I have always enjoyed watching the Summer Olympics. Not only for the spirit of coming together in goodwill and competition but also for the passion that these young people exude. These athletes have trained for most of their young lives for one shot at glory. After the Olympics are over, their athletic careers are over and they set out on a new life path.
Of course, the Olympics are just part of the story. Most professional athletes retire from their sport in their mid to late 20’s and, contrary to popular belief, most of them have to find jobs once they are done. This got me thinking, “What do these athletes do after they have ’retired’?”
Now that’s a very broad question and, as you can imagine, there is a myriad of different occupations. They range from broadcasting to restaurant owners, car salesmen to insurance salesmen, and (the reason I’m writing this blog) Dentists!
Turns out, there are quite a few athletes turned dentist. There are hall of fame golfers, Olympians and even a Heisman trophy winner. Here is a list of 4 renowned athletes who have found a second career as dentists:
Dr. William Abb “Billy” Cannon
Billy Cannon was an All-American running back for Louisiana State University and the 1959 Heisman Trophy winner. He was signed out of college by the Houston Oilers (then part of the AFL) in 1960 and enjoyed an 11-year playing career with the Oilers, the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs. He was a two time All-Star and won the AFL Championship twice during his football career. He still holds the Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans) franchise record from most point (30) and most touchdowns (5) in a single game.
After his retirement, Cannon earned his D.D.S. degree at the University of Tennessee and additional degrees in orthodontia from Loyola University Dental School. He is currently the resident dentist at the Louisiana State Penitentiary where the inmates call him “Legend.”
Fun Fact: Billy Cannon was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008
Wendy Louise Houvenaghel
Dr. Houvenaghel is a British racing cyclist and dentist from Northern Ireland. She took up riding after she got her degree in dentistry and got her first call up to the national team in 2003 at the age of 29. She has represented Great Britain in the 2012 and 2008 the Olympics Games, most notably winning the silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Games and gold in the team pursuit at the 2008, 2009 and 2011 Track World Championships.
Houvenaghel was part of Great Britain’s Team Pursuit squad for the 2012 Olympics but did not ride in an event (which she was not to thrilled about) and thus lost out on a chance for a medal. The team went on to win the gold and break the world record without her.
Houvenaghel is contemplating a full retirement from cycling, returning to her home in Cornwall, England and a return to dentistry.
Fun Fact: Wendy Houvenaghel was a dentist in the Royal Air Force.
James “Gentleman Jim” Lonborg
“Gentleman Jim” Lonborg was the Cy Young award winning pitcher of the 1967 pennant winning Boston Red Sox (becoming the first pitcher in Red Sox history to win the award). He enjoyed a 15-year career playing for the Red Sox, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Philadelphia Phillies. In addition to winning the Cy Young award in 1967, he also played in the All-Star game and finished prominently in voting for the MVP award, finishing 6th.
After retiring, Lonborg attended the Tufts University Dental School and has worked as a dentist in Hanover, Massachusetts since.
Ian Browne of MLB.com caught up to Dr. Lonborg and he had this to say about both of his careers, “I was blessed to be a Major League ballplayer for 15 years and to come into a beautiful career like dentistry. It’s hard to compare. The life of a dentist is a little more realistic, a little more grounded. I’ve enjoyed my patients and their families, and providing service to them. A lot of people take it for granted but I take it very seriously.”
Fun Fact: On the sitcom Cheers, the photo of Sam Malone pitching is actually that of Lonborg.
Emmett Cary Middlecoff
Cary Middlecoff took a different route. He was a dentist first and then realized his potential as a professional golfer.
Dr. Middlecoff played collegiate golf at the University of Mississippi where he was the school’s first golf All-American in 1939. Middlecoff won the Tennessee State Amateur Championship for four straight years (1940–1943). He obtained his Dentistry degree from University of Tennessee, in 1944 and joined the United States Army Dental Corps for the remainder of World War II. In 1945 Cary Middlecoff entered a PGA Tournament and won. Realizing his ability, he quit the family’s dental practice and turned professional in 1947.
His playing career lasted from 1945 through 1961. He won 3 Major Tournaments (the 1955 Masters and 1949, ‘56 U.S. Open) and during the 1950s, won 28 Tour titles, more than any other player during that span. In total Dr. Middlecoff won 40 PGA Tournaments, good for 9th in all time PGA Tour wins.
Back problems and struggles with his nerves during competition forced his retirement from the professional tour when he was only in his early 40s. He turned his attention to television and earned a reputation as one of the best golf television commentators. He also appeared in two motion pictures as himself (Follow the Sun in 1950 and The Bellboy in 1960) and wrote a newspaper column, “The Golf Doctor.”
In 1986, Middlecoff was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Fun fact: Cary’s father Herman Middlecoff was a friend of legendary golfer, Bobby Jones and once asked him to persuade his son to pursue dentistry, not golf. But after Middlecoff won the 1955 Masters, Jones said, ‘‘the way he filled those 72 cavities during the last four days makes me think I may have been wrong.”
Next time you are looking for a great dentist, perhaps one that played a professional sport, check out DentistUSA!