“ACTING” IS A GREAT HOBBY
I appeared on many talk shows and variety shows during my football career. No acting involved, really, except for a few silly skits here and there. I appeared in one of these with Cher that was especially memorable – her Vamp of Savannah skit on The Sonny & Cher Show. These required little to no preparation and were always fun and entertaining.
My earliest experiences with “acting” on such TV programs as Emergency and The Six Million Dollar Man, left me feeling like I better stick to my day job and leave dramatics alone. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the people and it was fun being included in, what was then, top-rated TV series’. But I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I think the crew and directors of those series’ thought I had some level of experience, as they didn’t offer much direction. I just tried to follow their lead and did the best I could with what I had. But it felt awkward and I was a bit insecure with the performances.
My role in the feature film, Midway, as LtCdr Delaney, went a little differently. Director, Jack Smight, gave me a better sense of what he was looking for. I only had 2 short scenes but he acted each out himself to demonstrate how I should perform each part. This helped a lot. When I was contacted by my agent about the film, I was excited at the opportunity just to meet Henry Fonda, Glenn Ford and Charlton Heston! And sure enough, when the van arrived at the hotel to transport me to the set, Henry Fonda and Charlton Heston were already in the van. Then Glenn Ford jumped in beside me in the back seat and we were off to the set – an aircraft carrier docked at the naval harbor in Pensacola, FL. During the ride to the set, they wanted to talk about football! When we arrived and set up for the scene, (I ride the airplane elevator up to the top deck, step off and report to the commanding officer, Henry Fonda) I was informed I was the only one with lines! I’m walking across the flight deck with Glenn Ford, Henry Fonda, Charlton Heston and others and I’m the only one with lines! I had grown up admiring these legendary actors and suddenly I’m meeting them, appearing in a scene of a major movie beside them and delivering the only lines of dialogue! But we did it in 2 takes. I was very proud to say that I had worked “in the movies” with a few of my childhood heroes. That was quite a morning.
My cameo role on HBO’s Ballers the last few years has been really fun. It’s a relaxed set full of happy people that love their jobs. There’s a sense of “team” I can identify with and enjoy. One of the directors, Julian Farino, has been especially patient and helpful and working with actor, Omar Benson Miller, writer, Evan Reilly, producer, Stephen Levinson and director, Peter Berg, has been a real hoot. Of course, playing a coach on Ballers isn’t too tough as I have a lot to pull from as an ex-player. In fact, you might see signs of Coach Shula in my acting and what better example could I have than him?!
Best coach ever, period.