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Arias in the End Zone

8:00 AM, Mar 20, 2011 • By KARI BARBIC
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As many Americans are learning these days, no job is truly “safe” anymore, so it’s wise to have some back-up plan or alternate skill set to turn to. Former professional football players are not exempt from this lesson, and with an NFL lockout looming, current stars may need to exercise their creativity as well. So what career paths naturally veer off the gridiron? The New York Times reported earlier this week on former pro and college football players who are turning to their more artistic side and finding success in the opera. Yes, the opera.

This career choice may surprise some, but former football players now in the operatic spotlight call the move from football to opera a natural one, noting parallels between the physical demands and mental acuity needed in both athletic and artistic performance. The Times quotes Lawrence Harris, former Houston Oilers lineman turned tenor:

My job is to communicate what the composer and the librettist had in mind. Just like in football, your job is to run the play the way the coach drew it up. … When the makeup goes on and the costume goes on, it’s like putting on your helmet and shoulder pads. You become a character with a role to play, and it’s so intense.

Harris's story is not an exception, and the article goes on to list other former football players who have found success in the opera:

Opera singers with a football past include Ta’u Pupu’a, a lineman drafted by the Cleveland Browns; Keith Miller, a former Arena League fullback who appeared in two bowl games with Colorado; the former Harvard players Ray Hornblower and Noah Van Niel; and Morrison Robinson, who played on the offensive line for the Citadel.

Of course, the opera is not the only artistic stage to shine the spotlight on former football stars. Reality TV fans will recall that the reality ballroom dancing competition Dancing with the Stars boasts four former NFL stars as finalists, chief among them Emmitt Smith, three-time Super Bowl champion and winner of season three.

With arts attendance declining, perhaps the best move is to bring out the special teams.

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