp when you're all throwing up together," he said. "Try running wind sprints or pushing a seven-man sled, and thinking you can't move, but knowing you have 30 minutes to go.
"Or being down by two points with two minutes to go. You got to score, and you know if you stick together, we can do this. That draws you together," said Hauss who was a starter in 192 games.
In Leesburg, Va., ex-defensive back Pat Fischer is also waiting patiently for an economic turnaround. Fischer, the 5-foot-9 cornerback who played 17 years for St. Louis and Washington, is hoping the last five years of money and time invested in thoroughbreds will pay off someday.
Prior to shifting full time to horse racing, Fischer spent several years as a stock broker and was in training with Dominion National Bank for a position as a commercial banker. But Dominion did not put plans to expand to Leesburg into action, and Fischer decided he didn't want to commute.
After a brief stint with the State Bank of Prince William County in Dumfries, Fischer, slowly recovering from a severe leg injury suffered in his last year of playing in 1977, made a decision on his new career.
"I came to the conclusion I wanted to stay outdoors," he said, saying he was thankful for even being able to walk following his last season as a Redskin. "I wanted to coach, and the athlete I wanted to coach was the thoroughbred horse."
Fischer said there is no formalized training for learning to handle thoroughbreds.
"I made many attempts to talk to the recognized people in the industry, but I gained very little," said Fischer, 43. "They said, 'Pat, you just have to go do it.' " So he did, working for a year as a groom under trainer Allen Darlington and learning the basics of care and diagnosis.
"There is only one way to learn about horses and that is to be patient, and observe things everyday," Fischer said. "Then the probability exists you might be successful." ischer said there is "no comparison" between his career as a football player and as a thoroughbred trainer other than the obvious aspects of fundamental training.
"There are many more variables when dealing with a horse than dealing with myself as a football player," he said. As a football player "it was a personal thing and I knew how to handle it. With horses you have far less control."
Fischer's biggest success has come with Near Pete, who won a couple of races recently at Keystone in Philadelphia. He has eight horses at Charles Town raceway in West Virginia and several just about ready to start racing at his Leesburg farm.
Fischer doesn't call himself a success in his new career and isn't sure if he ever will lay claim to such a title.
"We never have been discouraged, even with the failures, the frustration and the financial loses," Fischer said. "The game doesn't stop. You have to re-evaluate and ask yourself what are the things you have to do."
Then, thinking back to the low days of the Redskins in the 1960s, he said, "We didn't win many games for many years. As a football player, you didn't walk off and quit."
For former Redskins running back Larry Brown, 35, the transition from a player to business and community relations manager at Xerox Corp. has allowed him to jump off the stage and start trying to contribute to the community.
"Sometimes, from a football standpoint, a lot of the relationships are superficial," Brown said. "It is nice to get out of the superficial arena and get into the heart of the community."
During his nine years as a player, Brown was conscious of his role as a model for youth. Brown is Washington's first running back ever to gain more than a 1,000 yards in a single season, turning the trick twice with 1,125 in 1970 and 1,216 in 1972. He said his involvement then with Children's Hospital and the Special Olympics eventually led to his position at Xerox.
"When playing, we generally all had our special lines of interest," Brown said. "From a corporate standpoint, we emphasize employe participation. This is more of a total team effort, which I like tremendously."
Brown said he carries much of what he learned as a player with him in his daily life.
"I was once told many years ago, by the late Vince Lombardi, that football taught you a great deal other than how to carry the ball. It taught you a way of life. It taught you teamwork . . . it taught you discipline when you know you got a job that has to get done. To have good discipline, you must have the desire to be successful, a goal you want to accomplish."
Brown, who leads all Redskins rushers with 5,875 yards, added to this philosophy saying he doesn't think recognition should be given but it should be earned.
"When I set goals for myself the only way I can have a setback is if I all of a sudden lose the desire to want to grow. People who give you things can take it away. But if you wanted to earn it, then you have control whether you maintain it or lose it."
Most of the ex-players said they maintain contact with a few close friends from the Redskins years but not usually with players on the current team.
"It is a different situation when you are out of it," Brundige said. "When you're on the sidelines and can't play, you are not part of the mainstream. It is tough to be associated when you're not one of the guys out there sweating."