These Top Athletes Can't Make It Without Second Jobs"
By John McMurray
When Nick Vorberg isn’t stopping shots on goal at U.S. Cellular Arena, he’s stopping by his computer to work on a Web site designed to sell premium coffee from his home in suburban Milwaukee.
When Jamaal Cherry isn’t protecting the football from brawny defensive backs at the Nassau Coliseum, he is protecting vintage costumes from the 1970s "Star Wars" movies from fans or would-be-thieves at Lucasfilm in San Francisco.
And when midfielder Andy Corno isn’t checking opponents at the Soccer/Lacrosse Stadium at Yurcak Field, he is checking out customers from behind the cash register at the Pita Pit he manages with his brother in College Park, Maryland.
“The salary in Major League Lacrosse helps, but it sure doesn’t pay like a full-time job,” Corno said. “You can be an All-Star in this league and earn just enough to make your car payment.”
Corno isn’t exaggerating.
He, Vorberg and Cherry aren’t minor athletes with spare time on their hands and quirky ideas of how to spend it. They are among the best in the sports they play.
But being the best in a professional sport doesn’t always mean that you can pay your bills, which is the case for hundreds of top athletes in lesser-known sports who work unusual jobs in unusual places during their off-seasons.
The players may not think it’s the best arrangement, but at least one general manager sees overall benefits for the team.
“The star players in our league who work don’t develop the egos that overpaid, pampered guys in the major pro leagues do,” said Trey Reeder, general manager of the New Jersey Pride, a Major League Lacrosse team. “They’re more grounded. Our stars understand that what they get, they have to work for. So there are benefits from a team perspective.”
In 2005, Corno showed so much potential as a rookie midfielder for the Pride that he was one of only 10 players shielded by the team from the league’s expansion draft. Still, in a league where the average salary per season is about $13,000 and most rookies make closer to $6,500, Corno has had to work at the Pita Pit to make ends meet.
There, Corno does a little of everything. Sometimes he works in the back office paying bills, at other times he chops lettuce and makes sandwiches. He also handles the miscellaneous problems that arise at the store during the day. An average workweek at the Pita Pit for Corno can run between 50 and 80 hours.
“When customers find out that I play, they sometimes think it’s a little weird for a pro athlete to be working the checkout counter,” Corno said.
In the Arena Football League, salaries range from $20,000 to $75,000 during the regular season, which extends from January to May. Cherry is now in his second season playing both running back and linebacker.
In the Major Indoor Soccer League, the average player salary is about $15,000. To support his family, Vorberg, a two-time All-Star goalkeeper for the champion Milwaukee Wave, and his wife are launching a Web site designed to sell coffee on the Internet.
“Pro athletes have short careers, and you have to be ready financially for anything, including a career-ending injury,” Vorberg said. “I’ve been fortunate to play in this league for seven years, and I still need to work in the off-season.”
It takes a special mentality to play pro sports while working a second job.
“That’s why many former NFL players can’t hack it in the Arena League,” Cherry said. “They’re used to being pampered, and they can’t keep up with their training when they have to get a real job. When reality sets in, they’re done.”