Alabama native Bo Jackson became famous for being a two-sport athlete, achieving all-star success in football and baseball. While that is an impressive accomplishment, the more difficult crossover might be turned in by those rare few who star in sports and move on to a stellar business career.
The Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham will hold its 50th annual induction ceremony April 28. This year’s eight-person class will bring the total number of inductees to 337. Of that group, several members have taken the lessons they learned on the sports fields and courts and used them to experience the thrill of victory in the business world.
“There is great educational value in competitive sports, particularly team sports, ” says former Alabama football player Bill Battle, an ASHoF inductee whose Collegiate Licensing Co. became a $100 million business. “I got a great education in the classroom, but I think the lessons I learned on the field gave me just as much knowledge and preparation for life.
“You learn the value of time management, self-discipline, preparation. You learn to dig down and do the extra things that are needed. Whatever level of success I might have accomplished in my life, I owe a great deal to my time on the playing fields growing up.”
Former Alabama A&M and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver John Stallworth agrees. The four-time Super Bowl winner says sports taught him the value of bringing together people with varying personalities and skill sets and uniting them to achieve a common goal.
“We had people on the Steelers from all walks of life, with different perspectives about things, but we were able to come together and work in the same direction, ” says Stallworth, who helped establish the multimillion-dollar Madison Research Corp. after his playing days were over. “We were able to do the same thing with our business, and that’s one of the key reasons we were successful. If you get people motivated to work together, you can do some amazing things.”
Establishing a business career also can be a competitive outlet for former athletes, who usually have to retire from sports while still in their 30s.
“I am just as intense and have the passion for business just like I had when I played sports. There is absolutely no difference, ” Bo Jackson said in a 2014 interview with Business Alabama. “Every morning I get up and put my game face on. The high and the rush that I get from participating in business ventures is the same rush I got from playing sports.”
In honor of ASHoF’s 50th anniversary, here is a quick look at 10 of the inductees who have gone on to have Hall of Fame-worthy business careers.
Bill Battle (inducted in 1981)
Sports: Battle was a member of the 1961 Alabama national championship football team. He was named the head coach at the University of Tennessee in 1970 at age 29, and over the next seven seasons led the Vols to a 59-22-2 record. He returned to the University of Alabama in 2013 and spent four years as the school’s athletic director.
Business: Battle saw the potential marketplace value in college athletics long before it became a multibillion-dollar business. He formed Collegiate Licensing Co. in 1981, with the University of Alabama as his first client. That was the beginning of what is now a mammoth industry that allows schools to bring in revenue for the reproduction of trademarked logos on hats, T-shirts, posters and more. In 2007, Battle sold the company to IMG for $108 million. AP Photo/The Tuscaloosa News, Robert Sutton
Bob Baumhower (1995)
Sports: Baumhower was a two-time All-SEC tackle at Alabama from 1974-1976, during which time the Tide went 31-4. He spent 10 years in the NFL playing for the Miami Dolphins, winning the 1977 Defensive Rookie of the Year award and making the Pro Bowl five times.
Business: While in Miami, Baumhower became one of the partners — along with fellow ASHoF inductee Joe Namath — in a Ft. Lauderdale restaurant. That led to Baumhower opening his own establishment in Tuscaloosa in 1981, Wings and Whiskers, which was the state’s first restaurant to serve buffalo chicken wings. The name eventually was changed to Baumhower’s, and there are now 10 locations throughout the state. Photo by Adrian Hoff
Jerry Duncan (2007)
Sports: Duncan was one of the key members of Alabama’s back-to-back national championship teams of 1964 and 1965, as well as the undefeated 1966 team that finished third in the rankings. He then went on to spend 24 years as the sideline reporter for Crimson Tide games.
Business: Bryant isn’t the only big name Duncan has worked with over the years. As a financial advisor, Duncan has served as vice president at Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter and Smith Barney. He has been recognized by both Barron’s and the Financial Times as one of the top advisers in the nation. He currently is a senior vice president at Stonegate Wealth Management.
Terry Henley (2000)
Sports: Henley was the starting running back for the 1972 Auburn University team dubbed “The Amazins” for their surprising 10-1 record. He led the Southeastern Conference in rushing that season and was named first-team All-SEC and second-team All-American.
Business: Henley played for only three years in the NFL, but he made sure he had an insurance plan for his career. Namely, as an insurance agent. Henley spent three years at State Farm Insurance and 10 years with the Collins Insurance Agency before joining Palomar Insurance in 1980. He currently is Palomar’s senior vice president.
Bo Jackson (1996)
Sports: Jackson was named the greatest athlete of all time by ESPN in 2013. He won the Heisman Trophy as a running back at Auburn in 1985, then went on to have all-star success in both the NFL and Major League Baseball before a hip injury in 1991 led to his early retirement from sports.
Business: Jackson has been involved in a variety of business projects. Under the umbrella of Bo Jackson Enterprises, he is CEO of Bo Jackson’s Elite Sports (which builds indoor sports-training facilities) and is one of the primary speakers for the Bo Jackson Sports Leadership Center of America. He also has served as an advisory director for Burr Ridge Bank & Trust.
Lee Roy Jordan (1980)
Sports: As Alabama’s defensive leader at linebacker, Jordan was a key member on the 1961 national championship team and was named All-American in 1962. He was taken in the first round of the 1963 NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys, where he played for 15 years and became the anchor of the famous Doomsday Defense, winning the Super Bowl in 1971.
Business: Though he maintains a home in Alabama, Jordan settled in the Dallas area and began the Lee Roy Jordan Lumber Co. in 1977, which he now runs with his sons. Jordan played for two legendary coaches: Paul “Bear” Bryant and the Cowboys’ Tom Landry. During an appearance at Alabama last year, Jordan said the coaches taught him the importance of “planting seeds for everyone to be successful and accomplish their goals, ” lessons he used in his business career.
Jerry Pate (1994)
Sports: After an All-American golf career at Alabama that included winning the 1974 U.S. Amateur, Pate turned professional and captured the 1976 U.S. Open as a 22-year-old PGA Tour rookie. He went on to win a total of 15 pro events before shoulder injuries ended his career.
Business: Pate stayed in the game of golf, but moved his attention to course design and maintenance. The Jerry Pate Co. now has approximately 150 employees and offices in Birmingham, Pensacola, Atlanta and Memphis. In addition to providing equipment and services to golf courses, the company also works with turf equipment dealers, sports facilities, schools, municipalities, irrigation contractors and government agencies over an eight-state region.
John Stallworth (1989)
Sports: Stallworth was a record-setting wide receiver at Alabama A&M in the early 1970s, then won four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had 8, 723 receiving yards and scored 63 touchdowns with the Steelers, leading to his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Business: Even while he was still playing, Stallworth kept an eye on Huntsville’s growing defense and missile industry. So in 1986, he helped create Madison Research Corp., which provided services, made parts and developed software for the government. Within 20 years, the company had 375 employees in 15 states, and Stallworth sold the business for $69 million. He currently is a partner at Genesis II, an organization that handles philanthropic investments.
Bart Starr (1976)
Sports: Though he had only marginal success at Alabama, Starr became one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in NFL history. In 15 seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Starr won five championships, including the first two Super Bowls, earning him induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Business: Starr has been involved in numerous ventures over the years. Most notably, he was chairman of Healthcare Realty Services, which developed medical office buildings and facilities, and he owned several car dealerships, beginning in the 1970s with Bart Starr Lincoln-Mercury in Hoover. He also was co-founder of Rawhide Boys Ranch, a 500-acre facility in Wisconsin that offers training programs for at-risk, court-referred young men.
Frank Thomas (2011)
Sports: Thomas was an All-SEC baseball player at Auburn in the late 1980s, then spent 18 years in the majors, mostly with the Chicago White Sox. A five-time All-Star and two-time MVP, Thomas hit 521 home runs and had 1, 704 RBIs. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014, during his first year of eligibility.
Business: While he was primarily a designated hitter in the major leagues, Thomas is playing all sorts of positions in his business career. He is co-founder and president of Liger Enterprises, a consulting firm working with entertainment content creators, and is CEO and founder of W2W Records, a Las Vegas-based recording label. Thomas also has developed his own microbrew and opened a brewpub in suburban Chicago.
Cary Estes is a freelance contributor to Business Alabama. He is based in Birmingham.