It's always interesting to follow the stars of Notre Dame when they move to the next level. Some expand their fame, and others shrink – but it can be just as fun to see how they do when their playing days are over.
Being part of the most storied program in college football can open some incredible doors, but it also can leave a former player with a false sense of security, and feeling of abandonment when the adulation recedes.
Some stars have thrived, and others have struggled – both on the field and off. Success at Notre Dame comes with no guarantees, except that expectations are high.
Here is where five former Irish stars are now:
Joe Montana, 55, won a national championship with Notre Dame (1977) and four Super Bowl titles with the San Francisco 49ers, retiring to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as one of the most storied quarterbacks in football. Legendary for his knack for come-from-behind victories, he plays the game vicariously today through his two sons, both quarterbacks – Nick Montana at the University of Washington and Nathaniel Montana at the University of Montana. Joe and his wife sold off their $35 million horse ranch in Northern California and relocated recently to downtown San Francisco, to be closer to two daughters and provide the flexibility to see his sons play. Although he has dabbled in sports television as a football analyst, Montana spends much of his time and effort in outside business ventures, including commercial development in the San Francisco area.
Tim Brown, 45, finished his Notre Dame career with a school-record 5,024 all-purpose yards and twice was named to the College Football All-American team, becoming the first wide receiver to win the coveted Heisman Trophy. He followed that success with a stellar career – 17 years – in the NFL. He has followed up with some equally impressive numbers away from the field. Since 1995, Brown has been the National Chairman for Athletes and Entertainers for Kids, an organization that has helped five million children through educational and mentoring program. He moved into the media business, joining ESPN as a college football analyst on the new 3D Network. He also has been a hit as the co-host on FSN Pro Football Preview show in Los Angeles. Brown still hosts an annual Charity Golf Classic to benefit the 9-1-1 For Kids organization. He remains active with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and spends considerable time talking with groups about his Christian faith. He lives with his wife and four children in Cedar Hill, Texas.
RAGHIB "ROCKET" ISMAIL
Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, 42, was one of college football's most dynamic playmakers, an electrifying kick returner who finished his college career as runner-up for the 1990 Heisman Trophy. Since then, however, his business acumen has been less than All-American. Ismail's finances imploded after a series of bad investments. He made more than $18 million in a 10-year professional career that included both the Canadian Football League and the National Football League, but he lost much of it and is in considerable debt. His failed business ventures have included a cosmetics procedure that allowed skin to absorb oxygen; nationwide phone card dispensers; and tourist shops that sold framed calligraphy. His latest venture is mouthguards designed to help performance on the field. He and his wife live with their four children in Dallas.
Autry Denson, 36, is still the Irish's all-time leading rusher (4,448 yards, 46 touchdowns). After leaving the Fighting Irish in 1999, Denson played four seasons in the National Football League – with the Dolphins, Bears and Colts – and one season in the Canadian Football League with the Montreal Alouettes, where he rushed for 772 yards and nine touchdowns. Although Denson stopped playing football several years ago, he hasn't lost his love of the game, and now he has a promising coaching career. He served as the head football coach in 2010 at John Paul II High School, a small, private institution in Boca Raton, Florida, not far from where he first found fame as a high school star in Fort Lauderdale. He left John Paul after one season to become an assistant coach at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida. He expects to be there again in 2012, lending his expertise to a bevy of running backs.
Darius Walker, 27, owns the Notre Dame record for most receptions by a running back in one season (56) and in a career (109). He is fourth on Notre Dame's all-time career rushing list (3,249), despite playing for just three seasons. He rushed for more than 100 yards in a game 15 times. He finished his college career in the Sugar Bowl at the end of the 2006 season when he rushed for 128 yards in a 41-14 loss to the LSU Tigers. He left school after his junior season, but his professional football career was a short and unproductive one, playing parts of just three seasons with the Houston Texans, St. Louis Rams, Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys. Now Walker has transitioned from football into the media business, serving as a radio talk show host, television analyst and a sideline reporter for the Mountain West Sports Network.