If there were an All-Corporate team, Jack Twyman, Willie Davis, Dick Kazmaier, Mike Wright and Nolan Archibald could be the starting five.
As young athletes, they attained the top level of their sports. As middle-age executives, they have worked their way to the top of successful companies.
The son of a foreman in the Pittsburgh steel mills, Jack Twyman failed to make the basketball team in his first three years of high school.
Undaunted, he practiced long hours, made the team as a senior and was an All-State selection. In college, he was an All-America and was drafted by the Cincinnati Royals. The 6-foot, 6-inch Twyman made All-Pro and averaged nearly 20 points a game over his 11-year career.
While in college, Twyman began charting his post-basketball course by selling insurance.
"All the while in college and in pro, everything I did pointed toward my life after sports," he said. "I was active in insurance, and because of my athletic schedule, I could adjust my free time to conduct business."
One insurance client was Super Food Services Inc. in Dayton. Through his contact with the firm, Twyman was named to its board. When Chairman Don Fox died in 1971, the board turned to Twyman to head the company, then a $100 million-a-year firm.
As chairman and chief executive of the $1.5 billion-a-year wholesaler, Twyman has led the company to that 15-fold increase in sales.
"I don't say that in order to work for Super Food, you have to be an athlete," Twyman said. "But I look at it as a builder of character and a source of strength.
"Through athletics, I proved to myself I could have anything I wanted if I worked hard enough," said Twyman, now 53. "And the other side of the coin is that athletics gives you the opportunity to perform under pressure.
"Basketball offered an opportunity to meet people I wouldn't ordinarily have met, but I think that's all it did. But that's yesterday. You got to be able to do your job and perform."
In the same era that Twyman played basketball, Willie Davis was a defensive end for the Green Bay Packers.
Like Twyman, Davis has seen doors open and eyes light up when he thrusts out a welcoming right hand.
"Once you have the audience, what's important is the ability to make that presentation that shows you are a businessman worthy of doing business with today, not just a jock who somehow gravitated to business," Davis said.
While still playing, Davis laid the foundation for life after football, enrolling in the University of Chicago School of Business. Hitting linemen proved to be simpler than hitting the books, Davis learned.
"The first night, I knew I was in trouble. It was one of the few times I spent 90 minutes and didn't understand a thing," Davis said. "I thought, well, I've been away from school. This must be a tough course on a tough night.
"Three years later, they were still tough nights and tough courses. But it became a challenge for me, of the same magnitude as football. It was tougher than I ever suspected."
Green Bay's success in those years meant Super Bowls and Pro Bowls in January and February, well into his semester's work.
"At least once, I played a game on Sunday and I'd be in the classroom on Monday," said Davis, a native of Texarkana on the Texas-Arkansas border and a graduate of Grambling State University in Louisiana.
"I was physically and emotionally drained, but the mental fatigue was the worst of all. I didn't realize it would be as difficult as it was."
Davis got his MBA in 1968. The next year, he retired from football and established a Schlitz beer distributorship in Los Angeles. When that brand floundered in the late 1970s and was later bought by Stroh's, Davis switched to Stroh's. He also recently picked up Coors.
Now 53, Davis is president of the distributor, West Coast Beverage Co., and of All Pro Broadcasting, a string of radio stations.
"I look back today on graduate school as one of the prices that I have paid that have impacted the rest of my life," said Davis, a board member of Sara Lee Corp., Fireman's Fund Corp. and K mart Corp. "I never question now if I can, but how well I can do it."
Pushing and motivating Davis and other Packers was legendary coach Vince Lombardi, who spoke frequently of life after football.
"Lombardi always said that how you play and relate in this game will impact on the rest of your life," Davis reflected. "It was probably the truest thing he ever said."
Mike Wright also went to school while still playing football. But Wright finished his undergraduate work at the University of Minnesota in three years and was enrolled in Minnesota's law school while captaining the 1959 Golden Gophers.
An Academic All-America at tackle, Wright was a tough, 6-foot, 3-inch 240-pounder who was drafted in an early round by Green Bay but signed with Winnipeg in the Canadian Football League for $12,000. Green Bay's Lombardi was not amused.
"He was furious, but Bud Grant was the coach in Winnipeg and winning championships, so I signed up there for $12,000," said Wright, now 49. "I figured I would only get about $10,000 in the NFL. My intention was to play long enough to finish law school."
He finished in the top 10 percent of his class. He was also an All-Pro defensive tackle on a team that won the Grey Cup championship his second, and final, year.
Law degree in hand, Wright joined a Minneapolis law firm, Dorsey and Whitney. During his 13 years there, Wright worked with Super Valu Stores Inc. as the wholesaler began an extensive acquisition program.
In 1977, Wright joined Super Valu as a senior vice president. The following year, he was appointed president and chief operating officer; he has been chairman and chief executive since 1982.
In 1976, the year before Wright joined the firm, it was a $1.7 billion firm. Last year, it had sales of $10 billion.
A competitor of Twyman in the wholesale food industry, Wright learned early the value of sports competition.
"I put in tremendous hours working hard on the football field. The benefits come from learning how to work hard, and you learn that success can be equated with how hard you work at it. A lot of people who didn't compete never learned how to be competitors."
Unlike Twyman, Davis and Wright, Dick Kazmaier eschewed pro ball, despite a career at Princeton University that led to the 1951 Heisman Trophy.
Like Wright, Kazmaier disappointed a legendary coach -- George Halas of the Bears -- when he spurned the pros to enroll in the MBA program at Harvard University.
''Even though I had informally communicated to the teams that I was not interested in playing pro ball, Halas drafted me. He called me in April to ask if I had changed my mind. I said no, and he was very much the gentleman,'' Kazmaier said.
So Kazmaier spurned the football field for the financial field. His choice was clear-cut, he said. At that time, Kazmaier estimates, he could have signed for about $7,500 a year.
''It wasn't economically realistic. It wouldn't have led me anywhere. And it wasn't the business that it is today. Now I would have to pretty seriously consider it, with the average pay of $220,000 for a first-round draft pick.''
Kazmaier, now 55, graduated cum laude from Princeton and, with his MBA, launched a business career that took him through several executive positions before he founded his own company in 1969. His Kazmaier Associates Inc. is now a $120 million-a-year conglomerate involved in investments, sporting goods and sporting events.
Among the products manufactured or distributed by Kazmaier's firm are Puma shoes, Marksman air guns and slingshots, Bike athletic uniforms and equipment and Cramer training supplies.
Kazmaier says, ''You must be prepared to spend the time to achieve the team's objectives. You take that with you into business. It's a great habit to develop.''
Like Kazmaier, Nolan Archibald shunned professional basketball to enroll in Harvard's business school. As the top scorer at Weber State College, Archibald had led the Ogden, Utah, school to the National Collegiate Athletic Association playoffs for the first time in its history.
Although Archibald had failed to make the high school team, he grew 4 inches, to 6 feet 5, after high school and practiced long hours while in the Army and later on a church mission.
''I would play at least three hours every day, six days a week year-round,'' said Archibald, now 44. ''I worked my tail off trying to catch up on all the fundamentals that I had missed in high school. I would lift weights in the off-season, I would practice and I would run.''
After nearly three years out of school, he entered junior college and played well enough to attract offers from some 400 colleges.
''The coaches would always ask what my grade point average was,'' Archibald recalled. ''When I said it was a 4.0, they would ask 'On what scale? What are you doing at a junior college with a 4.0?' ''
Archibald graduated cum laude from Weber State. He was an academic All-America and enrolled at Harvard. But coach Dick Motta tried to lure Archibald to try out for the Chicago Bulls.
''I was absolutely determined to go to Harvard,'' Archibald said. After getting his MBA, he took a shot at the Bulls at Motta's urging, but was cut.
His business career, however, has soared. By the time he was 42, Arichibald was a senior vice president in charge of most of the nonfood units, including Samsonite luggage and Culligan water equipment, of Beatrice Cos. in Chicago.
Two-and-a-half years ago, Archibald left a volatile atmosphere at Beatrice to become president and chief operating officer of Black & Decker Inc. of Towson. He has risen to chairman and chief executive and been credited with turning a floundering operation into a profitable and growing firm, with sales last year of $1.9 billion.
''Some of the same things helped me in business as in basketball,'' he said. ''The competitiveness. The hard work. All the same principles you learned in basketball have some application in business.''