President Obama may have gone on The View, but the more interesting interview last week was when Isaiah Mustafa (more popularly known as "the Old Spice guy") was on Jay Leno's Tonight Show. Viewers heard a snippet of his personal story--and in its entirety it's one that contains important lessons for today's America, and may even point to a future political career.
Mustafa was originally an athlete. Old press clippings show that in high school he was a basketball and track star. In junior college (Moorpark College) he took up decathlon, and then, on the advice of a coach, he switched to football (having never played before). He had an unremarkable run playing free safety, until one game when--because of injuries to other players--he was switched to wide receiver.
He caught the two passes that came his way--turning them into 37- and 35-yard touchdowns--and led the team to victory. "Of necessity sometimes the best decisions are made," the LA Times approvingly reported at the time, and Mustafa (it seemed) had found his calling. He went on to set a Moorpark College single-season record (66 receptions for 1,086 yards) and won a scholarship to Arizona State.
Then he faltered. At Arizona he found himself permanently on the bench, and, thinking his football career was finished, he began training to be a high school teacher. An agent however told him that NFL teams were interested--his combination of speed, body type, and intelligence were wanted--and he signed with Tennessee.
But there was to be no Michael Lewis book or Sandra Bullock movie about his rise to football greatness, as again he faltered. He first got farmed out to NFL Europe, and then was reduced to playing on NFL practice squads. Realizing his football career now really was finished, he invested his life savings in opening a barbeque restaurant. It lasted only five months, leaving Mustafa broke and jobless. (It probably didn't help that he doesn't eat meat so couldn't taste his own food.)