Mr. T

Lawrence Tureaud was the face of Chicago's Dunbar Vocational High School sports in the late 1960s. He was a two-time city champion wrestler, but more importantly, he was the running back of the football team.

Mr. T

"They used to call me 'Touchdown T,'" Tureaud says. "I remember in high school, we had homecoming, and I got in front of the pep rally and I told them, I'm going to run for three touchdowns. I ran for three touchdowns, kicked the extra point and took myself out the game."

It was that kind of flamboyancy that helped Mr. T succeed as an actor. He was good at football, but his personality was his calling. Rocky III and The A-Team turned into two historic projects that made Mr. T a cultural icon.

But his first choice was football. Mr. T tried out for the Green Bay Packers in 1972.

"It wasn't pretty," he says with a laugh. "I had a bad knee. I'm going to tell you, between me and you, I'm so glad I didn't play football. I'm proud to be an actor. See, as an actor, you live longer. Football players, the brain and all that stuff, ooh-eee, that's not good."

Mr. T went to Prairie View A&M in Texas on a football scholarship. However, he was expelled after one year. That left the Packers, a franchise struggling after the 1967 departure of Vince Lombardi as head coach, as his last hope.

"I said what the heck, maybe it'd be like the movie Invincible with Mark Wahlberg," Mr. T says. "I said, let's try it, we never know. I suppose if they did pick me, I'd have to stay up in the cold. It's colder in Green Bay than in Chicago. Man, that was too much. That was a fantasy. It was fun. Life guided me to being a bodyguard, protecting people, then in the movies, so I'm happy with everything because basically all I ever wanted to do was be a good son and take care of my mother."

When his football career went down the tubes, Mr. T served as a U.S. Army police officer, bouncer, bodyguard (for Muhammad Ali and Michael Jackson, among others) and reality TV star. Sylvester Stallone found Mr. T while watching the "America's Toughest Bouncer" portion of NBC's "Games People Play," a two-man competition show. Stallone subsequently cast him as Clubber Lang in Rocky III.

Mr. T connected with another Rocky III cast member, Hulk Hogan, to work the main event of the inaugural WrestleMania in 1985. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014.

Now, Mr. T travels the country with his upbeat attitude and gold chains (but not the originals, which were retired in 2005).

Mr. T, Nik Wallenda

"This is not my gold," he says. "I don't wear real gold. When [Hurricane] Katrina hit, I gave it away. I said I would never wear my gold again because it would be insensitive and disrespectful to all the people who died and lost everything in Katrina."

For the purposes of his appearance for Fairfield by Marriott, Mr. T was given some chains to wear so he could project his signature look.

"I want everyone to know I have a heart of gold when I feed the hungry and I try to take stuff to the less fortunate," he says. "That's who I am. I'm tough on the outside, but underneath everything, I try to be a good human being. I try to use my celebrity status to help others."

Mr. T recently served as motivational coach for Nik Wallenda as the high-wire artist did a walk at New York City's Flatiron Building. It was part of Mr. T's promotional persona for Fairfield by Marriott, "Mr. Guaran-T."


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Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.