Last week I told you about some talented NFL players who made poor career choices. This week I bring you stories of hope. Here are a few NFL stars who chose bold career moves that paid off.
Steve Young (From the Los Angeles Express to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the San Francisco 49ers)
In the 80s, Brigham Young University was churning out QBs the way Quakers churn butter. A talented lefty named Steve Young was one of them. Young actually began his pro career in the USFL with the Los Angeles Express. His contract was for 10 years and $40 million, small by today’s standards, but huge in those days. The league ultimately went bankrupt and Young was chosen first in the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his 19 starts the Bucs went a measly 3-16 while Young floundered, throwing 11 touchdowns and 21 interceptions over those starts. Tampa had enough of the Brigham Bust and he was sent to the San Francisco 49ers for the 1987 season where he would play back up to some guy named Joe Montana. To say things went well for Young is a bit of an understatement. From 1987-1995 he picked up three Super Bowl rings, a Super Bowl MVP, and two NFL MVP awards. Plus, as you can see by his USFL photo, he escaped from uniform purgatory twice.
Brett Favre (Atlanta Falcons to the Green Bay Packers to the New York Jets to the Minnesota Vikings)
The University of Southern Mississippi wasn’t exactly a hotbed of quarterback talent. In 1991 the Atlanta Falcons drafted a USM alum in the second round. His name was Brett Favre. He was with the Falcons for all of one season, throwing four passes and completing none of them. Maybe they couldn’t get past how a guy could spell his last name one way but pronounce it another, but whatever the case, Favre was traded to Green Bay in 1992. Over his next 16 seasons in Green Bay Favre would amass 61,655 passing yards, throw 442 TDs, and help the Packers win Super Bowl XXXI. He would be named NFL MVP three consecutive times from 1995 through 1997 and was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year in 2007. A falling out of sorts with the Packers led Favre to be traded to the Jets for the 2008 season. The team would go 9-7 under Favre, although he threw as many INTs as he did TDs (22), possibly due to a torn bicep, which was diagnosed in late December of 2008. Favre announced his retirement that February and was released in April. His retirement lasted less than five months as Minnesota couldn't resist the temptation of giving the ultimate ‘eff you’ to the Packers. Favre would lead the Vikings to a 12-4 record, throwing 33 touchdowns and only seven picks on the season. His heroic season came up just short in the NFC title game, which the Vikings lost in overtime, 31-28. His final season in 2010 was marred by injury but Favre is the only player on this list to benefit twice from a change of scenery.
Marshall Faulk (Indianapolis Colts to the St. Louis Rams)
Marshall Faulk was gem from San Diego State University. The Indianapolis Colts drafted him at number two overall in 1994. Faulk won the 1994 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award and in the five years he played with the Colts, rushed for 5,320 yards and 42 touchdowns. With a new contract due, the Colts decided it was time to part ways with Faulk prior to the 1999 season and sent him off to the St. Louis Rams. Over the next seven seasons Faulk would rush for 6,959 yards and 58 touchdowns. He’d win three NFL Offensive Player of the Year awards with the Rams and his lone Super Bowl ring as well. He pretty much said, “Faulk you,” to Indianapolis.
Greg Olsen (Chicago Bears to the Carolina Panthers)
In 2007 the Chicago Bears used the 31st pick in the draft to take a tight end out of “Da U” named Greg Olsen. He was tall and athletic and fit right in with the new breed of NFL tight ends. In four years with the Bears Olsen caught 194 passes for 1,981 yards and 20 touchdowns, which was respectable if not spectacular. In 2011 Olsen was dealt to the Carolina Panthers. The 2011 season saw him catch only 45 passes for 540 yards but from 2012 through 2016 things took off. He averaged over 76 catches and almost 969 yards per season over that span and made three Pro Bowls. While injuries have hampered his career over the past two seasons, Olsen has clearly been finer in Carolina.
Curtis Martin (New England Patriots to the New York Jets)
Curtis Martin was a Pittsburgh kid who attended the University of Pittsburgh. Thanks to the Philadelphia Eagles signing Patriots free agent running back, Kevin Turner, the Pats got the Eagles 1995 third round draft pick and chose Martin (How’d that work out for you, Eagles?). Martin had three solid seasons in New England averaging over 1,266 yards per season on the ground and rushing for 32 touchdowns while collecting 890 total receiving yards. As a restricted free agent after the 1997 season, Martin got an offer from the New York Jets. The Patriots did not match the offer and Martin was reunited with Bill Parcells and it felt so good. Over the next eight seasons Martin rushed for 10,302 yards and 58 touchdowns, including a league-leading 1,697 yards in 2004. He would also catch 367 passes for 2,439 yards over that same stretch. The Jets qualified for the playoffs four times during Martin’s tenure with the squad but never did win a Super Bowl. Hmm, maybe this move wasn’t all that successful for him but I digress.
Well, there you have it. Five players who sought greener pastures and actually found them without stepping in cow pies. What players that made big career moves do you feel benefitted most? Hit us up in the comments and while you’re there, check out the work of my teammates, Behind the Sticks from Blitzed Barkeep and The Scouting Report from Blitzed Scout. You’ll be glad you did.
Until next time, don’t drink room temperature beer, keep your balls fully inflated, and remove Tom Brady from your Christmas card list.
Mike Zimmer's Ears is a Minnesota Vikings fan from Pennsylvania and is a #TeamBlitzed All Pro. You can follow him on Twitter.