Tackling A Passion

Tackling A Passion

Before the kick-off frenzy for the 2016 NFL Draft begins tonight, let’s take a look back at some of our favorite NFL players who also love to spend time on the links. Originally featured in the September 2007 issue of AvidGolfer.

 

Football personalities tackle another passion in their lives – golf. Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor said it allows him to “escape from the media” and gives him a chance to pursue another passion – gambling. Former running back Gale Sayers, another Hall-of-Famer, explained that it affords him time to relax and provides a venue to find his inner peace. Legendary coach Lou Holtz said it challenges him unlike anything else.

Yes, they’re all football greats. And no, they aren’t talking about their day jobs.

The object of their affection? Golf, of course.

Whether it’s the risk-reward challenges, the solitude or the closeness to nature in soothing atmospheres, the reasons for their love of our great game are as varied as the charismatic individuals themselves. The common thread throughout is that they all have a passion for golf – just like you.

More and more, elite athletes from the gridiron are flocking to golf courses nationwide. We recently caught up with several high-profile football personalities – players, coaches and broadcasters – and asked them about their golf games and the upcoming football season.

Some of the answers might surprise you, although we doubt you’re shocked to learn that so many athletes from an intense and violent game have fallen in love with the most challenging of all sports, golf.

Enjoy…

Vinny Testaverdevestaverde
Quarterback, New England Patriots

I heard you mentored Tony Romo. Give me your thoughts on him.

Tony is a good guy; I like Tony. When I was in Dallas, I spent a year with him. Aside from being a good guy, he’s a good ballplayer. He’s eager to learn, eager to get better and eager to be successful. And he showed that this past year.

What did you think about the Metroplex when you joined the Cowboys in 2004?

To be honest, my wife and I almost moved back there, the area was so nice. I enjoyed my time there; I just wish I had more relatives there. And the heat is all relative; it just takes time to get used to. But the area was great; we really enjoyed our time there.

What was your best Cowboy memory?

There are a couple of them that I can remember. One that stands out is the comeback we had on the Monday night game against Seattle. That was an amazing game. And then the late touchdown passes against the Redskins in 2004; I enjoyed that.

To a lot of people, Bill Parcells was an unfriendly guy. But it seemed you, Aaron Glenn, Terry Glenn and a few others, always followed him no matter which team he went. What was it about Parcells that enamored you to play on his teams?

He knows how to win and how to coach. He has a philosophy, he believes in it and he sticks to it. If people want to think he’s a hard ass, so be it. Every good man needs a disciplinarian. If you don’t have that, then things can go south pretty quickly.

Why does a 44-year-old man continue to go through the rigors of training camp and the constant hits from 300+-pound defensive linemen?

It keeps me in shape. Don’t get me wrong, I do try and get some rest when I can, but I also don’t miss any workouts. I’ve been fortunate to stay healthy for most of my career.

Did you play a lot of golf during your time in Texas?

I played some; I didn’t have any memberships, although I did get to play Stonebriar quite a bit.

Do have any holes-in-one?

No. I’ve come close several times, but I can’t quite notch that first ace.

What’s next on your life’s “To Do” list?

Be a part of a championship team … and get a hole-in-one.

Quick Facts:
The 1986 Heisman Trophy winner and the No. 1 pick in the 1987 NFL Draft.
Has played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots.
Quarterbacked the Miami Hurricanes in what many analysts deemed the greatest college football game of all-time: the 1986 Fiesta Bowl.
Wife was a former Buccaneers dancer who had to meet Vinny miles away because of a team rule that no employees could date the players.
Holds the NFL record for most consecutive seasons with a touchdown pass (20).

 

romoTony Romo
Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys

A lot has changed since we featured you in the magazine in April of 2006. Has this been the toughest year for your golf game?

Without a doubt. But I never really practiced that much anyway, but with having to do more things in my free time, it’s been tough to work on my golf game.

Are you shocked at how much attention is devoted to your personal life?

Not really. It all comes with the territory of being the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. It’s part of the deal.

Do you still play out at Trophy Club or have you gone big-time on us and joined Vaquero or Dallas National?

No, I still play out there. Since I don’t play as much anymore, it’s more about the guys that I play with instead of the course I play.

The football analysts are stating that Wade Phillips will provide a breath of fresh air to the Cowboys. Is that true?

I think so; Coach Phillips is a different coach and different guy than Coach Parcells. It’s been beneficial to have him there because he’s using a different approach. I like Coach Phillips. I’m looking forward to having a wonderful season with him at the helm.

Which would be a greater high for you – qualifying for the U.S. Open or seeing your likeness on “The Simpsons” or “Family Guy”?

Hah, qualifying for the U.S. Open. I’ve never really thought about seeing myself on those shows.

There’s an official Tony Romo myspace page. Is that really yours?

I have a myspace page? I didn’t even know that. No, that’s not my official myspace page. But I might have to check that out though.

Quick Facts:
Starred at Eastern Illinois University.
Signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2003.
Made the Pro Bowl team in 2007.
Has attempted to qualify for numerous EDS Byron Nelson Championships and U.S. Opens.
Reportedly dating country singer Carrie Underwood.

 

Lou Holtzholtz
Legendary Coach and ESPN College Football Analyst

What’s your outlook for the Texas Longhorns and the Texas A&M Aggies this season in football?

I think the Longhorns should be awfully good this year with Colt McCoy coming on. I think they’ll miss [former defensive coordinator] Gene Chizik, but I think they should still be outstanding. They will be the favorites in the Big XII South. Oklahoma is going to be good, but A&M has an excellent football team. They have some people back, and they played well last season. But they’re in a tough division. And don’t forget Oklahoma State; they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with. If any one of those teams were in the Big XII North, they would be the preseason favorites. It’s not about how good you are, it’s about how good the people you are playing are.

What do you remember most about those A&M football teams you faced against during your days as Notre Dame’s head coach?

I remember a lot about those Aggie teams when I was at Arkansas, too; let’s not forget about those teams. We would go down there to Kyle Field, and they had this unbelievable dairy store on campus with the best milkshakes in the world. And then when you played the Aggies, they were so enthusiastic, and the students swayed left and right and made the stadium move. When Notre Dame played against the Aggies at the Cotton Bowl, we knew we were playing an excellent football team. We had some great games with them, and that program has always been a class act.

You’re a member at Augusta National Golf Club. How many times do you get beaten down by requests to play there?

That happens quite often. You try to take as many friends as you can because it’s a special place. The main thing about Augusta National is that it’s about sportsmanship, golf and fellowship. And you want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to experience something that special. By the same token, though, with my schedule, I don’t get the chance to play there as often as I would like. I never take anyone there that I haven’t played with before.

Are you there around Masters week or do you stay away from that scene?

No, they haven’t given me a position yet to work during the tournament.

You created a list of 107 things that you wanted to do during your lifetime. What’s the current tally of those goals you’ve accomplished?

Actually there were 108 when my wife told me to get a job. We have done 102 of them. I haven’t run with the bulls at Pamplona; I haven’t gone on an African picture safari, and I don’t own an airplane just yet.

Wow, that’s impressive. So what’s tougher: writing a book, coaching/recruiting, television work or hitting your first tee shot during a pro-am?

Ha ha, I think the opening tee shot in a pro-am because I am not equipped to do that. Doing TV work, you just talk about what you’re thinking and writing a book isn’t that terribly difficult. Coaching and recruiting is time-consuming, but hitting that opening tee shot is pressure. [St. Louis Cardinals manager] Tony LaRussa once stopped by to talk to my Notre Dame team and said, ‘pressure is when you have to do something you’re not prepared to do.’ I like to think that when I do TV, coach, recruit or write a book, I’m prepared to do that. Hitting that opening tee shot is not something I’m prepared to do.

Quick Facts:
Was the head coach of the New York Jets in 1976. He resigned with one game remaining that season, finishing with a 3-10 record.
Has coached at William & Mary, Connecticut, South Carolina, Ohio State, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Minnesota and Notre Dame.
Has authored five books.
The Lou Holtz/Ohio Valley Hall of Fame is located in East Liverpool, Ohio.
Started the trend at Notre Dame of removing the name off the back of the jersey. Except for the 1988 Cotton Bowl, names have not appeared on an Irish jersey since 1986.

 

hermHerman Edwards
Head Coach, Kansas City Chiefs

You played for the Philadelphia Eagles in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Describe the Eagles-Cowboys wars.

That was obviously a rivalry game for us. When I came into the league, Dallas was the team to beat. They were the team going to the playoffs every year. And I can remember the time we went to the Super Bowl (1980), we had to beat Dallas in the NFC Championship Game. We ended up doing that and gained a lot of confidence as a team. We made the playoffs after that season the next four years.

You are nicknamed “The Preacher” because of your motivational speeches. Should Tony Robbins and Zig Ziglar be worried about you after your coaching days are over?

[Laughing] No, no, no. I’m going to raise my two little girls. That will take up more than enough time.

What motivates you to wake up six days a week at 4:30 a.m. and work out?

I just enjoy life. I think you just have to take advantage of the time you have here. It’s a blessing every day you get up. I’m a guy that likes to get a lot done in the morning. I’m not a big sleeper; I’ll sleep about five hours. That’s usually all that I need, and I’m ready to go.

You’ve stated that you will not watch a Super Bowl unless you are a part of it. Did you follow that same theory as a player or did it start when you began coaching?

I’ve always done that. The only time I’ve been involved in a Super Bowl was the 1980 game we played in against the Raiders. I haven’t watched it; and it’s ironic because Tony Dungy was the same way. This year I went down to Miami to see Tony and Lovie [Smith], and then I left. I didn’t watch it, but I knew the score at the end.

I understand you have a fascination with Fig Newtons. How did that come about?

When I was in college, I didn’t have a lot of money. So I would buy Fig Newtons because those would cure my hunger at a cheap price. It’s a tradition now, wherever I go I always have some Fig Newtons in my refrigerator.

With the ties to the organization, how great would it be for your Kansas City Chiefs to play the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl?

That would be great; two original teams out of Texas going up against one another in honor of Lamar Hunt.

Quick Facts:
Was the son of an African-American World War II veteran and a German war bride.
Returned a fumble for a touchdown in the final seconds of an Eagles 19-17 win over the New York Giants in 1978. That play is known in Philadelphia as “The Miracle at the Meadowlands.” In New York, it’s known as “The Fumble.”
Wears dress shoes instead of sneakers with his coaching attire.
Has only two playoff victories as a coach, and both were against coaches with whom he worked.
Belted out this famous quote: “You play to win the game.”

 

Marshall Faulkfaulk
Retired Running Back and Current Commentator for NFL Network

What’s your take on the Cowboys for 2007?

If Wade Phillips and T.O. [Terrell Owens] can co-exist, then they will be a legitimate contender. Wade is just a great guy and an easy guy to play for. But if they’re losing and if T.O.’s attitude deteriorates – or if they are winning and he doesn’t get the ball – then it could be a long season. And there’s Tony Romo. How’s he going to handle a bad game? What if he throws an interception that costs his team the game? Is that going to weigh on him heavily?

You’re from New Orleans. How bad was it for you to see your city after Katrina?

It was horrible; and it’s still bad. The Central Business District is up and runnin’, but go outside of that, and a lot of work still has to be done. I couldn’t believe the destruction, and that’s why I’m still helping programs that will revive the city. Slowly but surely it’s getting better, but there are still parts of the city in very bad shape.

How many copies of Madden 2003 do you have (Faulk graced the cover of the game)?

I just got about 30 in the mail. I guess EA Sports didn’t need those games anymore, so they shoved them my way.

Do you believe in the “Madden Curse?”

No, not at all. Vince Young [the 2008 cover player] should be safe.

So are you officially retired?

If I start feeling good, maybe I will come back and play. But for right now, I’m done.

Quick Facts:
Played football at San Diego State University.
Rushed for 386 yards and scored seven touchdowns in his second collegiate start.
Drafted second overall in the 1994 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts.
One of a few players to reach 10,000 rushing yards and 5,000 receiving yards in his career.
Announced his retirement this past March at the NFL Owners meeting.

 

tomlinsonLaDainian Tomlinson
Running Back, San Diego Chargers

Growing up in Waco, were you a huge Cowboys fan?

Oh yes, definitely. I cherished the star.

Was Emmitt Smith your favorite player or did you have others?

It was Emmitt. He was the real deal. Just everything about him, I tried to be like him. He was quick, shifty and powerful – hopefully when my career is over people will say that about me.

Do you play a lot of golf when you come back to Texas?

Yeah, I do; either in some charity events or when I go back to Waco.

When did you first start playing?

About four years ago. I played with [former San Diego Chargers quarterback] Drew Brees when I first started. He used to work with me a little bit. Then over time I started working and playing with several guys on the team. I don’t know what it is about this game, but I’m hooked on it. I used to not think that growing up.

Was it tough seeing your favorite golf partner, Brees, leave?

Of course it was. But I’m glad he’s doing well in New Orleans. That’s just the business.

Dennis Franchione coached you at TCU. Why should Aggie fans remain patient with him?

It takes time to develop in his system. That program wasn’t in the best shape when he got there. They had some things that went wrong. But fans need to be a little more patient because Fran has a plan. And it usually takes a little while for his plan to evolve.

Quick Facts:
TCU retired his No. 5 jersey and he earned a degree in communications.
NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player.
Has hosted his own golf invitational five years in a row.
Holds the NFL record for most touchdowns in a season (31).
Turned down a request to be the cover art for EA Sports’ Madden 2008 video game (Madden Curse?).

 

sayersGale Sayers
NFL Legend

Wow, you still look great, like you can run for 1,500 yards in the NFL. What do you do to stay in shape?

I probably could if I was 26, but I’m 64, so I couldn’t do that. I work out about 3-4 days a week. I had six knee operations when I was in pro ball, and I got a lot of arthritis in my knees. I don’t do a lot of running; just a lot of stationary bike, elliptical bike and things like that. I also walk a lot. All that keeps me in shape for the most part.

When did you start playing golf?

I started playing about 32 years ago. Back then, blacks couldn’t play at country clubs; they were only caddies. I didn’t want to caddy, so I didn’t start playing until I got out of football. Then I went back to the University of Kansas as the assistant athletic director and continued to play. I got a lot bad habits, but I enjoyed the game. And that still holds true today. It’s a great game, and I love to play it.

What does golf do for you?

It gives me a lot of inner peace and time to relax … except when I hit bad shots and duff them like I’m capable of doing. When I go to a golf course, there’s a lot of trees, water and birds, and it’s a beautiful place to spend some time, and I enjoy that.

Do you ever visit Texas, and if so do you take your clubs with you?

I’ve played golf in Texas and all over the country. I know Texas has a lot of wind, and for me it’s tough to play in windy conditions. But you get used to it and you learn how to deal with it.

LaDainian Tomlinson is the best running back in the NFL today. When you watch him play, do you see a little bit of you?

I don’t think so. LaDainian is a fine football player, probably a little bit bigger than I was, but I used the field more than he does. But he’s a great athlete; if he stays healthy for a couple more years, he’s a definite candidate for the Hall of Fame.

Do you still cry whenever you see “Brian’s Song?”

Not anymore. Brian Piccolo was a dear friend of mine, and I’m glad our friendship was portrayed in that light.

Quick Facts:
Nicknamed the “Kansas Comet.”
Was the youngest player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Owns his own computer business in Chicago (www.sayers.com).
Recipient of the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.
Resides in Wakarusa, Ind.

 

theismanJoe Theismann
Retired NFL Quarterback and Former ESPN and ABC Commentator

Tell me your thoughts about the Cowboys for 2007.

I like the Cowboys. I think Wade Phillips is going to be a tremendous breath of fresh air for them. Terrell Owens is such a tremendous athlete, and Wade won’t create a controversial situation with him. You won’t see press conferences where Wade Phillips is discussing situations involving T.O.

What are your thoughts on Tony Romo?

Tony Romo has a chance to prove that he’s a special quarterback. He played 10 games and wound up going to the Pro Bowl. That also shows how poorly the NFC quarterbacking situation was – [Donovan] McNabb and [Brett] Favre getting hurt – guys who have been to the Pro Bowl before. The game is all about the quarterback.Look at the playoff teams; invariably the teams that made the playoffs had Pro Bowl quarterbacks. The situation that happened to him in the playoffs is nothing. I threw an interception in the Super Bowl. Believe me, the depths of his despair don’t come close to what mine were.

What’s your best memory of the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry?

When we beat the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game at RFK Stadium [in 1983]. I remember in the first round game against the Minnesota Vikings at RFK, the fans were chanting, “We want Dallas” because that’s all that mattered to them. And the cities are so polarized and the fans are so fanatical about their teams; those are two franchises that the NFL needs to play at a high level. Those are the two storied franchises that have to do well – and the Cowboys are doing that. Dallas is going to make a run at the division title. Romo will be the X-factor.

As a broadcaster, would you compare yourself to Johnny Miller?

No, not in the least bit. I find Johnny Miller cruel and harsh at times. I don’t necessarily enjoy listening to people make comments that insult people. I have always tried to temper everything that I’ve said in an honest way; in a way that someone can live with it. My mother told me a long time ago that it’s never what you say about people, it’s how you say it that makes a difference. And I’ve always kept that in mind as a broadcaster.

Are you glad the NFL banned the one-bar facemask?

No, I’d like to see some guys with no teeth. My front teeth are new. But the one-bar sort of made you a tough guy. The quarterback position is about being tough – mentally and physically – and with the single bar, perhaps a bit crazy. So when you have a mentally tough guy, a physically tough guy and some craziness to him, many good things can happen.

Do you autograph pictures of the gruesome injury?

Lawrence Taylor and I signed a set of pictures that showed Lawrence jumping to tackle me right before the leg snapped. So it wasn’t a picture of the actual injury, it was the instant right before it. People say that I signed pictures of my broken leg; no, it was a picture of Lawrence just as he is in the air reaching to tackle me. To me, it’s no different than a picture of me throwing a touchdown pass.

Quick Facts:
Name is really pronounced “THEEZ-man”, but was changed to rhyme with Heisman when he was at Notre Dame.
Was drafted by Miami Dolphins in the fourth round of the 1971 NFL Draft and the Minnesota Twins as a shortstop in that year’s baseball draft.
Instead of playing for the Dolphins or Twins, Theismann played for the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts.
Many consider his compound fracture on “Monday Night Football” the most gruesome injury ever witnessed.
Hosted the first season of “American Gladiators” in 1989.

 

Lawrence Taylortaylor
Hall-of-Fame Linebacker

Tell me your best Cowboys-Giants rivalry story.

I don’t have a particular one; they’re all wonderful stories. Every game was a great story because of the rivalry between the two teams. It was one of those rivalries that always ended up being a pretty good game. And the thing about our team was that we had a rivalry with the Redskins and the Eagles, too; everyone wanted a piece of us. We had to tie our shoes and buckle our chinstraps because we knew it was going to be a physical ballgame.As for one particular game that I remember, I couldn’t tell you; they were all damn good.

How often do you get play golf?

Any chance I get. There have been times when I’ve played golf every day of the week. At the minimum, I’d like to play three times a week.

What does golf do for you?

When I’m on the golf course, that leaves less time for me to talk to the media. [Laughs.] Seriously, I love the game, I love playing, and I like to gamble when I’m playing. It affords me the opportunity to do everything that I like in life.

It’s not really golf if you’re not gambling, right?

No doubt, baby! I love to gamble, and in golf, the only one you can blame for a bad shot is yourself. So if you play bad, you’re the reason why your opponent is getting in your wallet. I’ve never played a round of golf without gambling. If I did, it wouldn’t be golf.

You’re not a bad golfer. Not too many guys your size can actually swing the club well.

I’ve been working on my game over the years. Rumor has it that I’ve actually got some game. I tend to have a problem making big numbers, but if I can keep that to a minimum, I could do some damage on the celebrity tour. But I like to have fun and be with those guys when I play in those events.

With your size, I can see you participating in some long drive events.

No, I won’t do that. I’m 48 years old and there’s only one thing that’s long on me … my fingers. [Laughs again.]

Quick Facts:
Was the second overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft out of the University of North Carolina.
Nearly signed with the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League in 1984.
Was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1986, and is the last defensive player to win this award.
A 10-time Pro Bowler, he revolutionized the linebacker position.
Starred in the movie “Any Given Sunday” and appeared as himself in “The Sopranos” and “The Waterboy.”

 

al michaelsAl Michaels
Sunday Night Football Commentator

Give me your outlook for the Cowboys in 2007.

Well, I talked to Tony Romo recently, and he seems to be really happy and optimistic. I’ve known Wade Phillips for a long time, and I think he’s a great coach. He just may be what this team needs at this point. It’s a big change from Bill Parcells in terms of style and other things. Maybe that’ll be something good for this team. In no way is that disparaging of Bill, but maybe Bill at that point in his career just felt he got the most out of it. In talking with some of the Cowboys, it seems they are really happy with what’s going on with the team right now.

What’s your take on the overall Dallas sports scene?

The Cowboys are more than just a Dallas phenomenon; it seems there are numerous people in cities around the world who are Cowboys fans. They bring a lot of emotion in this country, whether it’s love or hate. The Cowboys are an iconic franchise. Having covered numerous events in Dallas, I can also say that the Dallas fans are rabid about all of their sports teams. But in Texas, football is king – college and pro ball.

Does it still feel weird that you’re not broadcasting on Monday nights?

Yeah, it still does feel strange, especially last year, because after 20 years of broadcasting on Monday nights, your body rhythms work one way. Then all of the sudden, I lost a day and that threw my rhythm out of whack. During Mondays in the hotels, there are a lot of business people congregating in meetings; now on Sundays, there are a lot of families. The whole demographic of the hotel changed. The other big thing was that on Monday I used to be able to spend a lot of time just thinking about my game on Monday night. Now on Sundays, we finish our meetings then go back into the room and there are games on television. So I have to keep an eye on those games and still prepare for my broadcast.

Of all the sports you broadcast, which one is the most demanding in terms of research, the pace of the action, etc.?

I think they’re all pretty similar in those regards. I kind of throw my body over whatever it is I’m broadcasting. I won’t say football is the toughest, but you’re dealing with 50 players, a coaching staff of about a dozen guys and a lot of other people that you have to know times two. During a boxing match or a basketball game, you don’t have to know about that many people. It’s funny because in the NBA, you don’t have to do your homework on 100 people in a game; you only have to know about maybe two dozen people. So it was kind of a different animal in that regard.

During your broadcasts, was there ever any time you could sneak out and play a round of golf?

It would always be the day after. But I always think of it as a business trip, so I don’t even take the clubs with me.

Do people still rib you for being traded by ABC to NBC for a cartoon rabbit? (In exchange for letting Michaels out of his contract with ABC and ESPN, NBC Universal sold ESPN cable rights to Friday coverage of the next four Ryder Cups, granted ESPN increased usage of Olympic highlights, and sold to parent company Disney the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a cartoon character developed by Walt Disney himself but previously owned by Universal Pictures.)

Yeah, people still do. That was a funny deal because the rabbit was kind of a throw-in at the end. The deal was already done, but the negotiators decided to throw it in, and we all laughed about it. The deal would have been done anyway without the rabbit, but that definitely made it noteworthy. It’s fun to have that in there, and it’s a great thing for my grandchildren to know through the years.

Quick Facts:
A lifelong Dodgers fan, Michaels grew up in Brooklyn and his family moved to Los Angeles the same year the Dodgers did – 1958.
Has won numerous awards during his career, including the Emmy Award for outstanding sports personality (play-by-play) five times, the NSSA Award from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association three times, and “Sportscaster of the Year” once each from the American Sportscasters Association and the Washington Journalism Review.
Was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in October, 2004.
Was in the booth broadcasting Game 3 of the 1989 World Series when an earthquake rocked San Francisco.
Best known for broadcasting the “Miracle on Ice” game (U.S. vs. U.S.S.R. hockey game in the 1980 Olympics) and the catchphrase, “Do you believe in miracles?”