After playing the game he loved his entire life, Ben Utecht had to call it quits a few years ago after sustaining a severe concussion.

And while Utecht had to retire from the NFL before turning 30, his swift and successful transition to the realm of singing and songwriting means he won't have to stop performing anytime soon.

Utecht released his first album after the 2008 season, which turned out to be his last full year in the NFL. During training camp with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009, Utecht suffered a severe concussion, the fifth documented concussion of his six-year career. In November of that season he was released by the Bengals. It was a stunning turn of events for a player who, just three years earlier, had helped the Indianapolis Colts win the Super Bowl.

But after his fifth concussion, Utecht knew it was time to hang up the cleats.

"I love football and I had a great career while I was playing," he told the Associated Press last year. "But at the same time it's like, 'Man, I hope the sport I love so much is not going to be the reason I have some serious consequences later on.'"

During the past three years Utecht has performed across the country, and a few weeks ago he even booked a gig with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. He says he is still getting used to performing in front of big crowds, but the move to the second phase of his career has helped ease the pain of leaving the NFL.

"I wish I was back on the field sometimes," Utecht told Fox 31 in Denver. "But transitioning into something I love, like singing, has really helped that process."

Utecht has also released a Christmas album, toured with popular artist Jim Brickman and performed the national anthem at a Cincinnati Reds game.

The 31-year-old Utecht isn't the first former Bengal forced into retirement by injuries who subsequently pursed a career in music. Former Cincinnati defensive lineman Mike Reid retired from the NFL in 1974 and went on to have a successful career as a country music artist.

Below is a clip of Utecht singing at a birthday event for Muhammed Ali in 2012:

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It turns out that Andy Murray's sulking demeanor on the court could not be less representative of the tennis superstar's actual personality. In fact, as a recent business venture proves, Murray actually has a heart of gold.

The world's third-ranked player recently announced that he is purchasing an out-of-commission hotel near his hometown of Dunblane, Scotland, to turn it into a five-star tourist destination that will bring money and jobs to the community.

Murray paid $2.7 million to buy the Cromlix Hotel, a Victorian mansion with 14 bedrooms, two drawing rooms, a library and much more. The 2012 Olympic gold medalist hopes to refurbish it in time for the 2014 Ryder Cup in nearby Gleneagles, Scotland.

In total, Murray said he'd like to create roughly 40 new jobs.

"By re-establishing Cromlix as a leading luxury hotel at the heart of the Dunblane community, we will be able to attract new visitors to the area, create a number of new jobs and focus on supporting other local businesses," Murray said in a statement. "I'm pleased to be able to give something back to the community I grew up in."

Murray is quite familiar with the property, as he was the best man at his brother's 2010 wedding at Cromlix. The 25-year-old has hired Inverlochy Castle Management International (ICMI) to supervise the refurbishing.

"I am confident that, with Andy, we can create a very special hotel in his home community," said Norbert Lieder, ICMI's managing director. "While we aim to create a destination that attracts visitors from around the world, we are also determined to ensure it remains a venue of choice for local people."

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They crossed paths last winter at a presidential campaign stop in Chicago. One was a former Illinois state senator. The other would become one.

Barack Obama shook Napoleon Harris' hand and told him, "Hey, I'm watching you."

"For the president to take a notice of what you're doing back in the home state," Harris said, "that's humbling."

And an indication that the former NFL linebacker was a rising political star.

Harris was elected state senator for Illinois' 15th district in November. Then shortly afterwards, he had the chance to set his sights on Washington when Jesse Jackson Jr., the son of the famous civil rights leader, resigned his seat in the 2nd Congressional District. (Jackson pleaded guilty Wednesday to spending $750,000 of campaign funds for personal luxuries such as fur capes, celebrity memorabilia and a Rolex.)

"You don't think of a football player going into that field," said Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, a former teammate. "But Napoleon's always been a smart guy."

The seven-year NFL veteran, though, bowed out of next week's Democratic primary on Jan. 30. Harris, who strongly endorsed former Cook County chief administrative officer Robin Kelly upon his exit, said he left to unite the community and the Democratic Party.

On the same day Harris dropped out, Illinois' executive ethics commission released a report about one of his campaign managers. It stated that Curtis Thompson worked for Harris while receiving benefits -- and perhaps money -- from his state job despite having taken a leave of absence to help his ill father.

Harris said he has known Thompson for just a couple of years and was neither aware of the alleged indiscretions nor were they a factor in his departure from the race.

"That had nothing to do with it," Harris said. "His issues are not my issues."

After initially filing for a medical leave, Thompson said he sent a letter of resignation to the state. He insisted the state's report was wrong and not the reason for Harris' exit.

"My leaving the state of Illinois has nothing to do with Napoleon," Thompson said. "So to put the two together is really unfair to him."

The timing of the events, though, is curious.

Is Harris a professional athlete who pulled himself up from humble beginnings to become a Northwestern University graduate, a starting NFL linebacker and an up-and-coming political figure? Or is he another Chicago-area politician who has dipped his toe into the cesspool of corruption for which the Windy City is known?

After all, the race to fill Jackson's vacated seat has included a convicted child sex offender and a gun-control proponent arrested on gun charges.

"This is Chicago politics," said Phillip Beverly, a Chicago State political science professor. "The characters and caricatures involved here -- yeah -- this is a Chicago race."

***

Harris could have pursued a high-level job in football.

His network includes head coaches Mike Tomlin of the Steelers and Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern, both of whom he texts regularly. Rather than take a job in coaching, administration or even sports media, he chose to run for office.

"Football's my passion," Harris said. "Serving the people is my calling."

He believes some of the skills he developed on the football field -- discipline, hard work, perseverance and teamwork -- will help in the political arena.

"You transfer those things that you've learned through professional sports," Harris said. "It has a lot to do with politics."

Harris was Oakland's 2002 first-round draft pick. He started in Super Bowl XXXVII and 73 regular-season games for the Raiders, Vikings and Chiefs while surpassing 80 tackles in a season three times. He was part of the 2005 trade that sent Randy Moss to Oakland.

Johnson remembers "Napo" leading debates and discussing issues in the Chiefs locker room regardless of the topic.

"He always had a say in something," Johnson said. "He knew more than football ... He always had that aura about him."

Harris began thinking beyond football during his playing career. He opened a business in 2008 -- the first of his Beggars Pizza restaurants south of Chicago. As owner, Harris did everything from hire employees to wait tables, sweep floors, wash dishes and bake pizzas.

It was in that restaurant setting where community pastors and civic leaders encouraged him to run for office. At Beggars he also heard the customers' issues -- worries about affording medicine for their children,

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He's impossible to miss. Turn on the Super Bowl, he's there. Turn on the news, he's there. Go to the groundbreaking of an ice-rink facility, he's there.

Rich "Big Daddy" Salgado, 47, is one of the sports world's most present figures. At 6-5, the former Maryland Terrapins offensive lineman is also physically hard to ignore.

So who is this man who celebrates sacks on the sideline with Justin Tuck, eats dinner with Michael Strahan and chats with ESPN's Adam Schefter, all in a day's work?

Salgado is an insurance advisor, which might not sound all that sexy, but he's one of the most trusted men among professional athletes and sports media.

Injuries are the Kryptonite of professional athletes. Riches can evaporate in a split second with a torn ACL, a ringing concussion or an irregular heartbeat. Contracts can only protect so much (or so little).

This is where Salgado who comes in. By working with athletes on life insurance policies, estate planning and other forms of defense, he gives athletes a second backbone. If an athlete enters a career-ending situation, Salgado has a plan set to have his client protected.

"We make sure they're protected both on and off the field," Salgado says of his firm, Coastal Advisors. "If they, God forbid, get hurt or there's an untimely death, we make sure their family's all taken care of and there's an insurance package."

Salgado's client list includes Tuck, Vernon Davis, Reggie Bush and more than 100 other NFL players. He works with Jeremy Lin, Ryan Braun, DeAndre Jordan and dozens of athletes outside of football. Sports media members Strahan, Schefter and Jay Glazer are on his client list, as well. Heck, actress Melissa Joan Hart is protected thanks to Big Daddy's insurance.

Salgado is also a correspondent for Fox News and has made appearances on NFL Network, Bloomberg and Channel 12 Long Island.

Salgado's success stems from a connection many people in insurance and sports representation do not have: He was an athlete.

A New Hyde Park, N.Y. native, he earned a football scholarship to Maryland in the 1980s. In College Park, Salgado's roommate was then Terrapin quarterback and future Steelers Pro Bowler Neil O'Donnell.

"I have an understanding of what you've gone through," he says. "I have an understanding of what you currently go through. I understand the ups and downs and the highlights and lowlights on a personal level."

When O'Donnell (at right) was drafted into the black and yellow, Salgado, who did not pursue a professional football career, went with him. In Pittsburgh, Big Daddy planted the seeds for his future.

"I lived with [Neil] for three years," he says. "I met many of the Steelers' players, many coaches, many players who went to other teams, many coaches who went to other teams."

Salgado also met legendary agent Ralph Cindrich. Cindrich, who has represented such NFL stars as James Farrior, Jeff Saturday and Brian Griese (now a Salgado client), is perhaps most famous for his representation of Will Wolford. In 1993, Cindrich negotiated a contract with the Indianapolis Colts that made Wolford the highest-paid player on the Colts for his entire career with the team. The move changed the value of the offensive lineman and was detailed in Michael Lewis' The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.

After learning from Cindrich, Salgado moved on to work for baseball/hockey agent Tom Reich and his nephew, Steve. Tom Reich clients have included Mario Lemieux, Chris Chelios and Sammy Sosa.

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When Maria Toor Pakay was 12, she won a regional weightlifting championship in Pakistan. She was the only girl in the tournament but because the Taliban controlled her home region of South Waziristan, Pakay had to disguise herself as a boy to compete. The weightlifting title led to other athletic opportunities, and Pakay excelled in squash while continuing to hide her gender with her father's help.

By the time she was 15, Pakay had decided to end the rouse, and competing against girls, she won the national championship in squash. That also led to death threats from the Taliban, which takes a hard line against females playing sports, going to school or pretty much participating in any public activity.

When she was 18, Pakay received an offer to train with former world champion Jonathan Power in Toronto. That meant leaving her family behind in Pakistan. Her father gave his blessing. "He said, 'OK, if you wanna play, just leave the country. That's all you can do,' " Pakay says.

Now 22, Pakay has moved up to No. 49 in the world squash rankings. HBO's "Real Sports" has an in-depth feature on Pakay and her family in its latest edition that premieres 10 p.m. ET/PT Tuesday. Here is a snippet:

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On April 8, 1996, Peter and Chris Ferraro's 23-year-old dream became a reality. When the Rangers hosted the Florida Panthers, the identical twins took the ice together at Madison Square Garden. Although Peter had been called up for two NHL stints earlier that season, this game was Chris' Blueshirts debut.

The duo had won an NCAA championship at Maine and played on the 1994 U.S. Olympic team, but it was when both hit NHL ice side by side that they realized the magnitude of their achievements.

"That's when it became clear all the time, dedication, sacrifices, relocations, being sent away from our families to get to highest level was worth it," Chris says. "Putting our skates on the Madison Square Garden ice. That's when it really sank in."

The Port Jefferson, N.Y., natives played on a line together and made the most of it. Chris scored a goal on an assist from Peter.

"It was one of the greatest moments of our lives and our family and community was able to witness it. It was a phenomenal feeling," Chris says.

The twins played a combined 166 games in the NHL. Many of those games came as teammates for the Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. Now 40, the Ferraros are done with their pro playing career, but they're not ready to leave hockey. They have a project to improve youth hockey development.

On Jan. 15, ground was broken for the Ferraro Brothers Ice Center at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, N.Y. The Long Island venue will feature twin ice rinks and a sports and recreation center.

The $15 million project is privately financed, and the brothers are partnering with attorneys Ronald and Joel Friedman and insurance advisor Rich "Big Daddy" Salgado of Coastal Advisors LLC, who is the consultant/accountant.

"Upon our retirement, Chris and I loved the art of teaching kids and getting involved in youth hockey development," Peter says. "We wanted to expand the sports recreation community. We were fortunate enough to partner up with the right people."

Both Ferraros last played professionally for the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL in 2008-09. The twins came back to Long Island, hoping to get involved with youth hockey, but hit unexpected barriers.

"We were very much on the outside trying to get on the inside of multiple facilities and multiple organizations," Chris says. "We were pretty much shut out. We walked a very fine line in a neutral stance to be very clear we did not want to run on organization or interfere with coaches and facilities. All we knew is we had a passion and wanted to help grow the sport of hockey."

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Derek Sanderson's ferocious style helped lead the Boston Bruins team to two Stanley Cup victories in the early 1970s. Living life in the fast lane, Sanderson grew his hair long, developed a serious drinking problem, and eventually found himself out of the league and prowling the streets for his next drink. In his autobiography Crossing The Line, Sanderson comes clean on his life in hockey, the demons that threatened to consume him, and the strength and courage it took to fight his way back. Today he is a successful entrepreneur and this is excerpt reveals the details of first big ventures.

I got a call one day in June 1969. "Hi, is this Derek Sanderson? This is Joe Namath."

My reaction: "Yeah, sure. Okay, who's screwing around with me?"

"No, it really is Joe Namath," he said. "I've got a proposition for you. Any chance you can come to New York?"

"Right!" I said. "Sure," and I hung up on him.

He called right back. "Look, Derek. Call me at this number," and he gave me a New York City number. I called it and, sure enough, Namath answered. He laughed and admitted anybody could have said they were him, but he asked if I could meet him the next day.

"Sure," I agreed.

Joe Namath was the American Football League. He was the rookie of the year in 1965, a four-time All-Star and set all sorts of records for passing. On January 12, 1969, Joe led the AFL's New York Jets to one of the greatest upsets in football history when they beat the NFL's Baltimore Colts in the third Super Bowl. A couple of days earlier, he had guaranteed a victory, and after the game, he was voted the MVP of the championship game. Joe was the future of football, especially after being a winner in New York.

Joe had opened a bar in Manhattan called Bachelors III, but the National Football League's commissioner, Pete Rozelle, ordered him to divest himself of his interest in the bar in order to protect the sport's reputation. There were too many bookmakers in the joint, and the NFL didn't want the association with gambling. Joe didn't, either, but he had a very viable, growing business.

"No one's going to tell me I have to get out of the bar business," Joe said, and he held a media conference to announce he was quitting football. The owners panicked. Joe had brought a ton of cash to the sport through increased TV revenue. Joe and Pete Rozelle had a long meeting, and in the end, they decided that Joe would sell his shares in the New York location of Bachelors III, but if he followed through with his plans to open locations in Boston and Fort Lauderdale, he could keep those shares. After missing most of training camp, Namath came out of retirement and reported to the Jets.

Bachelors III was the first real dating bar for singles in America. The timing was unbelievable. The world was changing rapidly in the 1960s, and my generation was at the forefront of the changes.

Namath asked me to meet him at the Green Kitchen on First Avenue in New York. I told the guy at the door that I was there to see Joe Namath. He led me to a booth, and there was Joe Willie, feet up on the table, wearing New York Jets shorts, a T-shirt and sneakers. He was talking on the phone and eating a salad.

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